“I hate you!” “You don’t even know what you’re doing as a parent.” “You always treat my sister better than me.”
Kids end up saying many things to their parents when they are mad that on the surface are very hurtful. A parent may find themselves questioning if what their child is telling them is really true.
I will tell you what is true. When a child or an adult is extremely upset, the higher thinking skills go out the window and all you have left is a reaction from the emotional part of their brain. After everyone has calmed down, the child may apologize or if they were honest, admit that they really didn’t mean what they said.
It is critical at these times that parents do not personalize these exchanges and see them for what they are – – an upset child who doesn’t know how to best handle the emotions they are feeling.
The time to deal with the situation is not when emotions are running high. It is best to deal with it after everyone has calmed down and you can speak with them when they are calmer. Like all things there may be a sliver of truth in what they were saying. For instance, the child may feel like his sister gets better treatment than him. However, a parent needs to recognize that your child sharing this when they are upset is not the same as sharing this when they are calm.
As a parent, you also need to give yourself time to look at the situation in a less emotional manner. By doing so you will be able to respond more resourcefully to the situation. Remember, the child is saying these things when they are not thinking clearly.
It may be helpful for you to be able to tell yourself in those moments things that are true about the situation. For instance, you could say, “My child is just upset right now, it is not about me.” Or “I am not going to respond to this right now until my child calms down.” Talking yourself through these situations is a helpful way of not overreacting to the situation.
So next time you’re faced with an upset child who appears to want to make you upset as well, see it for what the situation truly is and avoid the trap of taking it personally.