If you have a child, then you’re very familiar with whining, shrieking, and being witness to absolutely catastrophic temper tantrums over virtually nothing. You’re also familiar with cleaning up puke, pinching your nose to tackle the nastiest of diapers, and rushing to bandage scraped knees. So why is it that your child seems to be the most misbehaved when they’re around you, their mom?
If your child seems to be prone to throwing fits and just generally not listening, you’ve likely been shocked when someone from outside your immediate family raves about their good and glowing behavior. Maybe it’s the babysitter, reporting that your child was a perfect angel, in bed by 8 p.m. sharp when you went out for dinner. Or maybe it’s their teacher, who has nothing but good things to say about your child’s listening skills and interactions with other children. Do you ever wonder who on earth this child they’re talking about is? Because it certainly can’t be yours.
If you feel like your child shows their worst sides only when they’re in front of you, you’re not alone, nor are you wrong. Child psychologist Dr. Heather Wittenberg explains, “Children save their best—and worst—for us, as parents. They’re their ‘true selves’ with us. It takes energy to ‘be good’ and follow the rules—especially for young children—so when they get home, they let it all hang out. The good news is that their deepest love, affection, admiration, and goofiness are reserved for us, too.”
All in all, your child acts up more in front of you because they feel comfortable, safe, and supported around you. You probably don’t like to flaunt your “worst self” in front of strangers, and likely reserve the breakdowns for your spouse, close siblings, or your own mom. And so, the same goes with your child. You make them feel loved enough that they feel they are able to misbehave in front of you — because you’re still going to love them unconditionally at the end of the day.
So the next time you run to the grocery store for one item and leave toting a screaming child underneath your arm, take a deep breath. There are going to be moments of chaos reserved only for you, but there are also going to be moments when your child shines the brightest for you — and those moments make all the screams, tantrums, and poop fiascos worth it.