Do you know what it means to be antagonistic? Do you know that your behavior can affect your children in a positive or negative way? The definition of antagonize means to, (1) “incur the dislike of; provoke hostility or enmity in. (2) To counteract.” (The Free Dictionary) To define this further we need to look at the definition of antagonist. It is defined as, “a person who is opposed to, struggles against or competes with another; opponent; adversary.” (Dictionary.com)
Looking at the definition from that light, one thing is for sure, being your child’s adversary, outside of a round of Monopoly, is not a good relationship builder for you and your child. Seen as a behavior of provocation, antagonism can push a child into behaviors they may not otherwise exhibit in a more nurturing environment.
Are You Antagonizing Your Children?
Many things that parents do can antagonize their children, but some parents will take it to a completely new level, due to their own issues. Antagonism can be perceived as belittlement, although the antagonizer may or may not realize this. It can cause insecurity, shyness and a fear that whatever one is doing will not be good enough to make a parent or anyone else happy. Displaying these behaviors toward your child may eventually cause the same behavior in your child. Behaviors that may come out as antagonizing acts toward others or as we sometimes call them, a bully, making it even harder for them to adjust socially.
Antagonizer’s tend to keep things around them stirred up, using subtle accusations and questions, as well as subtle innuendo to draw attention to the faults of others. They do this by subtle joking about someone’s perceived weaknesses. Often insecure themselves, they use this tactic to take the focus away from them and their faults, deflecting attention onto others. This is not a good situation, especially when toward the innocence of children.
Effects of Antagonism on your Children
Antagonism, can at times, be a result of anger; anger at your personal situation, anger at your boss, your spouse, or just because it’s raining and you forgot your umbrella. When released as antagonism toward others, it can cut like a knife into an innocent child. It will often leave scars that are unseen, as verbal abuse, which is what antagonism is when left unchecked, can leave invisible scars on the psyche of your child.
How to Not Antagonize Your Children
As with most behaviors, the first step is recognition that you are acting a certain way and then doing something about it. You may be inadvertently antagonizing your children without meaning to do so. Following are behaviors that can antagonize your children.
Calling your child names, profanity directed toward your child is not respectful and the problem with this is that if they are not shown respect learning to become respectful toward others becomes difficult. We, as parents are tasked with teaching our children right and wrong behaviors. When we fail to take on this responsibility, not only do our children suffer, but also so does society as a whole.
Due to the events of our own lives, we may have grown up in a household where verbal and physical abuse was evident in everyday life. If this is the world that we knew growing, learning to respect others to invoke respectful behavior will require work on your part. Being aware of that you have these faults yourself, can help you modify your behavior toward your children and encourage mutual respect in the household. Giving respect is the best way to receive respect.
Overly Harsh Discipline
Has your child done something to make you angry? Step back, take a breath, calm down, and then address the problem. Dealing with your children’s discipline problems in the heat of the moment, may cause more damage than good. By using a consistent method of discipline, as opposed to discipline by emotion, you will make a better, stronger, less antagonistic relationship between you and your children. Consistency and clear expectations when meting out discipline will help your children understand that their actions will have consequences.
Comparing your Children, Favoritism
When there is more than one child in a household, they are likely to be very different from one another. If you bring attention to these differences, do not do so in an antagonistic way. Our differences are what make us unique from one another. Comparing one child to another in a negative way can lead to a lifelong feeling of inferiority.
Avoid any tendency to favor one child over another. This too can lead feelings of being “less than”, ones sibling, causing feelings of being unloved. Each of your children is unique. They should be shown equal love, although they may have different abilities than each other and yourself. However, your commonality is that you are all part of a family that cares for one another and that should be your focus, not whether Suzie plays a better game of soccer than Johnny does.
Parents, who are successful in their lives themselves, generally set a high standard for their children. However, when a parent has unreal expectations of a child, they can become frustrated, especially if they feel that they will not be loved, if the expectations are not met. This can crush your child’s self-esteem, their confidence and dreams if your expectations push them beyond their abilities.
Everyone responds better to positive encouragement, than constant criticism. Balancing correction of your child’s behaviors with encouragement will build confidence and trust that you are going to love them and do what is best for them, even if they have done something wrong.
Know what to expect from your children, given their age level. Antagonizing your three year old for not behaving as your six year old can lead to issues down the road. When you see faults and behaviors that are not conducive to your child’s development, focus on the most harmful to begin with and then work your way, together, toward the smaller ones. Balance your corrections with plenty of praise when they are right.
Avoid Double Standards
The old adage of, “do as I say, not as I do”, may work on a young child. However, as children get older and begin to develop critical thinking skills, they will begin questioning this line of thought, if you are doing something that you tell them they are not to do. Children see this as hypocritical behavior and it can be confusing, as well as causing resentment and disrespect
If you don’t want you children to use profanity, smoke, drink, use drugs, fight, be a bully, or any of the other undisciplined behaviors that adults exhibit, it is best to curtail your use of any of these. Practice what you preach and you won’t be told by your child, “But you do that, so why can’t I?” That line will work until they are nine or ten, but then you had better look out, because they will bring it up.
To Sum it up
As parent’s, we are responsible for our children physical health and well-being, but we are also responsible for and can directly affect their psychological well-being with exhibitions of antagonistic behavior and all of its attributes. Being aware of your own actions and their effects can lead to a better relationship with your children, your mate and everyone else with who you interact on a daily basis.
If you feel that you need help controlling antagonistic behavior toward your children and others, then by all means, find help. You will become a better person for it, and the positive outcomes will help you and everyone that you love.