My eldest daughter is a mirror image of myself. Watching her grow up is like watching my childhood on reruns.
And for some reason—maybe it’s because we really are so similar—she pushes my proverbial mom buttons with more frequency than my other two kids.
So I have always struggled to stay calm and rational when she makes choices that are—ahem—less than desirable.
And some days are harder to keep my anger towards her in check. Because she should know better. In fact, she does know better. My anger boils up to the surface faster because I expect greatness from her.
I was in her bedroom one afternoon to deposit a few of her things that she had left all over the house and I saw a candy wrapper on the floor. Slightly annoyed, I bent to pick it up. And my annoyance deepened when I saw another candy wrapper just under her bed.
And then I found the motherload: a stash of empty candy wrappers tucked under her pillow case.
My annoyance quickly turned to full blown anger.
I was livid.
We have had this conversation before. Several times before, in fact.
I have heard her promise she won’t eat candy in her room before.
We have explained the perils of being sneaky and how it negatively impacts how much we can trust her.
We have reminded her that she already gets a small dessert for both lunch and dinner so it’s unhealthy to eat more sugar.
We have discussed cavities.
We have even talked about mice and vermin.
But since all these angry conversations had clearly not sunk in, I was beyond mad at her. And I was getting angrier and angrier with each wrapper I dumped into the trash.
I stood in her room and bellowed her name in my scariest mom voice so we could have yet another angry conversation about trust and cavities and mice.
As I sat down on her bed to catch my breath and wait for her, I started to calm down a little. My breathing returned to normal and I wasn’t the panicky out-of-mind angry.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I was still mad. But I was a calmer mad.
Sitting there on her pink comforter, I looked around her room and thought of us snuggling in her bed last night to read our book about extraordinary women. She’s such an incredible reader, I thought.
And then I saw her stack of stationary and gel pens on her desk and I was reminded of what a kind friend she is to write notes to old neighbors.
My eyes shifted to her violin stand in the corner of her room and I smiled as I thought, what an incredible ear for music she has always had.
And even though I was still mad at the hidden candy wrappers, as these thoughts played out in my head, I became less mad at her.
I chose to focus on what she does that is right.
I purposefully remembered a few of the things that I really love and am proud of her for.
This revelation allowed me to approach the conversation about trust and cavities and mice with rational points rather than irrational angry bursts. I was able to focus on the behavior and her actions and not on her as a person.
I avoided the angry “How can I ever trust you again?” and the “How many times do I need to tell you?” and the “I can’t believe you didn’t follow the rules again?” comments.
And since I stayed clear of statements that would shut her down emotionally, I could really get through to her because I was able to explain why sneaking candy–and more importantly, sneaking in general—is never an okay choice.
I was able to say with great calmness, “I love you. And I want to trust you. But when you sneak things that you know you shouldn’t, that trust breaks down. We need to build it back up. It will take some time, but I know we can do it together.”
This time, without the intense anger, I think she really understood my concerns. We ended our talk by discussing what trust means to both of us…which is definitely a topic we will need to revisit and build upon as she becomes a teenager.
She still had a consequence for breaking the rules. But she was actually okay with it. She didn’t whine with a “But that’s not fair.” Our conversation ended with a hug rather than an eye roll.
When I took a second to remind myself of what I love about her at the exact moment I was so very angry with her, it saved us and our relationship a lot of hardship. We didn’t need to battle. We could approach a serious infraction with calmness and love.
So I urge you, take a moment to think of three things that you really love about each of your children.
And before you react to them in anger over spilled juice or not staying in their bed, let these three thoughts of love run through your mind.
You will approach the situation with a better perspective about what’s truly important.
My thoughts allowed me to focus on what really mattered…my daughter, our relationship, and my unwavering love for her.
And as with most things in life, love trumps anger every time.
In this situation the hiding and eating of candy may be an issue in and of itself. Maybe she eats due to her stress? Certainly the angry yelling wouldn’t help. Besides cavities can be caused by just not caring for ones teeth, not consuming sugar alone.
Thanks, Liz. We’ve been dealing with it and it has improved.
Thank you for this beautiful reminder! Your relationship with your daughter sounds exactly like mine, and as I walked past her room this morning and noticed the messy, un-made bed, I made it a point to notice the sweet pictures she has hung all over her walls…pictures of her with me, her dad, her sister and brother…her family. We are it – her family – she will have us forever, and we will have her forever. Nothing can break that bond of family. Not even harsh words, or mean thoughts; HOWEVER, those thoughts and feelings need to stay in check so we can always stay mindful of the good that we have. Thank you again!
Yes!! What a lovely sentiment! I’m so glad this resonated with you!
This was perfect & divine timing for me to read. I have been struggling with my relationship with my oldest-8yo(of 4) daughter and it’s consuming at times. Well, my anger is actually. cant express my heartfelt gratitude for your candor & vulnerability. Thank you!
Kara…thank you for your sweet words. I’m so glad the timing was right for you to read it. Our eldest daughters will be a constant source of joy and anger… Hopefully we can focus more and more on the joy…
Profound wisdom, i must admit.
Very beautiful! Thank you! Sounds very similar to my own story and daughter!
You sound like a very connected and attuned parent. I wonder if you are familiar with Hand In Hand Parenting (they shared this article which is how I saw it)? Think you would love it and it gives options beyond consequences which further will strengthen the amazing work you are doing!
Thanks for giving me the idea of 3 thoughts on love. Sometimes my child makes some mistake that rises up my anger. Your 3 thoughts help me very much to dominate on anger from now.
I’m so glad you found it helpful!
Kalule Fred Hugo
Thank you so much, I have learnt how to check my anger by differentiating between actions, behavior and some ones personality.
Thanks whence again.
I’m so glad it helped!
Mom of 3
Ooh boy… this just came in time… reading it was like replaying everything that goes on between me n my 9 yr old son… who is a Just like me as well and i m ever on my edge for the things he does… thank you …
I’m so glad it resonated with you!