Today’s blog post is submitted by our featured guest contributor, Esther Schiedel. We hope you enjoy the post and look forward to part 2 of this post from Esther.
Children get upset.
It takes experience and maturity to realize that Dad will be back at suppertime or that that really wanting a cookie does not create cookies in the cupboard (adults tend to get upset by that harsh fact as well). Children also get mad. So many things they want to do are out of their control. Children usually let their parents (and sometimes the whole neighborhood) know that they are upset and angry. How can you stay calm or calm down when your child is upset—without adding to your child’s distress? The first thing is to accept that strong emotions are part of life. It’s okay that your child gets upset at times. It does not mean that you are a bad parent. It does not mean your child is a spoiled brat. It often helps to acknowledge the emotion and identify it. Tentative identification is best—“wow, you sound really angry.” Say it with meaning and respect. Dismissing your child’s reaction (“it’s nothing to get upset about”) or completely ignoring it can upset your child further. Remain available and empathetic. If no one is getting hurt or unduly disturbed by the noise you may want let the storm rage. A dramatic (but safe) release of energy can actually aid everyone. If you were raised in an environment where any strong emotion was repressed or expressed in dangerous and hurtful ways you may benefit from some professional help to learn and be comfortable with safe ways to express emotion. It’s disturbing when your child is upset. Frequently, you are the cause of the upset. You said “No,” or “It’s bedtime.” You stopped your toddler from sticking a key into an electrical outlet. Nobody likes being yelled at—especially not for doing the right thing! Here you are being a loving, responsible parent—and your child does not appreciate it! Getting yelled at for our responsible parental actions can lead us into irresponsible behavior—we may become unduly harsh with the child or we may back off and allow the child to go on misbehaving. Both are completely understandable but not advisable. Full disclosure: yes, I have done both, and the results were not pretty.
How can you respond?
- Give yourself empathy—silently or out loud. “Wow, it hurts to be yelled at for trying to protect you.”
- Remember you are the adult and the parent in the situation. This is part of the job. Helpful phrases from author Mary Sheedy Kurcinka include: “I do not fear your anger.” “I will help you follow the rule.”
- Let your child know that feelings are acceptable but that actions may not be. “You are angry with your sister. It is NOT okay to hit her.”
- Offer an acceptable action: “You may punch the couch cushion.”
Esther Schiedel is parent to three adults, grandparent to two boys, and a Certified Family Life Educator. She provides parenting education through classes and workshops through LBCC and through her business, Sharing Strengths. She became interested in parenting education when she became a parent and had a need for more information and support.