How do I exist? Let me count the ways. Your child is forever asking this question and looking for answers. Be aware that your child relies extensively on verbal and emotional input from you for these answers. For any child, this input is the day-to-day interaction he has with his parent. When you make a remark, glance, scowl, or look patiently at your child, you are offering input. Input that your child willingly accepts, sometimes with unfortunate consequences.
Your child has no effective method to interpret the daily input she has gathered, sorted, and placed in various neurons within her brain. She relies entirely on her interaction with her parent to tell her who she is. Often, that information can be quite toxic. The toxic material is the scowl, the rude remark, the sneer, the sarcasm, the yelling, and scolding that seems to occur daily within the homes of families. Parents often in a hurry, busy and so stressed, seem to have little time or patience for their children. One parent comes in, barreling toward her child, who has been allowed to play video games in the morning since the beginning of time, and screams at the child: “Didn’t you hear me? I told you to get your shoes on! You are making me late, again! You never pay attention to me. I always have to yell at you.” This is toxic material.
Children know that they exist because of these defining behaviors from the parent: You are screaming at me, you are angry, you feel mad, so I must be a bad child. Or, you are talking to me in a soft, firm, and gentle voice, so you must love me.
Another parent continues to ask their child to perform tasks about the house, and often criticizes the child when he has completed the task. The child hears: You did this wrong, this is ridiculous, can’t you ever do things correctly, what a waste of time you are, and I should just do it myself. Again, this is toxic material that the child has no ability to fend off or rebuff, so he absorbs the information, because it comes from his parent.
A child treated negatively by his father believes his father cares little for him. When a father is too busy with his own personal life to make time for his child, the child is stuck with the concept that is so readily available: I exist so that I can be a burden to you. I exist so that I can be shown how wrong I am. I exist so that you can hate me.
In order for a child to believe he is a good person and loved, his parents must interact positively with him in a respectful and loving manner, no matter what the crisis. Speak to your child in person rather than yelling from the other room. Inform your child that, “I will be happy to take my child to Target, but first I need to see homework completed.” Your child needs to know that she exists, because you show you love and cherish her, and she should know this through every interaction you have with her. Doing this will allow her existence to be a wonderful one.