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I Hate You

By Dr Mark Mywords

With spring in the air and the juices flowing to all the right parts of the body, this is a good time to develop the animalistic part of your relationship and heal any possible winter rifts in that warm afterglow, if you get my drift.

If you are stuck for ideas I recall that I wrote about that very topic two or three issues ago. Hooray for technology, because it’s all on the web now at Father & Child’s amazing website.

But this column is about a different kind of relationship altogether: the relationship between you and your child.

For it occurred to me that in all the hullabaloo about smacking or not smacking, inclusive and exclusive timeout, setting limits and other troublesome parenting issues, our mostly self-styled parenting experts tend to forget about the fact that parenting is as much about the relationship between two people as it is about practices.

And whenever two people have to live together in the same place for any length of time, you get personality matches and mismatches, harmony and conflict all between the same people. Just because we’re sometimes (often?) rather annoyed with our offspring and wish them someplace else doesn’t mean we don’t love them.

It’s not always quite as obvious that they love us – sure, we know they do, but it often seems more in the kind of way you love your doormat because otherwise you wouldn’t have something to wipe your feet on. It’s that I-love-you-now-buy-me-some-lollies kind of love.

But that’s what a parent-child relationship is like.

Your three year old tells you “I hate you”, probably because you denied him something, and it hurts just as much as if anyone else had said those very same words. But you can’t retaliate, nor can you talk things over in any mature kind of way. Some days you really don’t like your kids at all.

Modern parent educators try to tell us that parenting is really just another job, for which parents should preferably have some training. After all, you’re not supposed to be able to fly an airplane the first time you enter a cockpit. But then – an aero plane doesn’t talk back.

No, parenting is not just another job.

Too many other things come into it: instincts, your own history as a child, your personality, the child’s personality, spiritual issues and the fact that it is your own flesh and blood you’re dealing with. Your child is not like a car, where some fix will make it run better. Your child responds differently to you than to anyone else.

And you respond differently to your child than to anyone else, including any other children you may have. And each of your children will respond differently to the exact same way of parenting. Hey, it’s a relationship between two people.

Relationships come with emotions, the good ones and the ones that make us regret we’ve ever shown them to our children. In a healthy relationship the good times make up for the bad times – in an unhealthy one there are no good times.

There are techniques to deal with your child’s misbehaviour, whatever the age, but you have to allow for your own emotions to make any of them work.

Kids don’t need parenting machines, who do everything by the book, the “right” way. They need real people. Their actions trigger re-actions in other people, and your re-action contains an important lesson. People have the power to make other people feel good or bad, content or angry.

What it is that ticks people off either way is one of the most important lessons to learn, and to learn them from you is safer than any other way.

Next: Holiday Snaps

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