Are You Making Your Kid Angry?

Technically, no one can “make” you angry unless you give them that right.  While it may seem as though the actions of another person are “making you angry”, in actuality it is your set of experiences, emotions, beliefs, and ideals that cause you to get angry.  For instance, one person may become angry at being cut off while driving while another person may not even notice the action.  The difference between the two people is one person took the action as a personal offense while the other person did not.  The person cutting you off did not “make” you angry; rather you became angry because of how you perceived their action.

So while another person can’t “make” you angry, you can “make” your kid angry.  Why the double standard?  Because your kid is a child and you are an adult.  With maturity comes the ability to temper or control your responses which is the idea of having “self-control”.  But for a child, they have not reached this level of maturity and are unable to demonstrate self-control so they display immature behavior which is characterized by a lack of control over their responses.  Literally, you can “make” a kid feel a certain way because they are not fully in control of their responses.  Therefore, as the adult, you are responsible for “making” your kid angry.  Ephesians 6:4a warns, “Fathers (and mothers), do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them.”  But just how are you “making” them angry?

Not listening.  Easily hands down the number one complaint kids have about their parents is that they don’t listen to what they are saying.  Too often as a parent, you are trying to get your point across and don’t stop long enough to make sure you understand your child’s point of view.  Then, because they are a child, often they really don’t know what they are really thinking or how they are feeling, so they default to anger.  No, they are not able to speak clearly, they are a child.  No, they are not able to counteract you point by point, they are a child.  But give them some time and soon as teenagers they will become more and more like you, not listening and counteracting you point by point.

Assuming the worst.  Just to make things more complicated, kids don’t always say what they mean or mean what they say.  While this is a nice lesson to teach them, assuming the worst motive or attitude about your child sends a subtle message that they are not valued or their opinion is not valued.  This brings on anger in your child just as you get angry when someone assumes the worst about you.  When you assume the worst about your child, they interprets this as “I am no good”, “I can never do anything right”, or “I am to blame for everything”.  The negative consequences of a child learning this at a young age is that it will not leave them as an adult.  For the rest of their lives, they will struggle with a positive self-image which you helped to foster.

Seeing yourself in them.  When you see your child behaving and speaking just like you while making all the same mistakes you made, there is almost an immediate angry response on your part.  It seems to come out of nowhere, one moment you are able to speak calmly and the next you are flying off the handle.  There is no rhyme or reason except that you were triggered by a past event or mistake and watching your child suffer through the same mistakes you made is more than you can handle.  The problem is that your child doesn’t understand your anger and they instead internalize it.  They become angry with themselves for “making” you angry.  In the moment, you child is not likely to respond badly but give them a couple of years and the resentment will build and turn to intense anger.

Ok, so you have made a few mistakes or more likely, made more than a few mistakes in “making” your child angry but it is not too late.  You can stop “making” them angry by simply doing the opposite of what “made” them angry.  You could listen to what they are really saying, you could assume the best about your child, and you could divorce your behavior from your child’s behavior.  After all, they have their own journey to make based on their own decisions and it is not necessarily the same journey you have made in life.  The decisions they will need to make in the future are made best when not heavily influenced by anger from their parents.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

What Freud Got Right: Oedipus Complex

Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis, smok...

Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis, smoking cigar. Español: Sigmund Freud, fundador del psicoanálisis, fumando. Česky: Zakladatel psychoanalýzy Sigmund Freud kouří doutník. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There he was at six years old running to welcome me home with open arms.  His warm embrace and excitement over greeting me filled my heart with overwhelming joy.  Our son dominated my greeting making sure that my husband did not get close and when he did, he immediately jumped in-between our embrace.  He spoke of all the things he did desperately seeking my approval and interrupted any conversation my husband and I attempted to have.  It was adorable and I loved every minute of it but was not right.

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis and psychosexual development, coined the phrase Oedipus Complex to describe the sexual attraction a child has for their parent.  He believed that every child wants to have sex with their parent, usually the parent of the opposite sex, and this is why they naturally desire to please or get the attention of said parent.  While I do not agree with the sexual component, there is some truth in a child seeking the attention of one parent to the detriment of the other.  It is almost as if there is some sort of unspoken competition between the child and the same-sex parent where the child uses whatever means necessary to win the competition.  This unfortunately can include using both good and bad behavior to draw attention.

So what can you do?  Well the first step is to realize what is happening which means that you need to observe your child’s behavior as an outsider looking in on the family.  Step back and see if your child is physically getting in-between you and your spouse, if they are interrupting, if they demand attention, and if they play on the deficiencies of the same-sex spouse.  For instance, if you and your spouse are not physical with hugs and kisses, is your child excessively hugging and kissing the opposite sex parent?  Or if you and your spouse don’t talk very much, is your child excessively trying to engage you in conversation?

So what do you think?  Now that you realize what is going on, please understand that this is normal childhood behavior.  A daughter will do this with her father and a son will do this with his mother; there is nothing unnatural about it except for your reaction.  It is naturally pleasing to have such unconditional love and admiration from your child and more than likely you will encourage it with your reaction.  But if you allow your child to come in-between you and your spouse, they will only learn even better how to manipulate others and in the end, this is not a good character trait.  The opposite is also true for if you reject your child’s behavior, they will transfer that rejection onto future relationships in a never-ending desire to seek love and approval from wherever they can find it.

So what can you say?  Discuss this issue with your spouse and agree together on how to handle it with your child.  The first step is to acknowledge your spouse first and then your child each and every time you enter a room.  This subtle message is not a rejection of the child but rather a placement of importance on your marriage.  Your marriage should come first before your child as eventually your child will grow up and leave one day and you will be left with your spouse.  Two individuals cannot become one in a marriage if a child is in the middle.  The second step is to be more physically affectionate with your spouse than your child, reserving only certain types of kissing and hugging for your spouse.  This teaches your child that there is a difference between the two.  The last step is to make decisions together as a couple regarding your child, the words, “I need to talk to your mother or father first” should become a standard in your household.

Too often a parent’s response to negative behavior from their child is to think there is something wrong with them.  If your child is suffering from an Oedipus Complex, their negative behavior is an attempt to get the attention of the opposite sex parent.  By giving your child attention after your spouse, they will learn to trust in receiving the attention and be less likely to repeat the negative behavior.  Freud got this concept right as it is repeated over and over in households and is the unnecessary cause of much frustration and tension.  By realizing that what your child is experiencing is normal and modifying your behavior, your child will naturally adjust theirs.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

A Letter from a Child to Her Parents during Divorce

Dear Mommy and Daddy,

Yesterday I just stood there as you fought over my baby sister.  Mommy had both her arms and Daddy had both her legs.  I thought my baby sister would break in half but she just cried cause she is only one years old.  I felt so bad that I didn’t stop you from fighting over her, it is all my fault.  Maybe if I was better than you won’t fight so much.

Daddy, you say mean things to me and Mommy.  You say my mommy tells lies about you.  But she is nice to me and takes care of me and my sister.  She listens to me when I cry and tries to make me feel better.  She tells me that you are mean and if you were nice then she would not have to be mean.  Daddy, please be nice to Mommy so she can be nice to you.

Daddy, I have fun when we are together doing stuff.  You take me places I like to go.  But Mommy tells me I don’t have to go with you if I don’t want.  She told me that we can do something special if I don’t go with you.  I like her treats too so I get confused about where to go.

I don’t like to go without my baby sister because she needs me to take care of her.  I am away from her at school and I wish I didn’t have to go to school so I could stay at home and help Mommy out with her.  Mommy gets tired easily and besides only I know how she feels and she needs me.  One day she fell asleep and I tried to wake her up but she won’t get up.  My baby sister was crying so I talked to her until Mommy got up.  It was dark then.

I love my school but you keep fighting over money and how much it costs.  All my friends go there but I don’t want you to fight.  Can I go to a school you won’t fight over?  I don’t care where I go.  I’ll be good wherever you send me.  I promise.

I don’t want to lie.  I learned in school that you shouldn’t tell a lie but Mommy you asked me to lie about Daddy.  You told me to tell my teacher that Daddy hit me.  He did not hit me.  I told her that he did but then she asked me questions and you weren’t there so I didn’t know how to answer them.  Can you come to school with me and tell my teacher what you want me to say to her?  I don’t want to lie to her.  She is nice to me and she looks sad when other kids lie to her.  I don’t want to be like them.

Daddy you scared me when you get angry.  I don’t like your angry voice.  Mommy told me that you hurt people when you get like that.  You have not hurt me but I am afraid that if I am not good enough you will.  I also don’t want my baby sister to get hurt so please stop getting angry.  I will do whatever you want if you just stop yelling.  Please don’t hurt me like Mommy said you would.

It made me sad that you were fighting over my baby sister.  I know that you have not fought over me like that cause I am bad and she is good.  It is ok.  I know that I am bad cause if I were good, you would not have left Daddy.  I tell my baby sister to stay good so that Mommy won’t leave too cause that is what parents do when their kid is bad.

I have an idea.  Since I am bad, break me in half so my baby sister doesn’t have to be broken.  I am afraid that you will break her one day and then I will be sad.  I don’t want to live without her.  Then maybe you will not fight anymore.  This is all I want, for you to stop fighting.  Please stop.

Love,

Your Child

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Fathers Do Not Come in One Size Fits All

Trying to pick a card for Father’s Day is difficult these days.  None of the cards I find seem to reflect my experience, gratefulness, or love that I have for the men in my life.  I don’t have a grandfather who grew up in this country, a dad who loves sports, or a husband who played football, and none one of them are TV watchers.  My grandfather did many activities with me and did not just sit in a rocking chair talking to me.  My dad worked very hard for all of his life and still has yet to retire.  My husband is extremely active in the lives of our children and does not leave the responsibility of raising our kids on me alone.  So that eliminates about 90% of the cards out there and the rest of them are just plain silly.

Looking back on my life there are three significant fathers: my grandfather, my dad, and my husband.  Each one shaped my life because they added significant value though teaching, contributed to healing the hurts, and nurtured my soul.  Fathers do not come in one size fits all.  Perhaps you do not have the ideal family background either, but we can reflect on the men in our life that helped us and give thanks to them.

My Grandfather.  For many years in my life my grandfather served as both a grandfather and a father.  My “baby daddy” was an abusive alcoholic adulterer that my mother, brother, and I left when I was only three years old.  We moved in with my grandparents and from then until I was about nine years old, my grandfather was more of a father then a grandfather.  He was compassionate, kind, gentle, always made time for me, and very loving.  He taught me to listen to others and understand where they are coming from before jumping to conclusions.  He was from Hungary and had much of the “old world” mentality so extended family was not really extended, we were all immediate family.  He is the one who taught me to believe in God, a seed that has grown very strong in me as an adult and I’m eternally grateful for this gift.  His unconditional love for me healed the hurt of not having a dad in my life.

My Dad.  He married my mother when I was twelve years old and then promptly adopted both my brother and me.  He did not need to do this.   He already had children of his own, but he did this out of love for us to give us a complete family not just an integrated one.  His willingness to adopt me showed me what it means to be an adopted member of the Kingdom of God and helped me to feel as though I belonged to someone.  The healing that comes from this is beyond measure and even to this day I am overwhelmed with gratitude for his generosity.    He taught me the value of hard work, how to stick things out through the tough times, dedication beyond feeling love to family, and determination.  These gifts are present in me today and I see the benefits of his gifts in my life and the lives of my children.

My Husband.  He is the father of all three of our children and having him as an active part of their lives has been the greatest gift.  We all want to give our children more than what we have and sometimes we think of these gifts in terms of more stuff, more privileges, more money, or more time.  I see it in terms of being able to give my children the gift of a consistent dad who loves God, is dedicated to his family, and enjoys spending time with them.  My kids don’t have more toys than I did as a child, but they do have the same father who gave them life to also serve as a role model.  This is far more precious of a gift than anything money could buy and watching them with him has brought healing to my own struggles as a child.

This year, think of the men in your life who have helped you and been a father to you in some way.  Then take a moment to thank them for them and the not so obvious gifts that they have given you.  Oh, and throw away the card, trust me, they will appreciate your sincere gratitude so much more.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.