Parental Unhappiness - a powerful tool for teaching unintended lessons

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By Melissa Ford

Coach - Personal & Business

Raising kids can bring out the worst in parents, just ask any mom or dad. 

After an arduous day at work, you return home only to trip over an untouched pile of toys you had earlier asked your son to pick up. Your children ransack the pantry leaving the kitchen in disarray. Your son loses his cell phone; your daughter responds with a sneer when you remind her to clean up her room. These are just a few run-of-the-mill issues parents face every day. 

Even so, why do we get unhappy in these situations, even if we wish they didn’t occur?

I've asked myself that question on numerous occasions. Did getting angry really motivate my daughter to speak respectfully? (I love that logic: be disrespectful to teach respect!) Or when I angrily reprimanded my son for being neglectful and inadvertently creating a parent trap, was I afraid he wouldn't take me seriously if I stayed calm?  

No matter what our reasons - unhappiness is a powerful tool for teaching children, but not the lessons we desire to teach. 

Think back on your own childhood when your parents were irritated, angry, or disappointed with you. How did you feel? Were you able to clearly decipher the real lessons they intended? Or were the indirect messages behind their unhappiness the ones you took to heart?

"You scored a C- on your test?” your father remarked with displeasure. (Message: I'm a disappointment and I make Dad angry.)

"How many times do I have to tell you to pick up your things?" your mom commented testily. (Message: If I don't do what Mom wants, she'll withdraw her love.)

"That hurt our feelings! Think of others before you open your mouth!" your parents snapped. (Message: I'm inconsiderate and uncaring; I make others feel bad.)

Intermixing our words with an attitude of unhappiness means our real messages get lost in the cloud of our discomfort.  

Instead, we teach our kids powerful lessons about themselves and the world around them that don't support their emotional well-being or enhance our relationships. Yes, we want to encourage academic success, inspire responsible behavior, and teach respect, but we will only be successful if our unhappiness isn't obscuring these important lessons.
Why leave it up to our kids to decode our teachings? Why not be clear and direct?

We always have a choice in the attitudes we assume. When we switch up our inner stance by choosing to feel comfortable, we become effective and loving teachers AND we turn those everyday challenges into powerful opportunities to teach the lessons we intend.


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