When your child misbehaves, or embarrasses or betrays you, it can make you so angry that you might even hate him for it (for about 10 minutes). And then, because you also love him, you immediately feel tremendous
guilt. Mom Jodi Lynn, 31, of Pittsburgh, is intimately familiar with this draining cycle. One night she took out a few books for her 5yearold, Alexis, to read before bed. When Lynn asked her to put away the books she'd finished,
Alexis said, "You took them out. You put them away." A screaming match ensued, with Lynn denying Alexis the bedtime rituals she loves and even threatening to spank her. "I was so furious at her constant back talk, I just lost my temper," Lynn says. "I must have screamed for half an hour. I hated her the whole time."
How to Cope
You're always going to have what Raskin calls "unloving thoughts" about your child. You may even lose your cool and say not-such-nice things. That's normal! "You're human and you need to have reasonable expectations of yourself," Raskin says. "Always being 100 percent in love with your child is not reasonable." But if you're having an overly emotional reaction to your kid's misstep, try to figure out what your upset is really about. Then, address that fear or anxiety directly, instead of taking it out on your kid. For Lynn, as for many moms, anger often arises around feeling that you've lost control. In that case, Raskin suggests asking yourself if your expectations are realistic. For example, perhaps Lynn shouldn't have expected Alexis to be on her best behavior when she was so tired. Next, ask yourself if this is an isolated event or a pattern. "It's totally normal for kids to test their limits with you from time to time," Raskin says. "But if it's a recurring event, you may need to examine how consistent you are about discipline." Figuring out the root cause of your freak-outs will help you avoid getting to the hate and the guilt in the first place.