I Don’t Like Mommy

Posted by on Aug 4, 2012 in Parenting

I Don’t Like Mommy

“I don’t like Mommy sometimes and it’s okay to feel that way.”

As I exited her room after asking her to clean up her toys, I overheard my older daughter mumble these words. And I was so happy to hear them.

I believe that one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is the freedom not to like us all the time. I’m not usually happy when either daughter expresses anger. Often, I have to take a deep breath and remind myself to stay calm. Sometimes I lose it. But ultimately, I want the girls to know that anger is normal, that it is an important part of a person’s internal alarm system, and that it does not wipe out my love or support.

Anger does not equal harm; it does not equal a tantrum; it does not equal disobedience or bad behavior; it does not equal sin. Anger is an emotion. As a mom, I want to accept my kids’ anger while also setting limits on behavior: “It is okay to be angry at me right now, and I understand it, but you are not allowed to call me nasty names.” “I see that you are mad at your sister, but pushing is never okay. What other ways can you let her know what you’re feeling?”

I remember an adolescent client who told me that the worst response her parents could have to her anger was to say, “Calm down!” This statement served only to infuriate her further. In moments of exasperation, I have tried this approach, with similar results. What am I communicating when I tell my kids to calm down? I think the message could be one of many: “You’re being ridiculous.” “You have nothing to be mad about.” “Make your anger go away so that I can feel better.” “I don’t know how to handle your feelings.” Ironically, my stating “Calm down!” does nothing to help my children learn to soothe themselves. The skill of self-soothing involves: the ability to identify what we are feeling and why; the ability to accept our feelings without judging them; the knowledge that feelings come and go, we can ride them out, and they will not destroy us.

Sitting at the dining room table with my 3-year-old and 6-year-old the other day, I asked, “What do you feel like doing when you’re angry?” Some of their responses included: “hitting the person,” “kicking,” “making the person dead,” “putting the person in jail,” and “saying I’m going to India.” Fight or flight. Then I asked the girls, “What helps when you’re angry?” They replied, “Say what I’m feeling and the other person listens,” and “Get the anger out and then ask the person to be friends again.”

In the therapy room, parents often express concern that validating their children’s anger will cause it to intensify. In my experience both professionally and personally, the opposite is true. When we feel heard and genuinely understood, our anger lessens. Validation communicates basic respect: “I see the situation from your perspective and your feelings make sense to me, even if I don’t agree with you.”

I want my daughters to go through life understanding that healthy, loving relationships contain anger and conflict.

About Lynn Davies

I am a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor with a Master of Science in Pastoral Counseling from Loyola University in Maryland. I have been in private practice for over fourteen years and have experience working with adults and adolescents, addressing a variety of issues: anxiety, depression, relationship problems, past or current trauma, eating disorders, self-mutilation, bereavement, parenting concerns, boundaries, and self-care.

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