How to Love Our Kids When We Don’t Like Them

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We love our kids, of course, but how do we navigate those in-between moments when we don’t like them very much? You know the ones—the moments when they’re tantruming/misbehaving/not even close to listening/screaming/fill in the blank here—and you’re running on fumes just to keep up. Sound about right? Know that you are not alone. Not even close! But the question is, as parents, how do we allow ourselves grace to experience everything that we’re feeling, while still being that safe space for our kiddos to rely on? How do we love our kids, even when we don’t like them?


First and foremost, let’s just go ahead and validate what you’re experiencing.

Give yourself permission to feel whatever it is that you’re feeling, and know that it’s okay. Chances are most parents have felt, or feel, similarly during any given week/month/year/life stage with their child. And that’s not a bad thing, either! Whatever it is you’re feeling is valid. It’s okay. Let yourself experience it for what it is. 

It’s truly about understanding the way that our emotions and stressors play into the levels of capacity that we have for any given day. Think of it like this: we typically wake up with a certain amount of reserves, or energy, to put towards the unexpected things that will happen throughout the day. Imagine yourself as a glass of water, with the space in your glass symbolizing those reserves. Upon waking up, take note of how much water is in your glass. This is your starting point.

It may also be useful to acknowledge why your water is filled to the level that it is. Ask yourself, did I not get enough good sleep? Did I have to wake up a bunch of times because I had a crying kid, or weird dreams, or hot flashes? Maybe I went to bed too late, or ate way too much sugar, or drank wine the night before. Or did I wake up too late…? Whatever it may be, identify how much space you have in your glass to react and respond to whatever else is going to happen throughout the day. Acknowledge what your capacity is to handle an emotional outburst from your child, which may very well lead to not liking them very quickly and very early in the morning. 

Then, work to identify what is happening inside of you.

Be aware of your anger. Be aware of your irritability. Anger is an interesting emotion. We can typically tell when we’re getting angry by certain body cues. The top of our head, our hands and feet, our extremities are all tell tale signs that we may be tipping the scales and finding ourselves a bit heated. These physical features commonly become tense, cueing us that something may be happening within our system. So pay attention and simply take notice. 

Calm yourself down.

The best way to approach our kids is to come from a conscious place. What does that mean exactly? A conscious place is an intentional place, a mindful place. It’s a place where we’re not matching our child and escalating the situation. Take a moment to notice: what’s going on with me? It’s important that we are aware of our own stressors, and can identify how it is that we are feeling stress and anger within the body.   

  • Breathe. Take slow and steady deep breaths. 
  • Move your body—even if that means doing a couple jumping jacks in that very moment.
  • Take a break, as simple and as challenging as it sounds. 
  • Release intentionally. It’s important to find a mindful release for your anger. And it’s even okay to lose your temper. But next time you feel like yelling at your kid, yell at the fridge instead. Open the front door and yell outside. Instead of directing that anger towards them, show your kids what a healthy release of anger looks like. Show them what you need to do when you’re feeling super agitated, irritable, or stressed. Set the precedent by being that example.

Identify what else is making you angry.

Are you actually upset that your kid isn’t listening, or are you frustrated because you’re burned out? Is it possible that your anger is stemming from you being home all day without a break, or possibly the result of you continually neglecting your own needs? Dive a little deeper to understand why it is that you have such a limited capacity. Do the work to discover why your water is so high. Why is it that you don’t have the necessary reserves when your kid is pushing their limits and testing you? 

Give each child 20 minutes of undivided attention per day.

The truth is, our children want our attention. Our kids crave love and discipline. Our kids NEED love and discipline. So, how does love show up? In having a really strong relationship with your kid. One of the best ways to do this? Spending time, intentionally, together.

This means getting on the ground and interacting with your child without any other distractions. It’s not just going for a walk, or running errands with them by your side. Instead, it’s you engaging with them, talking to them, listening to them. 20 minutes of being completely devoted to them, with absolutely nothing getting in your way. Give yourself permission to be very present and intentional as you carve out that time. Guaranteed, this will improve your relationship with each one of your children. 

Come up with the terms of discipline together.

Create an open dialogue with your child where they help to identify what can be done when they aren’t listening to the rules, or when they make a mistake. Ask them how you can assist them in calming down when they’re feeling agitated. This may illicit questions of what “calm down” means. That’s great! Relay that when we’re calm, we make good choices because our big feelings aren’t getting in the way. Usually when we’re calm, we make a decision that is not a mistake. We make a kind decision. A patient decision. 

It is important to communicate clearly, consistently, and to be decisive! Our follow-through, as parents, is often the most important part. Try giving your child two choices while clearly outlining the alternative. For example: you’re either going to sit down in the bath, or I will turn on the shower. It doesn’t have to be a three-minute negotiation. If your child opts to do neither, act with your alternative. After following through, remember to communicate why you did whatever it is you just did. Let your child identify their role in the situation, and possibly how the outcome could have been altered based on their actions. Remember, consistency is key!

Utilize “breaks” or mini “resets.”

A consequence, or punishment, can very well take the shape of a break. A break gives your child (and you) an opportunity to calm down. Now, the process of getting your kid to their room may not always be pretty…but more times than not, when they come back, they are often in a much better mood, and there’s a higher likelihood of an unprompted apology. Why does this work? You aren’t punishing or isolating them in a way that makes them feel shamed. Instead, you’re recognizing their need to calm down, and offering them a break to do just that. This approach is much more compassionate and strength-based.

Use positive reinforcement.

Remember to reiterate that they are a good person. “You’re a good kid. You are loving, you are caring, you are kind, you are patient…sometimes you do naughty things.” As parents, we don’t want to build on to our child’s individual shame story, but we do need them to understand that they occasionally make choices that are not the greatest. And that’s okay. Go reset, come back, and be who you intend to be. Encourage your child to make decisions that feel empowering. 

Actively ignore.

Another good tool to try when your child is acting in behavior that you’re not fond of, is to actively ignore it. Clearly show them that you are not going to give them the attention they are seeking. This can feel harsh or difficult in the moment, but it’s important for your child to understand that you will not reinforce or enable their poor behavior.

Don’t forget about YOU.

Although these are all very important tools for managing our kids when we’re finding it difficult to like them, more than anything else, it’s about you. It’s about asking yourself: why am I angry, why am I irritable, why am I waking up with only this much space in my glass to handle the day? Identify what’s really going on. Are you not claiming opportunities? Are you consistently waiting to take care of yourself? 

20 minutes of unconditional love, support, and attention…you also need that! Those 20 minutes can be the difference between you completely losing it, or you being calm, conscious, and intentional when dealing with your kid’s outburst. So, make sure that you designate at least 20 minutes a day to yourself. Maybe it’s waking up early to create that buffer. Maybe it’s making sure you exercise, or get outside, or read a book, or have your morning coffee in silence, or just drive around for 20 minutes by yourself for yourself. 

It starts with you taking care of yourself as best you can.

Thank you to reset brain + body for providing this valuable information. If you have questions, or would like to talk further, please reach out to reset brain + body via their website, facebook page, or by emailing [email protected].

Be sure to catch Mental Health Mondays live with reset brain + body every Monday at 12:30 p.m. on the Detroit Mom Facebook page!

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