My mom always said no kids are bad. She hated when adults referred to kids as such. As a child I heard other kids being called bad and it seemed appropriate to me. The kids did bad things and they got in trouble. “They may do bad things but they are not bad,” my mom would say.
As a teacher I watched kids do bad things. I tried to figure out a pattern to their behaviors and what triggered them. “They aren’t bad,” I would tell myself. I knew these children were just trying to get something or avoid something and it was my job to anticipate this and extinguish the behavior. I had a gift for dealing with these bad kids. Sometimes those kids would be transferred to my class as a last resort before expulsion. I loved the bad kids because they had a spirit inside of them that taught me things about myself.
Now that bad kid is my very own. He lives in my house and I’m the parent that has to show up at school when he pushes another kid to the ground. It’s a very uncomfortable place for my former self that many children nicknamed “Miss Cutthroat”. I know there’s a reason for his behavior, but I don’t want to be that parent that’s always making excuses for their child. I also don’t want to be quick to react and punish my child for something that he cannot control.
The truth is I want to be able to control him. I want to give an order and have him quickly comply. My child should have excellent behavior and do what he is told. I cannot be the push over parent that everyone talks about when I leave. So, when we’re out my anxiety is heightened and I’m sure he feels the pressure to be perfect. This almost always ends in us leaving an event or family gathering early. Or just not going at all so I can avoid the embarrassment.
But my bad child has taught me a lot about myself. He’s taught me that I need to pay more attention to my own triggers to avoid triggering his. I’ve learned that I taught him to avoid things.
“Don’t do that or we are going to leave!” “We are going home if you don’t listen!”
In my words I have modeled that his behavior can determine what we do and don’t do. Also, when I force myself to go to a social gathering that I’d rather miss, I use his behavior as an excuse to leave. He knows this without me ever whispering it in his ear.
My child is bad. He is really bad at communicating what he needs. He can’t tell me “I don’t feel well” or “It’s too loud and I would like to leave.” Instead, he throws things. He breaks things. He goes like the Duracell bunny until I get the message that he wants to go home where he’s more comfortable.
Sometimes, I skip these occasions altogether and I get labeled a bad friend or relative. Other times I go because it’s a decent day or I want him to have more exposure to uncomfortable situations.
This holiday season everyone is gathering to celebrate. Take this time to be kind to yourself and your loved ones. Be understanding of the declined invitations or early departures. Everyone does bad things and everyone has bad days.