There are times on this crazy, emotional, draining journey we call parenting that my insecurities (you know, the stuff you’re somehow never supposed to let your children see), rear their ugly head and come out in the way I interact with my children, namely my teenagers. It’s usually through some off-handed comment or rant from me during a tense situation with my kids, where they’re completely disobedient or have said something hurtful to me (because, you know, kids can do this from time to time).
My recent meltdown went something like this: “I spend every day making sure that you’re taken care of and you couldn’t care less. All you care about is you. You don’t care about me. You have no respect for our family, or our home, or me. I’m total garbage to you. I guess I’m just a terrible father!”
I know, I know — I’m probably breaking some cardinal sin here and should be required to hand in my parent-card for confessing this. After all, I’m supposed to be the pillar of strength. The one who can handle every tantrum, every nasty attitude, every belligerent little comment with grace and dignity, never showing my emotional cards and never cracking under pressure, right?
Well, I’m here to tell you — I fail! Yep, sometimes I get a big fat F on my parenting report card. Too many times I let their words, their actions, their attitude get to me and I crack. Really, it’s my own parental insecurity speaking. And a truck-load of fear mixed in. I fear failure. I fear waking up one day and having my children hate me, want someone else as their parent, or live in Australia with a weird phone number that I don’t know how to dial (I know I’m over-exaggerating here, but I’m just being honest).
Deep within me, my insecurities speak. They whisper things like, “You’re not a good parent. You’re not a good father. They’re not happy. They wish they had someone else.”
Again, not true. I know this. But I let these thoughts dictate my behavior as a parent far too often.
Are you there, too? Have you allowed your insecurities as a mom or dad get the best of you? Have you snapped back at your children with comments driven from that place of insecurity or fear? I have. Way too often, in fact. And it’s taking its toll on my children.
Just the other day, I said something off-handed in an attempt to gain control over my teenage daughter in an argument. It was uttered out of my insecurity as a dad. So I blurted out something I knew would get her right in the heart. It worked, but then I saw the look on her face. She was hurt. She was confused. Little by little, these digs from my insecurities begin to degrade her self-worth and security until she finds herself compensating for my meltdowns.
This should never happen. I’m her parent, and I have a responsibility to lead her and care for her, even when I’m feeling insecure.
Have you ever wondered how to get through that place of insecurity and fear as a parent? Ever wondered if there’s a better way? I have, and I’ve discovered it. It’s not always easy to remember, but the truth is this: when I apply a few principles I’ve picked up over the past 15 years, the road, while still bumpy, brings me to a much better destination with my children.
If you’re in that boat of sometimes letting your insecurity or fear dictate your reactions or interactions with your children, here’s what I recommend.
Give them space.
I’ve learned to step back and give my children space to be who they are. This is really, really hard when they’re being jerks and all I want to do is ground them ’til they’re 51. But the truth is, they need space to process, space to feel, and space to fail (yes, fail). This is all part of the human experience. I’m raising future adults here and they have to learn how to process through the tough stuff. When I let my insecurities dictate my behavior toward them, I shut down all possibility of allowing them to have space to live. I completely understand where the urge to be overbearing, emotionally suffocating, and clingy comes from — but, for the good of your children and mine, we have to knock it off.
Remember: they love you even when they don’t show it.
I think a big part of what drives me to be overbearing and emotional at times is a lack of response. When my feelings are hurt, or I’m having a bad day, I kinda-sorta long for that ego stroke from my children to reassure me. But the truth is, this isn’t where my reassurance should come from — ever! The most important thing for me to remember is my children love me even when they don’t show it. As they grow and mature, they will go through phases where I’m lower on the totem pole. I know this — it’s just hard for me to remember when emotions are running high, and we’re in the trenches of parenting difficult teenagers. But to keep in mind that love isn’t only evident through outward displays keeps me at peace.
Stay the course.
On the highly emotional road of parenting, there is a tendency to pump the brakes with discipline or consequences, or begin to waver in your parenting, especially when your own emotions are running high or your insecurities as a parent are on overload. I understand this because I’ve felt this and done this, especially when I feel like I’m disconnected from my child or my perspective is not getting through. However, I’ve learned that it’s critical to stay the course with our children, even more so when we feel insecure and fearful. Staying the course brings about consistency, and consistency is a game-changer when it comes to seeing results.
Parenting is hard stuff. It is one of the most difficult journeys a human being will take, but it can be the most rewarding and fulfilling. You and I just can’t let our insecurities or fears as parents get in the way of the task we have before us — raising our kids. Remember: we’re raising future adults. It’s probably important that you and I act like one in the process.