Parenting is never an easy process, and God knows how testing kids can be. They can certainly hit on sensitive hot button issues – and knowingly so. We don’t give them much credit but those as young as toddlers are already instilled with an inherent sense of manipulation as they study each parent and know hot to get what they want or finding ways to emotionally blackmail the adults if they don’t. That’s all natural and expected. Well, it never seizes to amaze me to what extent they are capable of doing it, but still I have come to expect it from all kids (nieces and nephews are usual suspects as well).
So losing my temper is never out of the question and I continue to work hard on that weakness of mine, but I am human after all and I am able to with limited success temper my emotions. One reaction that I have noticed recently, from myself and those parents I am surrounded by, is laying on the guilt trip. I have noticed this much more apparently with my older son once my younger daughter was born. As she grew up and began to be more playful with her brother, there was an unrealistic expectation for him to watch her and play with her – especially when there is lunch to be cooked.
But putting that responsibility on him, or expecting it as a given is unfair. He genuinely loves to play with her, but when he doesn’t we find ourselves spitting out guilt trips to, in essence, emotionally black mail him to play with her. This made it less about his genuine want to have fun with her, to something forced. And without him saying as much, really he didn’t ask to be put in this position as big brother – we decided to have another child – or him for that matter, so what gives us the right to guilt trip him.
I still think there is something to be said about instilling empathy in kids by talking to them about point of views and how would other people feel as a consequence of their action. But guilt trips, although they may work in the short term, they are unnecessary, unfair, and in the long term can create resentment. It’s a natural reaction as a parent to bring up things we did for our kids to guilt them into being better behaved kids, but tempering that and trying to minimize it as much as possible will go a long way in giving you kids confidence. Constantly slapping them with guilt will inevitably create anxiety, self hate, and resentment – even for adults, let alone kids. So keep an ear out to what you say and how you say it, and figure out ways to do it in less guilt-ridden ways.