For many parents talking about feelings is walking on shaky ground. Putting their feelings to words does not come easy to them. It can make parents feel intimidated, scared, stupid, and uncomfortable–all at the same time. You can’t, however, tell your kids how you feel if you don’t know yourself. Most of our anger is rooted in one of these four basic feelings:
You’re mad at Madison, not because you had to carry her kicking and screaming out of the toy store, but because she embarrassed you in front of a dozen other people. If you’re in this boat, a good warm-up exercise is to pair all the things your children do which make you mad with a feeling. Write them down for future reference. By the same token, you may have problems connecting your child’s behavior to a tangible consequence for you. In other words you’re getting mad for no good reason. It’s time to think deeper about why you’re not happy. You can’t stand your job? Your spouse lost his or her job…
At first you may find your I-messages are hit and miss. Rethink your message; is it strong enough? Your message has to match the intensity of your feelings. For instance, “When you steal my money, I feel disappointed because I have to hide my money so you can’t find it,” doesn’t leave the same impression as “When you steal my money, it makes me feel afraid, because I don’t think I can trust you anymore.
If you feel mad, let yourself be mad. Your children need to know that you have a limit; your patience is not like the horizon. You’re entitled to get mad, so long you don’t get mean. After all people in the real world get mad too, and you want your kids to know what to do when people get mad at them. Children need the assurance of knowing that relationships don’t change because people get mad at each other. They’re still friends in the end. It’s only when two people don’t have a good relationship to begin with that getting mad can do more harm than good.