The pandemic continues, far longer than we have imagined it. We are spending a lot of time with our families. A lot of togetherness can be hard.
One mom wrote the following.
I love my child but I feel like I have a hard time liking her. Her personality clashes with mine and I feel triggered when she is around, she can rub me the wrong way. She’s very chatty, out there, and dramatic. Those kinds of people have always bothered me. I feel really bad because she’s such a great kid, good character, smart, and popular. Any advice would be helpful.
This is a great question/comment. This happens in almost every family. Here are 8 ways that we can learn to love and like all our children:
This question needs reframing. When we say that we don’t like a child it makes us sad and makes us feel like a bad parent. It also insinuates that it is not a normal feeling, when it really is quite normal for parents to feel this way. I also think it closes down the channels of communication, it seems to indicate that there is no recourse. In some ways, even though you are reaching out for a solution, it sounds as if you are throwing up your hands and saying, there is no way out.
Instead, we want to look at the behaviors that bother us and see if we can from our end, view this in a more positive way. Once we do that, we can discern if there is a real issue with her behavior and then we can make a plan on how to teach them to improve their behavior. We then can also teach ourselves and them how to get along with each other,
ultimately teaching them a life lesson- how do we get along and respect other people who are so different from ourselves?
2. Think Positive and Problem Solve:
So often when we have to interact act with our child that we have issues with, we approach every interaction with,
“I just can’t deal with her chattiness today!”
“What drama will she be perpetrating when she gets home…what will she blow out of proportion today!”
This just feeds into the problem. It puts you into a negative state. If you expect the bad behavior, the drama, the chattiness, you will probably get it.
Instead we want to think more about the solution then the problem. We want to have a problem-solving mindset. It is a more positive and productive attitude. This alone can make all the difference.
We can say to ourselves:
“What can I do differently so that I don’t get annoyed with her tonight?”
“What can I do to brace myself when she is so chatty or she gets dramatic? Can I busy myself with making dinner? Can I nod, and just acknowledge her with listening words and sounds, ‘Umm’, ‘Really?’, ‘Wow!’?”
“Can I accept her for who she is, just for 5 minutes? 10 minutes?”
3. More on Positivity:
There is always a positive and a negative side to a personality trait. For example, the Jewish people are described by G-d as a stiff-necked people. This is both good and bad. We are stubborn, persistent, and sometimes ungovernable, however, it has helped us survive so many, many, trials throughout history.
Similarly, we can view children’s personality and character in both positive and negative ways:
Defiant = Courageous
Messy = Creative
Talks a lot = Great relater, expressive
Dramatic = Fun loving, emotional
It sounds like you already know the positive aspects of her personality, which is great, even though it might rub you the wrong way.
4. Our child is a mirror:
So often, what we don’t like in our child is a reflection of what we don’t like in ourselves. This doesn’t sound like the case here, but I think it needs to be noted.
So, for example if you are dramatic and tend to take everything personally and you get emotional about everything, and you don’t like this about yourself, when you see this in your child, it can be very painful. It brings up a lot of insecurities.
Then, the best way to change your child’s behavior, is by working on yourself and letting your child see you working on yourself. You can talk about your process out loud:
“I was getting all worked up today about a conversation I had with my friend. I told myself to calm down and not take it personally. I then
went for a walk with my friend, I talked it out and that really helped me stay calm.”
“I think I sometimes overreact to situations. I want to work on staying calmer. I am going to think of some ideas…”
5. Teach them to respect your needs:
Your situation is a perfect example of how we can teach children to respect our needs and take another person’s personality into account. This is a valuable life skill. So many clashes between people are because we don’t understand each other’s personality and needs.
In your situation, it sounds like she is very chatty and you are more on the quiet side, or you need quiet.
You can say,
“I love hearing about (your day…your opinion…your viewpoint…), right now I just need a bit of quiet to finish my work. I will be available in about 20 minutes to talk. Thank you for your cooperation.”
Because this might be difficult for her, make sure to praise her for it.
“I so appreciate that you gave me the quiet that I needed before to finish my work. What is it that you wanted to talk about? I have time now!”
If she tends toward drama, this can give her the added benefit of calming down before expressing herself. You can point out, gently,
“Isn’t it funny, sometimes we feel like we need to talk about something right away, it feels so urgent and important, but then a little later on,
we realize it wasn’t so important anymore- that happens to me a lot also!”
Similarly, to above, Pre-teaching also might be helpful. Pre-teaching, for it to work, needs to be done when everyone is calm, not in the heat of the moment. For example, you can tell her, in a quiet moment, (all your children and your spouse, for that matter):
“It’s hard for me to cook and prepare dinner when there is a big commotion in the kitchen. It’s a little silly thing about me. Can we try to keep it quiet in here when you see I am busy like that?”
“When everyone is talking at once, I get frustrated, can we work on talking one at a time?”
You can also teach children to ask you, “Is this a good time to talk or do you need your quiet now?”
This does not mean that children are going to be able to do this all the time. It might take a long time for them to understand and comply, however, it is a start, and after a while, they might actually give you the quiet you crave.
7. It goes both ways:
You do want to make sure that this child gets some time to talk to you. You will then be reciprocating the respect she hopefully will be showing you, by respecting her personality and her needs.
You can say, “You need to talk things through and share about your day. That is your personality, that is how you connect with others.”
People who are dramatic, often need to talk and emote, to help them calm down. That is appropriate use of drama. You want to point your child in that direction, teaching her to channel her drama in an appropriate manner. You can point this out:
“You get excited and emotional about things and talking helps you calm down and process what you are going through.”
8. Find something you like about her:
Look long and hard for something to like about her. Try to develop a shared interest, arts and crafts, exercising, reading, nature. This can go along way in helping you appreciate her more.
9. There is a reason you’re her parent:
According to Miriam Adahan, sometimes we get discouraged with a harder-to-reach child, or when one our children has just been given a difficult diagnosis. She says that we need to remember:
“Hashem has given us these particular children with their particular weaknesses and strengths. Each one is given to us not only for us to help him with his tikkun (spiritual repair work), but for him to help us with ours as well. Each child challenges us in his own special way. And it is in loving them when we feel least loving or they are least lovable that we make the greatest spiritual progress.”
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.