As parents we have a tendency to mirror our children’s emotions.
Our child is angry and then we get angry about them being angry.
Our teen is annoyed and we get annoyed about them being annoyed.
It’s a really natural thing to do. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Next time your child is exhibiting a negative emotion, try telling yourself something like this. “They can be upset and I don’t have to be.”
I do this all the time when my 3-year-old is throwing a tantrum. I remind myself that while I can’t control his behavior or feelings, I can control mine. I challenge myself to see how calm I can be while dealing with his fits. Doing this has made me a better parent than almost anything else.
Lately, our aforementioned 3-year-old has taken to telling us he hates us. I’m pretty sure that is a normal phase, right? Please say yes. The first time he angrily yelled out “I hate you, mom!” my knee-jerk reaction was to get angry back (mirroring), tell him “how dare you speak to me that way” and put him in timeout. Luckily I paused long enough to remind myself that he could be mad and I didn’t have to be. After all, a big part of him was saying it for the reaction he thought he would get. So instead of getting angry back, I calmly replied, “That’s too bad. I love you.” I have done this every time since. This has taken the power away from that phrase and I have found that he uses it less and less.
This principle works with children of any age, from toddlers to teens. Being calm doesn’t mean you don’t enact consequences when your child’s behavior merits it. But you can deliver a consequence from a place of calm, peace, and love rather than a place of uncontrolled anger and frustration.
Remember, they can be upset and you don’t have to be.