Let me paint a picture for you. It’s a school night. We’ve wrapped up our days of school & work. Homework completed with ease and we’ve finished dinner and cleaned up for the night. Now it’s time to relax. We all cozy in and find a funny show to watch. Doesn’t it sound delightful?
Enter the sound of screeching brakes, coming to a halt…this is NOT how most nights go.
If it’s a school night, I’ve got tired, cranky kids. Let’s be honest, I have teenagers, so I have cranky kids often. But so do you if you have teens, toddlers, or over-tired any-age kids! Homework is a chore with lots of complaining and procrastinating – often, accompanied by threats to remove phones and games until it’s complete. The dinner I made comes with a side of complaints – “chicken again?” and my kids bicker over who’s doing dishes. NO ONE wants to watch the same show and when we suggest a funny 80’s sitcom, it’s met with lots of eye rolls. Often, I give in and my daughter heads off for more homework as my son greets friends on x-box. Sigh. Then, when it’s bed time, there’s more complaining. “Yes, you do need to take a shower. No, you haven’t showered in 2 days…” or, “Yes, you do have to leave your phone on the counter. No, you can’t have it in your room.” Or, “Yes, there are time limits on video games. No, you can’t stay up so late on them.”
“Mom, you’re such a fun-wrecker…”
“Mom, it doesn’t matter if we turn our work in anyway…”
Exasperation and disbelief.
You see, even though I have a degree in child development, my kids still misbehave. Even though I’ve read ALL of the books on behavior, behavior management, and the “right way” to respond to children, they still act disrespectful. I have a doctorate in counseling and educational psychology, and my kids have NOT soaked in all of my knowledge and training by osmosis. I get no passes. I still get all of the eye rolls and behavior that all of you get. Sometimes, I even want to look at my children and say, “I can’t believe you’re mine – don’t you know better?”
I guess I share all of this as a point of validation. I was with a group of parents recently who asked if my kids misbehave or act disrespectful since their mom is a psychologist. They wanted to know if my kids were somehow easier or better-behaved because of my profession. Wow. Yes, they absolutely misbehave! If you’re a physician, are your kids never sick? If you’re an accountant, do your kids know how to save money inherently? If you’re a plumber, can your kids fix a leak?
In other words, stop being so hard on yourselves!
All children go through developmental phases and face stressors that make their behavior and emotions difficult to withstand. It’s their job to push limits, question, attempt to find autonomy and test rules with their primary caregivers. Often, we feel that when our children are being disrespectful or ornery or acting inappropriate that we have failed. Or that we’re not trying hard enough. Or that we’ve done something wrong with our approach to parenting. But parenting is a series of failures and figuring things out.
Just because your children struggle with emotions or behavior does not mean you have failed. It doesn’t mean that they have failed either. Behavior is a way of communicating – struggles, overwhelm, angst and autonomy. It means they are simply doing what children do and you’re figuring out how to respond to their struggles.
Keep doing the best you can. Forgive yourself when there are difficult times. And know that we ALL make mistakes and ALL children are tough at times.
No eye rolls here, friends.
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