When my oldest daughter was two years old she and I had a rocky relationship. Of course it had more to do with me but at the time I was blinded by my immaturity as a father. I had no idea how to teach my children what to do and not do. I was raised old school where children were meant to be seen not heard and as a child I knew what not to do when I got the death stare or an earful or the classic spankings on the butt.
Now here I was unable to control my daughter and feeling like every mistake she made was a sign of her disrespect for my authority. I’d lose my temper often and one day I awoke to my sorry state when my daughter spilled a cup of water.
I was just passing the time with television when my daughter walked pass with a full cup. She was carrying water that would overwhelm her and end up all over the floor. My initial reaction was concern but to my surprise when she caught a glimpse of me she started to cry. I instinctually tried to hold her but instead of embracing me she whimpered away to her mother. I was left wondering what I had done.
It was like a light bulb turned on in my head as I realized that my daughter feared me. She assumed I’d scold her and that broke my heart. All I knew in that moment was that I needed to make things right. So with the help of my wife I learned how to keep myself calm by letting go of the uncontrollable like the normal messes that kids her age would normally get into. I had to give myself a timeout and a moment to gather my thoughts and act instead of react.
These small things helped immensely as the things that once bothered me stopped creating a firestorm inside but instead gave me an opportunity to teach instead of dictate. One such example happened when my daughter started crying when I tried to instruct her after she spilled a bowl of cereal. During her emotional fit I realized that I needed to ask her why she was crying. When I did she told me that she thought I didn’t love her anymore.
Her words brought clarity to the situation and because of that I assured her that I would always love her even when I’m disappointed or angry. Until this day she still remembers that lesson and will recite it whenever she makes a mistake, “Daddy, this doesn’t mean you don’t love me anymore.”
I would have never been able to teach her this life lesson if I was angry. So the next time your kids make a mistake I ask that you slow down and breath. Don’t let your emotions take control because when it does you may become the bad guy you never wanted to be.