It's natural: no matter what your child's age, you want him to be happy.
And you'll do just about anything to make sure he is.
The problem is that you'll do just about anything to make sure he isn't unhappy, either.
And that's making you miserable.
Trying to protect your child from so-called negative feelings of disappointment, anger, sadness, and frustration can be exhausting.
You avoid his anger or meltdowns at all costs, so you give in easily and often. You say "yes" when you want to say "no."
You don't want your child to be upset, but more than that, you don't want to be seen as the bad guy.
Then one day you realize it's your child, not you, calling all the shots. He just expects to get whatever he wants whenever he wants it. He takes advantage of you. He holds you hostage with threats of misbehavior. You find yourself walking on eggshells, parenting from a place of fear, and resenting him for being ungrateful and taking you for granted.
There is a way out of this destructive pattern. But it doesn't happen overnight. It's a process that requires you to be consistent, face your fears, and get over your guilt.
Even though it doesn't seem like it -- and your child would certainly never admit it -- he actually wants you to have firmer limits. Limits help him feel safe. They help him know what's acceptable and what isn't. And they help him learn self-control, patience, and gratitude. He needs you to step up and be his parent, not his friend. His behavior is testing your ability to meet that demand.
No parent likes to see her child upset, but the sooner he develops skills to manage feelings like frustration and disappointment, the better off he'll be.
Your anxiety about your child feeling distress can be worse than his own suffering! So, you need to get comfortable feeling uncomfortable, too. When your child gets upset, view it as an opportunity, rather than a problem. An opportunity to feel disappointment, to learn patience, and to see that the main adult in his life won't be manipulated, controlled, or mistreated.
Feelings of anger and sadness are natural and normal. It can be healing to hit a pillow or to have a good cry. Rather than rushing to make him feel better, validate your child's emotions to help him feel understood and to demonstrate that you can both tolerate and get past unpleasant feelings.
Every stage has its age-appropriate opportunities for growth:
- When he's a baby, don't rush to his side the moment you hear him whimper at night. Babies make all kinds of noises in their sleep. When you go to him and pick him up, you actually wake him and rob him of the opportunity to learn how to fall back asleep on his own.
This post originally appeared on LessDramaMoreMama.com.