Perfect parents do not exist. Although we try our best to model good behavior for our kids, we aren’t always kind or thoughtful in our actions or deeds on stressful days. Psychologists warn that some behaviors are extremely hurtful to our kids, such as yelling at your spouse, acting out angrily by slamming doors, or calling each other names. Most parents try diligently to not fight in front of the kids or act out aggressively; however, sometimes harmful actions can be found in the smaller, everyday negative behaviors that you naturally enact during times of high stress which mentor anger, fear, and aggression in your children. What’s worse is they observe your actions and begin to mimic them at school or when visiting grandparents. It’s difficult when a teacher or your parents describe your child’s words or actions only for you to realize the behavior is a word for word conflict you had with your spouse that morning.
I have listed five common negative relationship patterns that are hurtful to your child when they see or hear it happening. To help ease their fear or anxiety about the situation, soothe and speak with them after you gain control of your behavior.
1. Attempting to resolve an argument in front of the kids when you’re angry. Trying to work through an argument when you’re tired and angry turns into shouting matches in front of the kids. When parents become loud and begin to shout, their children feel anxious and fearful. Instead, write down what you’re upset about and schedule a quiet time to discuss it with your partner once your anger and stress have dissipated.
2. Arguing in front of your kids without making up. We tell our children to apologize to those they hurt through words or actions, but children learn from us how to end a disagreement and how to express forgiveness. If you have an argument in front of the kiddos, make sure you apologize to each other and embrace one another so your children know what forgiveness and love look like.
3. Telling your partner, they are always this way or using absolutes when you’re upset. When parents use absolutes in front of their children, they teach them that when you make a mistake you should feel shameful. In these circumstances, no room is left for your child to learn that everyone makes mistakes and that learning from them is what’s important. Absolutes come off as extremely critical and may encourage your child to lie when they make a mistake to avoid disappointing you.
4. Blaming your partner instead of taking responsibility in the relationship. When you are reluctant to take ownership of your problems in the relationship and shift all blame to your partner, you mentor control and superiority to your children. Your children begin fearing you and become reluctant to be vulnerable and honest with you when they struggle. You also show your child that one parent is stronger than the other. This makes children feel forced to take sides, fostering anxiety and insecurity. Take a healthier stance and admit when you’re wrong. This approach teaches children that being honest is brave and having the courage to admit when you’re wrong is the right thing to do in all situations.
5. Holding your children to a higher standard than you hold yourself. If you tell your children not to gossip and be polite to others but talk about others in front of your children or act rudely to service people, your children recognize a double standard. Children see and hear everything. If you mentor different behavior than what you model to your children, they will adopt your actions rather than listen to your words. Walk your talk so children will listen and follow your actions.
Most parents learn the hard way that their children listen to every word and watch all actions when they recite something that embarrasses you at the most inconvenient time. When you make a mistake, talk to your child and admit to your mistake. Apologize and reassure them that you will try to be better next time. Your child will mentor that action as well which will enhance all future relationships.