Do you ever feel like your child is one person at home but someone else with her friends? Why is your toddler a beast at breakfast but everyone’s favorite at daycare? How can your teen be respected at school and still pick fights with his siblings at home? As moms, we have a front row seat to our children behaving badly. We see the foul moods, selfish attitudes, snarky comebacks, and the shirking of responsibility. Then our kids go out into the world and shine and we wonder “What am I doing wrong?”
If your child turns on the charm for everyone in the world but you, you are not alone. Kids often show their worst selves at home, but moms should take heart. Here are a few reasons why kids behave badly at home, and why moms ought to take it as encouraging.
Boundaries Teach Important Lessons
We often hear that kids need, even want boundaries (even if they won’t admit it). It’s important to remember that the presence of boundaries requires the discomfort of enforcement. Boundaries only work when parents ensure kids respect them. This means setting expectations, issuing reminders, teaching skills, and discipline when appropriate. Such a process can be trying. It brings up frustration, tension, discomfort, and anger. These negative feelings in our kids are often aimed at Mom, who provides a target for the release of painful emotions. If you make your child finish his homework before playing outside, you can bet you’ll see his wrath. But you’ll also have the benefit of knowing you are teaching him important lessons about responsibility and patience, and he’ll have you to thank.
Kids Receive Security When You Hold Boundaries
Kids test boundaries to assure themselves of their security and worth. A teen who argues with mom or dares to break curfew is doing more than just asserting her independence. She is giving her parents a chance to confirm their love and commitment to her best interests. At any age, a child who pushes the limits is essentially asking, “Am I worth your time and attention to address this?” Kids will even break rules they agree with for the reassurance of a loving and stern parent who steps in and says, through their actions, “You are so important to me, I cannot let this challenge go unanswered.” In a culture where attention is a precious commodity, we prove our love to our children when we pay enough attention to enforce expectations.
Vulnerability Indicates Trust
People share themselves with those they trust the most. Kids button themselves up for teachers and friends because they want to look cool and collected. But at home, all bets are off. As moms, we have the privilege of seeing our kids for who they are with all their faults and struggles. That means we get to show them what true love is, guiding and supporting them no matter what. When my kids put their selfishness on full display, I try to remind myself that because they don’t hide that part of themselves with me I have a unique opportunity to address it. I am also comforted by knowing at this stage I get to know my kids more intimately than anyone else. What a tremendous honor! Kids who are vulnerable enough to show their ugly side are bestowing a gift on the witness. It is up to us as parents to recognize that gift and use it to foster deeper intimacy and connection.
Tell us! What unexpected blessings have come from some of your parenting challenges?