Recently, my kids got into a little trouble for not following the rules. We’re not the strictest parents in the world, but punishment felt necessary. The problem was that my middle child wanted no part in that. When we tried to talk to him to explain how his behavior was unacceptable, all we got back was some attitude. We chalked it up to him entering his pre-teens and having that teenage attitude. When we realized we weren’t going to get through to him because his attitude was awful, we walked away to let him cool down. Then, he said it. “You guys, are unfair. You hate me!”
One of the worst moments of being a parent is hearing your kid tell you spitefully, “I hate you” or “You don’t love me.” It’s a gut punch and a stab in the back simultaneously. Even though we know our kid doesn’t mean it, it’s infuriatingly frustrating and upsetting to hear, but I remember saying it to my parents. I’d be willing to bet they probably said something similar to their parents also. Mark Twain even touched on the subject when he wrote,
“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”
Kids think they know what’s best for them, especially when they start getting into their teenage years, and no kid wants to get in trouble. This combination of “knowledge” and emotion can lead to some outrageous cuts at parents. It cuts so deep, it’s hard to forget.
These comments are designed to make you question what you’re doing and are one of the earliest attempts at railroading in a person’s life. I remember when I first heard it, and my instinct was to question whether or not I had overreacted. I knew that I didn’t, but guilt has a way of creeping in and creating doubts even when you know you’ve done the right thing.
My wife and I walked away. We weren’t looking for a fight. Not only did our son need some time to cool down, but we also did too. We let him sit in his room and mull over the situation while we discussed what our next move would be and vented our own frustrations to each other.
Things quieted down rather quickly, and we gathered ourselves, and calmly entered his room. As he sat on the bed trying to put on his most pitiful of faces, we sat next to him and asked, “Well, what do you have to say?” Naturally, he wanted to play the blame game and tried to pull the “You guys don’t act like you love me” card again. That’s when we replied, “We love you enough to tell you when you’re wrong, and we love you enough to be ok with you being upset at us for it.”
It was not the reaction he was looking to incite. We weren’t going to satisfy that by getting as frustrated as him, and we weren’t going to allow him to force us to back down. The rules at our house will be followed! We believe in meeting our kid's frustration with love. In this scenario, our love was enough for him to feel guilty not only for his original transgression but the way he handled himself afterward.
Virgil stated that “love conquers all,” and we believe that to be true. We believe in loving our kids unconditionally through every high and every low. We take on their rare hostility with a loving approach because that’s the best way to help them to learn. When we approach conflict with love, it’s a win.
As our son sat on the bed, tearing up, ashamed of his behavior, feeling guilt for saying something he knew wasn’t true, we felt proud. We were proud because we knew we were raising a good kid, and we knew that our love is felt by our kids.