How To Avoid Being a “Momster” With Our Kids
I recently sat down with Lindsay Aerts of KSL’s “The Mom Show” to discuss some ideas from my book “The Assertiveness Guide for Women,” specifically assertiveness in parenting. We talked about how difficult it is can be to express ourselves to our children is ways that are effective and firm but still kind; no one wants to be a nag, a “momster,” but sometimes it’s a real challenge to keep our patience. This was one of my favorite conversations I’ve had in a long time! Here are some highlights about how to be heard without being harsh with our kids:
Know What’s Going On With You
So many times when we yell at our kids, the issue is really about us, not them. If this sounds true for you, it may be that you’re tired, sick, or feeling down. Or it might be that the topic you’re arguing about is an emotionally difficult one for you. For example, Lindsay shared that she often becomes upset with her daughter about picking up her toys. She realized that cleanliness is a struggle that she herself has, and she sometimes projects her insecurity onto her child. It’s important to recognize and take ownership of our own experiences to realize the impact they might have in our parenting. If you’re struggling with self-awareness, I suggest you ask yourself four things:
1) What do I want?
2) What do I feel?
3) What do I need?
4) What do I think?
By understanding what’s happening in our own psyche, we can better manage our emotions and not let them interfere in our parenting.
Begin With a “Soft Start”
(The “soft start” comes from the famed Dr. John and Julie Gottman; although they were talking about it in relation to marriage, the soft start certainly has strong implications in how we communicate with our children as well)
Often when we’re overwhelmed or feel like we’ve reached the end of our rope, we blow up emotionally and communicate in a way that’s less than loving (don’t feel too bad if this has happened to you; we’ve all experienced this!). Though it may momentarily feel good to get things of our chest in a fit of anger, harsh communication is unlikely to be received well. It’s human nature to become defensive when someone speaks to us aggressively. And although there are certainly times when we need to be quite firm with our children (perhaps in ways they don’t like), overall we should try to speak to them calmly, even about emotionally charged subjects. By doing do, we’re modeling respect and self-control for our children, which are crucial life skills for them to learn.
Relationship Ruptures Provide Opportunities For Growth
It’s not only okay to have struggles in your relationships with your kids-it’s totally normal! Children are simultaneously learning to differentiate themselves from their parents (deciding how they think and feel differently than them), while also internalizing messages about what is and what is not appropriate family behavior. Inevitably, there will be conflict and struggle, but you can use these as opportunities to grow closer together as you both learn to communicate, express difference, and be curious about the other person’s perspective. It’s very powerful for a child to hear a parent apologize; if and when you do or say something wrong, say that you’re sorry, and you’ll model ways to repair relationship ruptures.
Dynamic self & relationship expert Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW loves to make a difference for women. She owns Wasatch Family Therapy and regularly contributes to KSL TV's Studio 5, and her advice has been featured nationally including Wall Street Journal, Parenting, Fox News, and others. Connect on Facebook & Twitter. Her books The Burnout Cure and The Assertiveness Guide are now available.