Ever heard a teacher rave about how well-behaved your child is and thought in disbelief “You can’t possibly mean my kid”. Let’s explore why kids save their worst behavior for their Moms.
Having a child behave like an angel for others can be frustrating and confusing for us moms when we seem to always be at the receiving end of bad behaviour. It’s hard not to take it personally when it seems like the tantrums are saved especially for us, and it’s easy to fall into a way of thinking where we blame yourself and question our every parenting decision.
This is really something I have been struggling with for the past few months, and set about doing some research into the “Save the Drama for your Mama” phenomenon.
Almost all behavioral psychologists agree: it isn’t intentional. Your child isn’t spending her days at school counting the minutes until they can get home to scream at you. At the core it boils down to the fact that home is a ‘safe zone’. The child is able act their ugliest, be their most vulnerable, because they feel safe. And a vast majority of the time, being vulnerable looks and smells very much like a tantrum.
The number one thing to remember is to avoid getting angry yourself at your child’s outbursts. Your attention is the fuel to the fire and the minute you participate in the outburst, you reinforce the negative behaviour. Pretty soon your child knows exactly how to get Mom’s attention, regardless of whether it’s negative attention or not.
Be consistent in your method of discipline and carry out consequences as promised. There is no easier way to lose credibility with your child than to not carry out the promised consequence for bad behaviour. The punishment should be age/time-length appropriate (rule of thumb = a minute for each year), and parents need to follow through with threats of discipline.
It’s important to remember that kids cannot be well-behaved 100% of the time. They too need a way to vent and to let off frustrations about their day or feelings, which very often, is what a tantrum boils down to – a way to cope with emotions that are too overwhelming.
Help your child develop problem-solving techniques that are relevant to his/her age. Validate their feelings of anger or frustration (dismissing them makes matters worse), then offer them an alternative way to cope: “I see you’re feeling angry, and that’s ok. But would you like to play on the swings outside until you feel better?”
Dealing with the split personality ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ kid might seem challenging and deeply daunting, but I try to remember, even on the worst days, that while I may get the brunt of my child’s poorest behaviour, I also get the best of it too. I get to see her at her most real, so I get to experience her highs and lows at close range. And I wouldn’t change that for anything!