I am so tired of hearing the criticism and judgment of “perfect” parents who believe adults should never, ever say anything mean or hurtful to a child because doing so will surely send them straight to the therapist’s office for the rest of their life. I beg to differ.
All I could do was clench my teeth as I listened to the shrill cries of the 6-year-old girl on the playground screaming at the top of her lungs: “YOU HATE ME!” “You’re horrible!” “You don’t love me at ALL!” All because momma announced that it’s time to leave. I’m horrified as I notice her once-proud momma shrinking behind the sliding board in embarrassment while conceding to little Sweetie’s tantrum and giving her “5 more minutes” so she doesn’t feel unloved.
Then there’s 9-year-old little Darlin' who is weeping on her mom’s lap because her new friend said she doesn’t like her anymore. (Little Darlin' actually took her friend’s spot on the swing set and then teased her about it.) “Everybody HATES me!” “Nobody wants to be my friend!” “I hate this place!” And all the while, Momma is telling her “It’s OK, Darlin', no one hates you! You have tons of friends… you don’t really want to be her friend anyway, we don’t know her and she seems mean.”
Are you KIDDING me? Little Sweetie and Little Darlin' were WRONG. Stop coddling them and their bad behavior and tell them the truth! Children need to be told that certain behaviors, words and actions make people ANGRY at you… and if you keep them up, people will not like you.
If you do things to disrespect people or hurt people, those people will not like you. Including your parents!
Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE my boys, unconditionally, but there are moments when I simply do not like them. And they know it!
If we continue to allow rude, cruel or disrespectful behavior from our children without showing them the consequences they will face in the real world, we are failing them. If we raise our children to believe that no one who loves them is ever allowed to dislike them or their poor behavior, we are setting them up for failure in every aspect of their life, from friendships to jobs to marriage and even their role as parents.
But here’s the trick: The only way to teach them this valuable lesson is to tell them when they do something that disrespects us or hurts us. "I am angry because I don’t like when you treat me that way. Give me a minute because I don’t like you right now.” Then when you have had your minute, make sure that the rest of the time you tell them that you love them. "Catch" them behaving well, and reward them for the good stuff that you want to see repeated.
Children need to know that it’s OK to dislike us and their teachers and their friends in certain situations because that feeling of “dislike” is natural and temporary. And the same goes for our feelings toward them. But they also need to know that when relationships are strong, people can forgive, and caring and love will always prevail.
Perfection is overrated. Relax and check out these recent TODAY Moms posts:
TODAY Moms contributor Tara Kennedy-Kline is president of Multi-Level Mom and the author of "Stop Raising Einstein: Discover the Unique Brilliance in Your Child… and You!" She and her family appeared on TODAY in April to discuss her family's struggle with Asperger's Syndrome.