Help! I feel like I don't like my child
Q: I am so ashamed to even admit this, but there are days I can’t stand my kid. If someone else treated me the way they do, I would have cut them out of my life years ago. I’m sick of being treated with disrespect and told “I hate you!” every. single. day. Sometimes I wish I was never a mother. I love my daughter but sometimes think that I hate her. Is this normal? Is something wrong with me?
A: It is normal to have moments, incidents, situations, and days where you feel like you don’t like your child, don’t like their behavior, or don’t like the way they’re treating you. Maybe you have a toddler who is starting to test boundaries and limits, and you’re wondering where the feeling of unconditional love during babyhood went. Maybe you have a teen who is going through changes and becoming moody and speaking rudely to you. Maybe you have a child who is clingy and you feel like you can’t have a moment to yourself or miss moments of your previous life. Maybe your child is going through a regression or transition in behavior or skills that is extremely annoying or frustrating to you. It’s possible that you’re burnt out, or that your child isn’t doing anything “wrong,” but what they are doing is a trigger for you. Or, maybe you haven’t experienced what I’m talking about yet. But keep reading, there is likely going to be some point in your life where you may like being around your child in that moment. This is normal.
I’m going to give you 3 in the moment strategies to use when you’re feeling disconnected from your child and want to yell, scream, or say something you will later regret. Note: if you constantly feel disconnected from your child and are unable to show them any love or affection, this is a deeper issue that will require longer term intervention, possibly from a mental health provider or clinician.
How to flip the script when you feel annoyed or dislike your child:
When you’re angry and triggered and about to treat your child in a way you’re not proud of or know you will regret, you CAN avoid shaming and yelling (which will likely only make their behavior worse).
Pretend your child is someone else’s. With our own kids, we often have lower inhibitions and feel a sense of “ownership” or control over them, that we don’t feel with other people’s children. With our own kids, we may say things you would never in a million years say to someone else’s child because we do have the connection and intimacy and feel we are in a safer space. When you’re about to react in a negative way, take a step back and pretend your child is someone else’s. Now how would handle the situation differently?
Pretend other people are around. Pretend you are being filmed or you have friends or guests over. When we’re around others, we do often care how we are perceived and can become embarrassed when we yell or lose control in front of others as this is not consistent with the kind of person we want and strive to be. Imagine you are being watched and notice how differently you respond to your child.
Change your mindset. When you find yourself thinking “I cannot stand him/her,” “I can’t handle this!” or “You’re so difficult! I wish you were easier!” Reframe this and tell yourself you can. Tell yourself, “I can stand him/her,” “I can handle this,” “This moment is difficult but I still love my child.” These thoughts can happen to everyone during times of disconnect and high emotions. That’s why I’m doing this work; I have walked this journey and am right there with you. When you change your mindset, how will you handle the situation differently?