I love my children, but do I have to like them?

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Sometimes our kids push us to the absolute edge.  There’s no end to our job as parents and at times it can seem unrewarding and relentless.

When we are feeling run down and stressed out, we often lash out at our kids and yell, put down or even smack our children in retaliation to their actions and behaviors.  While we are only human, have you ever stopped to think about how your child may be receiving this reaction?

Children can take our words and actions very seriously.  The question is, can children misinterpret our words and actions as doubt of our love?’

You may have heard the saying ‘I don’t have to like you, but I do have to love you’.  I don’t agree.

To me, the way we think about our kids is communicated in our actions and parenting every day.  Even if you think you are covering up your dislike for your child’s actions, chances are they are seeping out in some peculiar way.

Our kids need to believe that we can see the best in them, even when they make poor choices.  They need to know that we would choose them over anyone else.  They need to feel that it is a joy to be their parent – Every. Single. Day.

So how do we do these things when we are feeling challenged by their behaviours?

Here are 5 ways you can let your child know that you choose to LIKE them, not just because you LOVE them.

  1. Start every day with fresh eyes. Don’t assume that because yesterday was a challenge then today will be too.  Kids change continuously and so do their moods and behaviours.  Treat each day as a new opportunity for them to be their best.
  2. Let them hear you telling another person something positive about them. Receiving a glowing report from your parent to another person will make their chest swell!  Remember, saying something negative to another person in their earshot has the opposite effect… shame and embarrassment.
  3. Find SOMETHING you admire about them and tell them. There is always something positive to find in your child.  Whether it is their ability to amuse themselves, show kindness to others or even put their plate in the sink – there is always something to celebrate with them.
  4. Start to believe it. Every time you find yourself having a negative thought about your child, turn it around.  If they are always slow to get ready, point out things they HAVE done.  For example, ‘You have eaten your breakfast – what’s next?  Getting dressed or packing your lunch?’  We need to believe that our kids are capable and reliable.  When we start to think positively, we will start to see it and start to believe it.
  5. When they upset you, let them know how you feel. Importantly, using ‘I’ statements about your own feelings reassures your child that these are your reactions to their behavior only – not a judgement on their character. We all make mistakes and mistakes can be fixed… good people can make bad choices.

So, here’s my verdict.  Yes, you do have to like your child as well as love them.  Kids aren’t silly, they know when they are appreciated and loved.  They can make poor choices and upset us, but they can also say sorry and change their behavior for next time.  Just like us.

We make mistakes in parenting and everyday life!  But, we can own up to our mistakes, fix them by saying sorry and make sure we learn from them for the future.

About the author

Megan Warren is an experienced primary school teacher, mother of two and step mum of three.  She developed Key to Kids in 2015 to help parents and educators connect with children.  Her simple and practical methods result in better behavioural outcomes and stronger relationships.

You can find out more about Megan and her business Key to Kids here.