“Calm your farm, dad”, said my son one day as I reprimanded him over a minor household incident. What? The cheeky blighter! It would be easy to react with an old-time high-handed authoritarian tone. After all, kids should show respect, right?!
Of course they should. But that doesn’t mean taking offence at every infraction any more than it means being a doormat to spare a teenage eruption. Boundaries are set to provide safety for kids and they will test them. They need to know that you will react safely and wisely. Overreacting to pressure points can undermine that trust and get more immaturity in return. Kids are not mini-adults and don’t necessarily always have the capacity to make smart choices. But boundaries that are firm and fair help to steer kids to the line of least resistance. That’s the teaching role that parents need to have and this requires patience (God give me more patience and give it to me now…).
It’s important to read the pressure build up in you and ask yourself (and maybe someone else) what is going on if it is too high. Is your life under too much pressure to have margins that can handle the time blow-outs that happen with kids’ blow-ups? Do you feel out of control, as if the kids are getting the upper hand? Did your own parents overreact to minor back-chat and set an unhealthy pattern? Where dysfunction happened in our own upbringing, we are sure to perpetuate it to some degree and need a little intervention from a friendly outside influence that might view things a little differently and help us to tweak some changes.
Consistency and calmness in setting appropriate consequences will usually help. As will a quick switch to some positive talk about the day, or maybe about a common interest. A corrective tone can be heard all too often in some homes and it not only sets the bar of expectation high, but inadvertently suggests a performance-based acceptance and then also creates an oppressive atmosphere. There’s no doubt that it’s easier to start young, but it is never too late to rebuild a relationship and to rediscover the fun or relationship and the joy of mutual discovery that are such big parts of why we become parents in the first place.