Don’t Stress Moms, But Your Child’s Defiance Is All Your Fault

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Mothers feel an intense amount of pressure to do everything perfectly. We analyze each and every choice that could possibly affect our kids. We’re all terrified of making the one mistake that could ruin our child for the rest of their lives. This desire for perfection can get a little out of hand, especially considering the multitude of factors that you can’t control. You can’t handpick your child’s genes. You can’t protect them from every bad experience on the planet. You can’t shelter them from every influence. There are a million ways that your child’s life may be beyond your control.

So we should stop obsessing over being the perfect parent and raising the perfect child, right? Wrong. Apparently, science want you to drive yourself insane. Because science says that your kindergartners temper tantrums are all your fault, moms.

That’s right, Child Development just published a study based on repeated interviews with 267 mother-child pairs. The research team first tested infants, at about a week old, on a series of neurological exams to see how they reacted to annoying sensations, thereby establishing a baseline for the child’s reaction to difficulty. Then, the observed the mother and child pairs at three and six months, watching how the moms interacted with their children. They continued interviewing the children and mother a year, two years and five years.

So which kids were most defiant and prone to temper tantrums? Those whose mothers seemed irritated during the three and six month visits. Eureka! Mean mommies create terrible, nasty children! The researchers even created this equation, in case you were confused about their results: “negative mom = negative dyad (mother-child pair) = conduct problems in school.”

Thanks for summing that up. I have just a couple questions for these scientists:

  1. Where the hell were the fathers and how are you so certain that they have no impact at all?
  2. Did you bother to see what else might have been going on these family’s lives that could create both stressed and short-tempered mothers and defiant children?
  3. Did you pay any attention to what went on in the 178 days of the baby’s first six months that you didn’t observe?
  4. How exactly did you define “irritated”?

I’m sorry. I normally despise all-caps.

Family dynamics are difficult to predict, interpret or understand. In general, we all try to be happy and positive with our children, but the first six months of motherhood are stressful times. As much as I love my daughter, I know that there were mornings or days when I had hit my limit. I was exhausted and confused and unsure. I’m sure that I could have come off as irritated to random observers. But that never meant that I stopped loving my child or trying to do what was best for her.

So thank you, dear scientists, for letting me know that my daughter’s temper tantrums are a direct result of my simply not loving her enough. Your advice to, “be a sensitive parent and respond to your baby’s social and emotional needs,” is greatly appreciated. Honestly, it had never occurred to me before that I should respond when my baby was upset. I’ll keep that mind.

But until the research can encompass the bigger picture of families and how they interact on a day-to-day basis, forgive me for erasing this from my memory completely. If I remember right, stress can ruin your child’s life as well. And I’m pretty sure that the only thing this study does is create more of it for parents who are doing the best they can.