When Kids Disagree With Your ParentingMar 17, 2023
Your kids won’t agree with you.
Who’s heard the child who yells, “I hate you?”
Oh, I love this one: “You really f’d up my life.”
“I get to go to therapy to discuss YOU.”
OK, if your kids are younger, perhaps, “Daddy!”
Parenting is not for the faint of heart. Growing up is really hard, and parenting is really hard too.
So many of us want to parent in a way that is different from how we were raised. It’s so rare that I hear from someone who says, “My parents nailed it.” Because we can admit that there may have been a time, or three, where we said, “I hate you.” Or “I wish I lived….” somewhere, anywhere else.
Let’s talk about what happens when our kids don’t agree with the way we are raising them.
We have rules in our house: we eat dinner together. We are in the house by a certain time. Rules do not mean that kids agree. In fact, developmentally, kids are made to push back on boundaries. That’s how you know if a boundary is there: it is tested. In developmental pediatrics we are told to use boundaries and consistency to help teach kids that there is a reliable safety net. They will push and “expect” pushback, testing their way, to seek and receive reassurance of safety and support.
There’s more to the story: Kids will test us. Period.
Everyone, from toddlers to teens to us, hates being told what to do. We want to be autonomous. And in the work that I do, I do not want to provide the expert opinion to weigh in on how you should be raising your kids. Because when I tell you what to do… you do the pushing back, just like a teen.
But here’s the thing: That is all perfectly normal: the pushback, the frustration, the angst, and the disagreements.
That doesn’t mean you are doing anything wrong.
I have a child who eloquently told me that they will be in therapy for years based on the material I provided them during their growing up years.
My child, same.
While you are special and unique and give me meaning, this is not unique.
We all have our issues with how we were raised, what we want to do differently, our challenges with breaking generational beliefs and beyond.
That is human nature.
As is being told things that could make you feel like you’re the worst parent in the world.
Spoiler alert: YOU ARE NOT.
How do I know that?
- There are some pretty shitty parents out there… I have a sneaky feeling the worst haven’t found Family in Focus.
- All joking aside, I firmly believe that we are all doing the very best that we can… with these tools, with this child, in this environment. Even the shitty parents are doing what they can. And yet, we can all learn and try to do better.
- Just because your kid disagrees with you having done your best, doesn’t mean that you’ve f’d them up. Even if they say that. This is the part where we need to understand something: the power of words.
When a child says, “You’re the worst parent in the world,” they are just words. Let’s note the sting and… put it aside for the moment.
Write down the words that your child said. Then, write down: what do those words mean to you? What do they mean about you?
How does that make you feel?
Yeah, pretty shitty.
What’s another story you can tell? Perhaps one that starts with how you were doing the best you could with the resources, environment, energy that you had at the time?
How can you hold two things as true? You did the best that you would, and your child disagrees?
I think that ultimately that is the real work of being a parent: none of us are perfect, but we are doing the best that we can. It looks messy, because it’s real. And no child has a perfect childhood or parent. No one. But the other side is that we also don’t have to take on all the power for our kids’ lives. Yes, some will experience therapy, some will go to eating therapies and medical therapies.
You are not a demon, they are not a victim. We are all human, learning as we go. And learning is the big word here, because it’s not about failing or “f’ing them up.” It’s about how we can be doing the best that we can at any moment, and still learning and doing better going forward.
Now, there’s another side of the coin:
How do you know that you’re doing it the best way you can?
First, you can always tell yourself that. Seriously, give yourself permission to just remind yourself that of course you did the best you can at the time.
Honestly, there is no benefit to lamenting over something in the past, rehashing, reliving. Yes, there is always room for apologies, learning and growing. But there is also room for giving yourself grace.
Next, the next time that you catch yourself in a moment where your child pushes back or disagrees with what you are doing, I invite you to look at something. It’s going to take a moment til you can start seeing it in the moment, but it is soooo helpful:
Define what it is that you are doing or asking of them or telling them to do.
Then, I want you to think about this, sit with it: what is the emotion that you feel that’s leading you to ask them to do this?
Why are you asking them?
This is practice, but it can really shed a light on the energy at home:
Are you telling them to do it because you’re frustrated, or afraid? Are you trying to STOP being afraid or frustrated?
Are you tired?
Are you trying to control, manage them?
Are you trying to share, to teach, to introduce them to something new? Or to perhaps practice and reinforce?
Get clear on why you want to ask or even tell them to do something. The more curious I got about why I’m asking, the more that I realized that I have solid reasons as I’m building my kids up. They may not agree with it. But when I’m approaching from a place of love, that’s ok. We can agree to disagree. And I can tell them no with peace, even when they are having a fit that might lead to therapy, or not.
I also believe that therapy is absolutely amazing, so there’s no need to threaten that I’ve sent you there, my love.
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