‘“Mom, I HATE YOU!”
The words pierced through my heart like a dagger, and so many emotions followed suit. Shock, confusion, anguish, shame, and a sense of failure. After all, I must be a failure as a mother for my child to yell those awful words at me with such anger - and at 6 years old! All over me trying to get him to have dinner. I was crushed, and couldn’t believe how I failed. We had the closest relationship. How did this happen?
First of all, these verbal outbursts happen to even the best of moms. The important thing is how we react to them moving forward. As a new mom expecting more kids, I refused to allow the same mistakes to happen again. As I dove deeper into my psychology field, I learned vital lessons on how to respond to angry outbursts. Now, I have a completely different perspective, and I’m so excited to share it all with you today.
Remember that when your child has a burst of rage, they’re likely expressing anger and frustration rooted in something they lack awareness of. A child’s intelligence develops emotionally first. Before they grow the skills to understand a situation logically, they learn how to express their feelings first.
Without realizing the root cause of their anger, they lash out without reason. It’s a habit carried on from when they were babies, and didn’t have the ability to speak or express their emotions with words at all. All we could do when they didn’t feel good as babies was cry. And certainly infants are not always aware of why they were irritated.
So remember, even when your child can speak and move at a young age, they still lack the level of awareness we have as adults in understanding our own feelings. They simply act them out. In fact, their trouble in understanding the underlying cause can bring out even more frustration. And it’s our responsibility as parents, as the ones with awareness, to help them gain the skills needed to analyze their experience and identify the cause of their emotions.
When a child has a strong expression, they’re looking for a strong reaction because they want your attention. Again, without them realizing it, they are looking to you for guidance in coping with their feelings. This further confirms that the way we react is just as important if not more.
So how do we respond positively to an outburst from our kids?
- Remain calm, stable and steady.
As parents, we are the guardians of our children, meaning they look to us for guidance whether they realize it or not. If your child screams at you, and uses foul language like, “I hate you”, don’t level up with them. Maintain that you are the calm, stable and steady person in their lives. Shock them with a great sense of self-assurance, and maintain a stable, steady response. This is not to say you accept that behavior from them. But chastising them with the same level of anger only models them to repeat it in the future. On the contrary, maintaining calm and self-assurance is a great model of behavior for them to adopt, so they will be able to react well when someone else says something inflammatory to them.
- Prove that you love them unconditionally.
While the behavior isn’t acceptable, remaining calm in your firmness will in turn make them more calm. On a subconscious level, they will feel more calm knowing they are being cared for by a stable, reliable parent, who doesn’t turn hateful in moments of stress. While the truth of our unconditional love always remains in moments of anger, your child will be more self-assured and confident that you love them unconditionally.
- Don’t read too much into it and move on.
Knowing the above, it should be easier to not take outbursts so personally to the point where it dismantles your self-confidence as a mother. Once the issue is addressed, release the emotions associated with the event and move on without allowing it to affect you further. Otherwise, these moments build up to create more emotional baggage and issues in the future. By making it a point to move on, you also teach your child the lesson that acting in anger is fruitless.
The benefits of following these principles:
- It builds emotional strength as a mother to remain calm and confident.
- It’s a good model for your child and how they should react when someone says something inflammatory to them.
- For the child, it assures them that we love them unconditionally.
- As parents, we immediately de-escalate the situation, so it stops them from pushing our buttons.
- As parents, it teaches our children that we do not grant them attention or emotional reciprocity when it’s seeked negatively.
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