Do you ever feel like it shouldn’t be this hard? Like it’s not normal to face the challenges, aggression, opposition, and tears every day? Do you sometimes feel like it must be you?
There are reasons for this.
Our kids’ behavior is very personal. Their actions don’t happen lightheartedly or in an attempt to achieve a particular, short-term outcome. Intense emotions, often from past experiences, are driving their more challenging behaviors. We sense this intensity, especially when it’s directed at us. Sometimes, the anger, shame, or sadness is projected onto you – the parent, the closest person to them, the safety net.
You made me angry! That’s why I broke the lamp!
No! I didn’t color on the wall! NO I DIDN’T!
You better stop looking at me like that or I’ll make you!
When our kiddos are having big feelings, it’s hard for them to make sense of why. They aren’t yet able to identify that they’re coming from the inside or are connected to their past. (This, by the way, is why an effective therapist is so crucial to moving forward). So, they look to you – Mom, Dad, Grandma – and assume it must be coming from you. They lash out with words or actions, identify something you did that caused their upset, and try with all their might to get a BIG reaction from you.
Of course, you’ll start to feel like it’s you. Like you must have done something to cause the aggression, the lying, or the running away.
But, it’s not you. It’s them. It’s the shadowy figures from the past who caused hurt physically or emotionally. It’s the loss of their birth parents, even if they were born into less-than-optimal circumstances or can’t remember the transition because they were “too young.” Their brain remembers.
The next time you start to get the feeling that your child is targeting you, take a breath, remind yourself that it’s “them,” and approach the situation from an empathic, supportive, and calm place. You will see a difference.