"I want it NOW!"
"You can't make me!"
Do any of these phrases sound familiar? My kids struggle with respect in the home at times. They love to tell me and their dad, "no" (or so it seems) or yell at us. Of course, this often means they receive a consequence or do not get what they want but I recently realized that some of the way they are speaking is due to my behavior.
I speak to my mom on the phone on an almost daily basis. Often my children overhear these conversations. At least once a week, I become frustrated with my mom. I raise my voice and am sure the irritation can be heard by everyone. Somehow I missed that my children would make a connection: if I can talk to my mom that way, they can talk to me that way. Children learn through observation so it should have been obvious. At first, I told myself (and the kids), that I am an adult so the rules are different for me. But once I sat down and thought about it, I realized that is not the message I want for my kids. We should speak calmly and kindly to everyone, even when we are frustrated. We should tell the person we will talk to them later if we can't do that when upset. We should engage in the coping skills that help when angry and then address the problem (or move on).
I'm working on this now and my kids are helping me. If they hear me speaking to my mom in a way they feel is rude, I have given them permission to let me know. I am already doing better. I use my cool thought (It's just not worth it) and take some deep breathes. I then decide whether or not to continue the conversation. Right now I am using "I'll have to talk to you later" more often than I would like but it is a work in progress.
So normally I would say quitting is not a good thing. Recently, though, I chose to quit something - the PTO Board at my kids’ school. I had joined last Spring. I was excited to be more involved in my kids’ elementary school. Meetings were once a month and then any additional activities were voluntary. It was great. But then life became more complicated.
You see, I have been working my full-time job and my part-time job for over a year. I also have been co-leader of my oldest daughters Girl Scout troop for two years. In addition, I volunteer at PSR (church school) every four to six weeks. My husband was nervous when I joined the Board, but supportive. The first six months went pretty well. It was busy but doable. Then in the New Year, a very close relative was diagnosed with cancer. It has, of course, added stress all around. I talked it over with my husband and thought about it for a few weeks and decided something had to go. PTO Board seemed like the best answer as it would not directly affect as many other people but still ease my plate a little.
I felt (and maybe still feel a little) guilty but then remembered, I can’t help others if I’m not taking care of myself. On an airplane, the flight attendant reminds everyone that if air masks come down, make sure to put yours on before helping another. You do no one any good if you pass out while trying to help. I need to listen to that advice too. I’m putting my air mask on.
Stefanie F. Pisarkiewicz, LPC
Experience and information from a counselor and mother- sharing her two cents on children and teens.