Has your child started to do things to intentionally hurt your feelings? Use these Gentle Parenting strategies to guide them to better behaviour.
What do I do when my child intentionally does something to hurt my feelings?
(This post might contain affiliate links, which means if you happen to buy a product I love then I may get a commission - at no extra cost to you! For all the Ts and Cs go here.)
As a parent, maybe you’ve found that there are endless behaviours you’ve had to learn how to deal with.
How to soothe an overboiling tantrum.
How to teach your child how to clean up.
How to get a toddler to actually use the potty.
But there is one behaviour that just feels SO much more difficult than the rest, and that is when your child does something to intentionally hurt your feelings.
Maybe they knock your book off the coffee table with a bitter look on their face, or call you a mean mommy.
These behaviours hurt so much more than tantrums or anything else, because it feels personal. It feels like your child is personally attacking you and you can be left questioning every single parenting decision you’ve made up to this point.
Have I been too strict?
Have I been too lenient?
When your child intentionally hurts your feelings you might not even feel like being around them, or it can make you feel like a failure as a mom.
This is not uncommon behaviour
Unfortunately for us moms, this behaviour will probably happen, but fortunately – it’s not because we’re bad moms.
Acting out in this way is common among children, but how we decide to respond will help determine how frequently it keeps happening and how our children will learn to do better.
Why is my child doing this?
There are a few factors that could account for your child intentionally hurting your feelings, think these reasons over to decide if it’s something that might apply for your child.
You child might be hurting your feelings intentionally because:
They’re copying what they’ve seen on TV
Is it possible that they’ve seen similar behaviour on TV? It’s possible that they are mimicking and experimenting with something from a show they’ve watched.
Quick fix: Consider limiting their screen time or any shows that might encourage them to experiment with challenging behaviour.
Perhaps your child is intentionally hurting your feelings because they are over tired. We can all admit to getting a bit cranky when we’re tired.
Quick fix: More sleep! (Need help getting your child to sleep MORE? Check this out.) LINK
They feel disconnected from you
When children haven’t had enough quality time with the parent they can feel disconnected and in desperate need of time together.
Quick fix: Spend some one on one time together without distractions, doing something you can both enjoy. Avoid any activities where potentially more behaviour issues could come up so it can feel like an overall positive experience for both of you.
They’re going through a growth spurt, phase or testing boundaries
What can I say, this might just be temporary and you have to ride it out, so there’s no quick fix but just remember to be consistent and gentle in your response. Whenever scientists do tests they want to make sure they get the same results many times before they can make it a “fact” and the same is true for our kids.
If they’re testing boundaries with us then they’re slowly trying to figure out what exactly our response will be. So stay consistent.
These are possible reasons for your child intentionally hurting your feelings
But you’ll have to decide for yourself if you think it applies to your specific child.
These are reasons but not excuses, we don’t want to become permissive and simply ignore the behaviour, but we also don’t want to come down on them too strongly and end up losing a teaching moment. Keep reading to learn what to do.
How do I handle this behaviour?
So you know why your child might be doing this and some things that might help to prevent it, but how do you actually handle the situation when it happens?
There are 3 simple things I want you to remember during this moment:
- Voice feelings
- Be patient and loving
- Ask them about it later
It’s important to voice your feelings, and your child’s.
To voice your own feelings you can say, “I didn’t like it when you did that. I’m going to fix it by ____” Or say, “Do you have any ideas to help me fix this?” Take a deep breath if you need to, and calmly tell your child in a non-judgmental way but rather a matter of fact way, that you did not like what they did. Your feelings matter too so it’s ok to simply explain to your child that it hurt your feelings.
You can also voice THEIR feelings. Validating feelings is actually one of my 6 Pillars of Gentle Parenting because it’s just that important. Were they feeling angry about something? Maybe they didn’t have the words to express themselves so they used their actions instead?
You can say something like, “I see you’re feeling very angry right now. When you feel angry you can ____.” And offer them an appropriate alternative to expressing their anger.
It’s possible that they are acting out in this way because they have the anger but don’t know what to do with it.
Be patient and loving
In this moment, you might be feeling a lot of things. You might be feeling frustrated, angry, irritated and even hurt. It’s easy for this big emotions of ours to come out in how we correct our child in that moment, but it’s important to consistently offer a patient and loving response.
Try taking a deep breath and give yourself a moment to decide what you’re going to say so that the first words that come out of your mouth aren’t words you regret. If you struggle with mom anger you might want to check out this post: 6 Ways to Stop Being an Angry Mom
They might be very impatient and unloving in the moment, but it’s still a chance for you to model appropriate reactions to them. One day someone might be mean to them, and won’t it be lovely when they react with patience and love towards that person. It starts with you.
Ask them about it more later on
Once your child has intentionally done something to hurt your feelings, it can become a highly emotional moment for both of you. If you want to talk to them about what happened consider how emotional you’re both feeling to decide if it’s a conversation for later when you’re both thinking more rationally.
You can ask your child why they did it, what they were feeling or what they were trying to say with that action. Remember, all behaviour is communication.
Once you’ve discussed it, you can still express how it made you feel and offer solutions for next time. Try to avoid dragging out the conversation to “make a point” because this might make them feel even worse, and you’ll lose the impact of the teachable moment.
Talking about it can give them a chance to express themselves and even help them to work out in their minds why they did it. Be a listening ear so they can come to their own conclusions about what happened, maybe they will realize they were overtired before you even tell them that’s the case.
Don’t lose heart
These moments can definitely hurt and feel totally overwhelming, but your relationship with your child doesn’t have to be hurt by it, and it’s probably not something that will last for a long time, especially if you are able to intervene in the gentle ways mentioned above.
The Moving Mama
Lizzy Mash is an experienced early childhood educator now living in Africa as a missionary working with children and families.
She teaches Christian moms how to take a more respectful and Christ-like approach to motherhood by using Gentle Parenting strategies.
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