Who Needs Nanny 911? - Keeping Your Sanity With Energetic Children by Greg Baer, M.D.
There are the angelic children that are content to sit and read a book or watch TV and then there are YOUR kids. They make the Energizer Bunny look lazy and wouldn't take a nap if you chained them to the bed. The following letter I recently received sums up the frustrations felt by millions of parents:
"I have a two-year-old and a four-year-old, and they're really a handful. I'm a single mother, and I don't get to spend as much time with them as I would like. Then when I am with them, I get tired and frustrated and irritated with them, and then I wish I wasn't with them at all. Something has to change."
Children are so needy. They constantly demand our attention, our help, our approval, our affection-it never ends. And they pretty much don't care how their demands affect US. They mostly think of themselves. But we tend to forget that it's supposed to be like that. Before children can be whole and healthy and happy, their needs have to be filled, and who's going to do that for them if we don't-their parents.
Unfortunately, most parents find that arrangement annoying. In fact, the primary reason most parents have children is so they'll have someone to love them, the parents. That's understandable. As adults, we have to work pretty hard-in most cases-to get the attention, the the approval, the gratitude, and the affection of our parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, spouses, and other adults. Adults have their own minds about what they will or will not do for us. But it's different with children. They depend on us for almost everything, so they feel obligated to us. That means we can lean on them more easily to get the the gratitude, respect, and other forms of attention we crave. And mostly we're not aware that we do that.
How do I know that we have these expectations of our children? Because when they're not grateful, respectful, and so on, we tend to become disappointed or irritated with them. Every time we're frustrated and irritated with our children, we're saying with our behavior that they have failed to meet our expectations, they have failed to be grateful enough to us, and so on. You, like almost all parents, often see your children's behavior as personally inconvenient to you. You're disappointed that they're not easier for you, less demanding, more rewarding. You want them to make you feel good, and that is not the responsibility of a child. It's your job to love them.
Every time you're irritated at your children, they hear you say only four words: "I don't love you." I know you don't mean to say that, but when you're angry that is what you're saying, and your children feel that. Each time you're angry, you're saying to them, "You've done something to inconvenience me," or "You've failed to make me happy," and while you're busy saying me-me-me, there is no way they can feel your love.
Your not loving them unconditionally will have an unspeakably horrible effect on them, if something doesn't change. Children who don't get enough Real Love grow up empty and afraid. They try to fill their lives with Imitation Love. They use Getting and Protecting Behaviors constantly, which only make them more miserable and destroy their relationships. Now, at this point it would be natural for you to feel guilty for screwing up your kids by not loving them. Quit it. You've done the best you could do with what you had, and you're doing what almost all of us have done as parents. When you fail to love your children unconditionally, it's only because you didn't know any better, and because you didn't get enough Real Love yourself-as a child and as an adult. You just can't give what you don't have.
So now you understand why you get irritated at your children, and you understand how damaging it is to them. What can you do about it?
Your overall attitude toward your children will begin to change just with the realization that it's always your responsibility to love them unconditionally. It's not their job to love you, or to make your life easier in any way. But that intellectual understanding alone isn't usually enough. Before you can be more loving toward your children, you must have more Real Love in your own life. Without that, you're too empty to love them. When you're empty, it's unavoidable that you'll reach out to your children to fill your needs.
So how do you get more Real Love? You just need to practice telling the truth about yourself to other adults. As you talk about your mistakes, flaws, and fears, you'll create opportunities for them to love you unconditionally. What happens next is huge. As you feel the love of other adults, you'll lose your need for your children to behave in a way that is convenient to you or supportive. You'll have twenty million dollars, and in that condition you won't be bothered when your kids take two dollars here and there. And you'll be able to give them what they need.
Now, in the short term, what can you do when you're frustrated by the behavior of a child?
First, be quiet. So many parenting books describe the best ways for parents to express anger at their children. There is no best way. We have a hundred ways to justify the anger at our kids-for example, we say we're angry at their behavior, not at them-but no matter what our justification is, they always hear "I don't love you," and they're hurt by that. Really. Anger is unloving and selfish. Period. We may be right about the particular issue we're discussing with a child, but if we're angry, we're wrong, and we need to be quiet until we can speak in a genuinely loving way.
Second, call another adult. You don't have to stifle your anger, but don't share it with your children. Instead share it with someone who can listen to you and love you as you talk about your selfishness, someone who can laugh at your foolishness and accept you while you're being selfish and flawed. As you do that, as people love you while you're angry and selfish, you'll finally get enough Real Love to eliminate your emptiness and fear. And then you can go back to your child and be loving while you work out whatever issue was originally provoking your anger.
As you consistently find this Real Love from others, and fill up with it, instead of being inconvenienced by your children, you'll begin to see them as a wonderful opportunity to learn to be loving. And as you love your children and teach them correct principles, you will experience more joy as a parent than you ever thought possible.
About the Author
Dr. Greg Baer is the author of 16 books, DVDs, and CDs--two of which are internationally published by Penguin Putnam Group--and has presented the life-changing message of Real Love to hundreds of thousands of people all over the world.
For more information on Real Love, including hours of free streaming video and audio, visit RealLove.com. You'll be grateful for the rest of your life that you took this step.