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I take emotions out on my children. What to do?

Here is the situation that you may have observed on a children’s playground: a 5-year old child is wailing, his mom is dragging him by the hand, grabbing his collar, and yelling, yelling, yelling…

We all know that you shouldn’t take it out on children. We, adults, should not deal with our emotions at someone else’s expense – this is beyond any doubt. But what if it doesn’t work? What if over and over again you promise yourself to be more patient and still find yourself screaming with a twisted face at your beloved, but sometimes endlessly annoying child? And then you feel shame, guilt and give yourself a vow that this will not happen again…

Let’s break this vicious circle together. What to do if you recognize yourself in the description above?

1. Recognize that you are taking out your frustration on your child.

Here, as with alcoholics, until the problem is recognized and named, no improvement can be expected. But admitting does not mean that you should start to blame yourself – this is a completely useless endeavor. Rather, recognize it as a fact, as a phenomenon that takes place.  And that you should do everything to eliminate it.

2. Find the cause of your acute reaction. What could it be?

○ The child’s behavior rubs one of your “sore spots”.

This can provoke many different complex emotions – resentment, fear, anxiety, or anger.

If your parents punished (rejected) you for something in childhood – now the situation can get revived again, only with other participants. It awakens that very little inner child living inside of you.

You were forced to “be quiet” and punished for being active – you may get angry when your child is having fun and running around.

You were not allowed to show emotions of fear and anxiety – you may get angry when your child is afraid or crying.

You were forced to be submissive and “obey the rules of the house” – disobedience instantly gets on your nerves.

It is impossible to respond to your parents, and the reaction of anger is directed to the one who is available now – to your child.

○ You are angry about something completely different.

Perhaps there are many unresolved problems in your life right now. Or you are having a strong conflict that keeps you off-balance. Or maybe you are just physically tired and feel de-energized. All this makes you less patient and may cause you to take it out on the people who are close to you.

○ The child does not live up to your expectations.

This is almost a taboo topic – after all, it is very difficult to admit that your child is not what you would like her or him to be. But it is also very important to realize, go through, and accept.

Maybe the child has some special needs that you need to learn to deal with and this is not at all easy (autism, hyperactivity, stuttering, etc.)

Or you dreamed of him being an athlete, but the child is often sick and does not show any interest in sports.

Or she is slow, sensitive, and likes to examine every insect on the way to the kindergarten, and you are a fast choleric, for whom this slowness is just torment.

○ You deny your responsibility for what the child does.

You remembered late that you need to take your child to a doctor. And now you will not be on time because the child did not have time to get ready and burst into tears.

You gave your child an expensive tablet to play with so that you could peacefully chat with a friend – and the child broke it because this object is simply not designed for her age.

Perhaps you vaguely feel that there is your share of responsibility for what has happened – but you transfer it to the child so that … not to feel guilty.

○ You see yourself and your negative traits in your child. Or the vices of your present or previous partner.

“You are the same as your degenerate father! He also got himself in trouble all the time! ” You may have accumulated many complaints and grievances against the child’s father. And the child reminds you of him, hence the reaction of aggression.

Or it is your trait that you feel shy when talking to people, or sloppy, or absent-minded, or clumsy, and then noticing the same qualities in your child is a mechanism of psychological defense – a projection. After all, you don’t want to be angry with yourself…

○ You are acting according to a scenario that you saw as a child.

With horror, you realize that you are reproducing your parents’ model of behavior: you get in rage and scream the same way, use the same derogatory words and phrases, grab your child’s shoulder as your father used to do…

Usually, it is difficult to deal with this alone: it is safer and faster to work it out with a psychologist. You can successfully resolve any scenario!

It is very important to find the true reason for your strong reactions and “outbursts” – this will allow you to find the key to your emotions.

3. Separate your emotions from the emotions of the child.

You are separate – the child is separate. What does the child feel right now? Perhaps fear, guilt, or anxiety. And you? Anger, rage. Tell your child about your feelings. This in itself reduces the intensity of your emotions.

“I am very angry when you do this”, “I now feel resentment and confusion”.

4. Return to the adult position.

He or she is a child, and you are an adult. The child cannot be responsible for your emotional state. You cannot “because of him or her” get angry, yell, lose your temper. It’s because of something in you, not in him or her. It is important to take responsibility for what is happening – and after that, you will not want to continue screaming.

Phrases like this can help you cool down: “I’m an adult. I am a mother. I am 34 and I take care of my child. My emotional world is my responsibility, not his. I need to do something to help myself calm down. I can handle it. “

5. If you are angry, step away. This is a very important recommendation!

If you feel that you cannot cope with your emotions and you experience a desire to slap or grab your child, and anger already blinds you – go away. Anywhere – to another room, five steps back, go out on the streets (if there is someone to leave the child with). And there, try to calm down by using emergency techniques – breathing, doing jumping jacks, drinking water, etc.

6. Apologize if you know you are wrong.

There is no need to worry about losing your child’s respect – it is not formed that way. An apology is an admission of guilt and a great example for the child. It’s okay to apologize.

And here’s another thing. We know that you love your child. We do not doubt it. Even the fact that you are reading this article and trying to change your behavior already speaks about this.

When you find yourself taking out emotions on your child, you can choose three paths.

1. Leave everything as is. “My parents treated me like this, and I turned out OK.”

2. Experience chronic feelings of guilt – and not change anything.

3. Begin to understand the reasons and gradually change your usual patterns.

As you can guess, the third way is the only one that creates a positive contribution to your relationship with your child. And we believe that you will choose it.

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