If yes, you’re being honest, and you’re expressing some difficult feelings.
But let’s not get stuck here. You’re facing a problem in your parenting foundation. Let’s work through it.
How resentment and disappointment get started
Maybe you resent that your child isn’t the reasonably compliant child you see other parents with. While parents of children with obvious handicaps usually receive sympathy and support, an intense or behaviorally challenging child is likely to elicit criticism from others. This only adds more guilt and stress. You might resent the public embarrassment your child brings you.
Or, you might experience persistent disappointment with your child. Your child just hasn’t lived up to your dreams of an excellent student, athlete, or social butterfly for whom they had hoped.
Disappointment and resentment can cause you to not even want to be around your child. And it’s hard to express unconditional love and affection.
When this happens, you’ll probably feel frustrated that children’s behavior gets stuck.Why are they like this? Why won’t they change?
Maybe you have even tried to make “connection” a part of a strategy to change your child.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t really communicate unconditional love. Kids can sense your strategy.
I resented my son’s “only child” behavior
We ran into this dynamic in our family when our second child was born.
Daniel, our eldest, didn’t seem to like this invasion of his secure place at the center of our lives. He became aggressive, defiant, and irritable. Up to this point, he had been the child of our dreams.
But now… we were losing our connection with him. It was quite upsetting.
I decided to take him on a special father-son outing to the mall. My plan was to reestablish some of his sense of security that came from being an only child for almost three years. I hoped this might help him to be less edgy at home.
From the moment we arrived at the mall, Daniel had an insatiable desire to get exactly what he wanted and stay as long as he wanted.
He finally found a favorite toy. Out of frustration I let him play with it while I shopped nearby. When it was time to go, he stubbornly resisted my attempts to get him out of there.
“I’m NOT leaving!” he yelled.
It seemed every eye in the place was riveted on us.
Infuriated, I grabbed him, flung him over my shoulder, and headed for the nearest exit.
His frantic screams echoed through the mall. My anger boiled.
When we reached the parking garage, I looked to be sure no one was watching and spanked him.
I decided not to take Daniel to the mall again for a long time. We arrived home angry, defeated, and in worse shape than before we left.
It wasn’t a real attempt to connect with my son
Looking back I can see my intent better. What may have looked on the outside like an attempt to connect with my son was actually an attempt to manipulate Daniel’s behavior. I was disappointed in his behavior and wanted him to change to make me feel better.
When it was clear that my tactic was not working, I grew angry and resentful toward my child.
Back then I wasn’t able to accept Daniel and the challenging stage he was in. My own disappointment and resentment got in the way.
Today I know that only once we have done (and keep doing) the work to deal with our own emotions can we let go of our need to control our children’s behavior. Only once we have begun to address our own feelings can we help our children begin to deal with their emotions and freely communicate that they are loved no matter what.
If you resent your child:
- Take a moment to reflect: In what ways do I struggle to accept and enjoy my children just as they are? How does this affect my ability to connect with them in ways that express unconditional love, “You are loved no matter what!”?
- Read about Lynne’s journey to identify and work through her feelings and beliefs about her kids for some ideas about how to move forward.
- If you’re feeling stuck, consider contacting us about parent coaching.
Part of this post is adapted from an excerpt from our book, How to Grow a Connected Family.