I’m a Parenting Coach. Sometimes people reach out to me because they feel that their kids are acting like jerks. And I get it … there’s no denying that sometimes children can act like royal pains, what with their yelling and tantrums and throwing and crying and hitting and spitting and demanding and their:
“No no NO!”
“Mine, mine, MINE!!”
And you know what? It’s important to address those behaviors, because we can’t have our kids moving through the world acting entitled and demanding at thirty. We’ve all seen those kinds of adults and let’s face it, it isn’t pretty. Nobody wants to hang out with a self-absorbed jerk.
But can I tell you something? Being a jerk once in a while is part of the human condition. In fact, part of being a kid is being selfish and egocentric. Testing out being a jerk is part of our children’s job. It’s our job not to take it too personally. And to make sure that we, as parents, are being reasonably good people so our kids can grow up to do the same.
We teach our kids how to be good people by being good people.
We teach our kids to have balanced lives and take care of themselves by having balanced lives and taking care of ourselves.
How is that whole self-care thing going for you mamas? If you’re like most mothers I talk to, probably not so well …
When was the last time you had an enriching adult conversation? Or took a class? When was the last time you went on an adults-only date or curled up all alone with a good book?
I’m guessing that many of you can barely take a breath between getting up and feeding the kid and going to work (whether that work is parenting at home or a whole other venture) and trying to spend quality time and doing the shopping and making dinner and cajoling your kid to go to bed and maybe being woken up multiple times in the night and getting up at some god awful time … and starting all over again. Maybe you even (gasp!!) let your child watch a little TV just to have a minute with your own thoughts and now you feel like a bad mom.
Maybe we need to rethink this. Maybe you need someone to explain why you get to be a selfish mom sometimes and what to do about when you are. Maybe we need to talk about why you’re not a bad mom if you live a life that doesn’t revolve around your offspring 24/7.
In fact, maybe you need someone to tell you that that makes you a hero.
Why you, as a mom, get to be a jerk (sometimes):
Moms are constantly asking me why their kids are so well behaved at school or with others and such jerks at home. It’s simple. We’re all on our best behavior out in the world. It’s only with our families (whom we trust and love) that we feel we can let out the hard stuff. So if your kid saves the bad behavior for you, be flattered that they feel safe and loved enough to do so. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be annoyed by bad behavior. But you should know that it’s normal. If you can manage to keep it together out in the world and you only lose it every once in a while, that’s normal and human. You’re a human. Give yourself a little grace. Yelling all the time is a problem, but getting annoyed and losing your temper or feeling sorry for yourself when your child pushes all your buttons means you are part of a sisterhood of moms doing the same thing all over the world. You aren’t the only one, I promise.
What to do if you were a jerk to your kid:
So let’s say you were a jerk. Maybe you overreacted or expected too much or that your kid did something really, really out of line like smacking you? What now? First of all, forgive yourself. You want your child to not be a jerk? You want them to grow up to be someone who takes responsibility for bad behavior? How about someone who can focus on solutions? Great! Start with that. Take this as an opportunity to model that behavior for your child. Go to your kid and apologize for your bad behavior. Say something like: “Wow, when you didn’t clean your room that made me really upset. I shouldn’t have yelled at you though. I’m sorry. How can we make sure that your room gets cleaned up before your grandma comes over?” BAM! You’ve taken responsibility, reconnected and involved your child. Now let that guilt go.
Why being a little bit of a selfish mom makes you a better parent:
We say things like, “You can grow up to be anything you want to be!” We spend all this time shuttling our kids to enrichment classes hoping to make them well-rounded people with passions and interests. We teach them how to be “nice” to friends so that they can enjoy human connection. So how come so many of us can’t even give ourselves permission to take an hour for ourselves each day to go to a yoga class or meet friends for a grownup dinner? Mom-guilt is a real thing, and it can be crippling, but you aren’t doing your child any favors by keeping yourself small. Think about how much more fun you are as a parent when you’ve had time to recharge. And even if your little one is sad that you’re leaving, you should do it anyway. Think about what it teaches your kid when you find a loving caregiver, when you come home to them each time, and when you have stories to tell them about your adventures? It teaches them that there are other wonderful adults that care for them, that they can survive hard feelings and have fun with other people, and that you always come back. It teaches them that you are not “just a mom” but a whole, interesting person.
Seriously mamas, I’m not saying that it’s okay to be a jerk all the time. I’m not saying to leave your children with a nanny for days on end. I’m saying that if you find yourself losing it, know that you’re normal. If you want to take time to pursue your passions, don’t let being a mom stop you! By making time for yourself – to enjoy a full life, you’re teaching your children how to enjoy life too.
It doesn’t make you a jerk … it makes you a hero.