Anything that harms the child is not desirable. Most do not realise the damage their actions cause. It is not harmless to smack your child. It teaches your child to fear you, to not trust you, to keep you at a distance, when a parent is the person the child should be able to trust and share with.
Likewise yelling and belittling a child makes them feel unsafe, unloved, unwanted and not good enough. No sane adult would want anyone to feel like that, but we don’t realise that is exactly what our children think and feel when they see us rage in frustration at them.
It is fine to say “Mummy or Daddy needs time out now, I am upset with your behaviour, it wasn’t very nice and I need to calm down before I can play some more”. It is fine to say that. It is not okay to call the child selfish, stupid, dumb, etc or worse to say they ruin everything, you wish they hadn’t been born, etc. Sadly many children do hear such things and it is like a dagger to the heart.
Instead role model to them the behaviour and style of interacting that you do want them to see and do. Show them how to be kind, caring and compassionate to others. What you do they learn. They learn much more from your behaviour than your words. Many don’t acknowledge this as it is inconvenient and does place a responsibility on you to role model appropriate behaviours at all times.
Remember it is okay to say “Mummy is tired and needs to rest or to have quiet time”. The child knows what it is like to be tired and can appreciate that. He/She then knows it is not that you are rejecting them, it is just that you need time to rest or time for yourself.
Meet their emotional needs then they can be more understanding of yours and help you meet them. A child whose cup has been filled with love and attention does not need to chase after you all day begging for love. He/She does not need to yell and scream to be noticed or to get attention. They can play quietly, happily knowing that they are loved and feel safe in their world.
A child exposed to volatile emotions, fighting, parental breakup, etc. is going to be traumatised and need support to process their emotions – fear, anger and grief. They will need extra hugs. They will need time together and to be reassured that it is not their fault that the fighting is occurring. They need to know it is Mummy and Daddy’s business and not about them, that they are still loved, wanted and appreciated.
Too many children end up being the comforters of their parents in pain, rather than the parents comforting the children. This should stop. It is not the natural order of things and children who go through this suppress their own needs to be Mum or Dad’s little helper or hero. They are not meant to be your sounding board for your problems. They are not meant to know the details of your marital problems.
To do so fills them with worry about issues they can’t fully understand or fix. It strips them of their innocence, their focus on living life joyfully in the moment. It takes them out of the moment into the future, constantly worried about what will happen next and trying to influence it or control it. They lose their ability to be a child as they are asked to be an adult too soon.
Don’t do this to your kids. Let them be kids. Let them play and marvel in nature. Let them have fun and chase butterflies. Let them play with pets and friends and know that they are loved always and all ways. That is what they need.
As a parent there are going to be times when you are tired, stressed, anxious, even angry, exhausted and burnt out. It’s important that you take care of yourself so that you feel good, so you have energy. That makes it easier for you to be kind and positive in your interactions with your child.
It’s not easy being a parent. Make sure you are taking time to exercise, to eat well, to do activities you love. Don’t try to do it all alone. Form a tribe of supportive people around you to help you when you need it.
Rest when you need to. Don’t push through till you are exhausted. It’s okay if things aren’t perfect. It’s okay to take it easy some times, to accept what is – you are at your limit to cope and need to rest and balance up.
You can use a wide range of tools to help you balance up. You can go for a walk in nature, pat your pets, draw, paint or do a hobby you enjoy, catch up with friends. All of these types of activities help your body to calm and your mood to elevate. You can use Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) to release the stress and tension of the day, to relax your nervous system and calm down, enabling better quality sleep and more positive relating with your child.
They sense when you’re wound up and stressed out. Their nervous system tunes into yours and they can react emotionally, chaotically if they sense danger, lack of safety or unavailability because you are stressed out or not coping.
Don’t turn to substances to numb out from your situation. Too many people turn to alcohol, TV, shopping, gambling, smoking, drugs, etc. to some for of addiction, to escape temporarily from the burdens they carry. This helps distract themselves from the pain, but it doesn’t resolve it.
Take action instead to heal, to release the stress, tension and trauma, so that you can be more joyful and present with your children, so you can enjoy life more fully. With processes like meditation and TRE it can be done quite quickly only requiring 10-20 minutes of your time and you can do it for free at home once you’ve learned how to do it. It is well worth investing the time to support yourself so you can be happier and healthier for you and your kids.
By Jodi-Anne (15 June 2015).