Our kids can drive us nuts pretty frequently, at any age. Not only that, they know how to; most learn pretty early on how to push our buttons, or what behaviour or words are likely to result in a particular response.
So we often position our children as ‘making us’ have a particular feeling. Of course this isn’t just about the adult-child dynamic; “You/ he/she made me feel…” is a pretty average human conclusion.
But when we use expressions like these with our kids, we’re basically putting the responsibility of our emotions, the adult, onto them.
Yes, they might know that ignoring or defying us is likely to elicit a certain reaction, and that reaction might be a very valid; I’m not suggesting that we don’t feel anything… Just that we take ownership of those feelings, and especially what happens to us because of them.
Practicing this is testing. More often than I’d like, I’m not this insightful myself, but kids who aren’t being easy to be around – including intentionally triggering us – are just doing their own work.
It’s our work, as adults, to manage our own triggers, not theirs.
This isn’t just about being a calm, composed parent either. Very few of us are unflawed; by impatience, a short-fuse, a propensity to curse in front of our kids 🙋♀️; but we can just accept those as part of our imperfect selves, without roping our kids into it.
And we can get really curious, because those trigger points can be a sign… we can dig deeper and work out why they’re there. I did this recently and realised my deep intolerance to being ignored by my son stems from being ignored when I was younger myself…
And, while it’s a valid request to not be ignored, I was essentially giving him my baggage to carry, instead of dealing with it myself.
In my 20 years of working with them, and 8 years of raising one, a massive thing I’ve learned is that children adopt the art of blame with far more ease than self-responsibility.
When we say “You made me….”, “Look what you did to me” etc., that’s the kind of inner-script that becomes second nature in them; with you, or anyone else. They learn to get triggered and then relinquish responsibility for managing their own feelings and responses to that.
And that makes a them – or any person who puts their hands up and declaring “You made me do it!” – powerless….
Kids aren’t going to do best in the long-term if they’ve built up a subliminal kind of expectation that they don’t have complete autonomy of themselves.
If they instead feel they have control of themselves; over their emotions, and can choose how to react; they develop a of strong sense of ‘personal power’; and that is the ULTIMATE POWER, at any age.
But it always, always starts with the grown-ups!
We’re all human, so it’s not always easy, or even possible to feel an emotion and have the self-control to not act on it, nor to detach our kid’s role in us blowing a gasket, but how we ‘self-manage’ is how our kids are learning to.
And when they go through life knowing “It’s not you, it’s me”, they’re much better equipped to take charge of what happens in it; which is something we all want for our kids…
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