Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Why does my child say hurtful things to me?
If your children can talk there is a chance they have said something to you that has hurt your feelings. It could be as simple and innocent as a toddler telling you they think you have a “big tummy” or as intentional and mean spirited as your 14 year old telling you she wishes she belonged to a different family.
There are a lot of reasons our children say these things. Often time’s children don’t understand social cues and politeness, as in the case with the toddler telling you your “tummy” is big. He honestly did not know adults don’t like to be told they are big. Adults are always telling children they are “so big” so it seems like a compliment to him. In this case a non-judging explanation of why mommies don’t like to be called “big” should do the trick. At least until the next social cue gets messed up.
But what about the 2 – 6 year old that tell you they don’t love you anymore. What is going on with him? I always like to start with us – the parents. Examine your own speech around your child. Maybe you talk to a spouse a lot like your child is talking to you. Maybe you talk to other people or even to your child in that way. You cannot expect your child to use nice words when he hears the mean words from the people closest to him.
Beyond the words we use, there are two possible reasons for a child’s use of hurtful phrases. One reason could be that there is “hurt” in him that needs to come out. The second could be that there is a need; physical or emotional that is not being met.
First let’s talk about the “hurt” that could be inside your child. Children (and adults) have a certain capacity to deal with painful events. A child's capacity is much smaller. So when a child feels emotionally or physically hurt it has to go somewhere. A great outlet for this pain to go is to the people he loves the most – lucky parents. In order to help your child with this you need to know that he needs help letting out the pain. Talk with him in a loving way; don’t disrupt the frustration he feels. Allow him to cry about things that upset him and validate his feelings. Don’t repay his anger for your anger but use your words to show him how he should talk.
Next is the physical or emotional need that is not being met. Now I don’t want parents to think I am suggesting you are willingly withholding something your child needs. When it comes to the emotional needs of both toddlers and teenagers it can be like putting a 1000 piece puzzle together when you are missing half the pieces.
Look to see if there are physical issues at hand. Is the child over-tired, over-stimulated, over-scheduled, hungry or thirsty? Next you look to the emotional needs. Have there been any changes recently in your child’s life; new school, caregiver, mom or dad away more or even a big change coming up? Have you been able to spend less one on one time with your child lately? Has there been inconsistency? These could point to an emotional need that is not being filled. Work to fill that need and you just might hear fewer mean words directed toward you.
Sometimes no matter how hard you try, you will never understand the feelings of your 3 year old, and I can guarantee you will never fully understand what is going on the head of your 14 year old. But as their parents, it is our responsibility to try. Sometimes that is all that they really need; someone trying to listen and understand what their needs are.
- ► 2012 (90)
- ▼ August (9)