The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection: Consider your child's motivation - Part 3: Revenge

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Consider your child's motivation - Part 3: Revenge

Ah, sweet revenge! It is a crime of imitation and offers a momentary catharsis, but the feeling is not long-lasting. If somebody hurts you, your knee-jerk reaction is to hurt that person right back. If a child feels wronged or hurt by others, he or she may seek revenge. It may be simply by saying, “I hate you." Sometimes children get revenge by destroying something that belongs to you or to the person who hurt them. If you feel hurt, disappointed, or shocked by your child’s actions, your child may be seeking revenge.
REVENGE - Consider this scenario: When my twins were about four years old, they were responsible for making their own bed after they got dressed.  Their rooms looked relatively neat throughout the day and their beds welcomed them again at night.  One day, I must have blamed the wrong twin for a misdemeanor (I really don't remember the cause of this scenario now 27 years later!). To get even with her sister for not speaking up about being blameless, she did the ultimate revenge on her sister.  Yep, she UNmade her bed and messed it up.  I tried not to laugh at the simple act of retribution, however it was that act that showed me who actually should have been blamed for the initial problem.  As I recall, I sat both of them down and discussed revenge with one and apology with the other.  The rest of the day went much better!

According to child psychiatrist Rudolph Dreikurs, "A child who seeks revenge is really hoping to find love. Their vengeful behavior is showing us that they feel so bad about themselves, and so misunderstood, that they are resorting to wanting others to feel what they feel. Respond with affection and caring.  'I really care about you and I didn't raise you to be vengeful. That's why I have asked you to go to your room now until you can treat us better.'  Don't engage in the power struggle, remove the audience (siblings, friends, etc), and insist on a logical, dispassionate consequence."

I firmly believe that if parents help children to understand that revenge is not an acceptable form of retaliation, that our prisons would have many empty cells.  What are alternatives to revenge? 
  • Communicate - if you tell the other person how you feel and why you were hurt, the other person will be emotionally hurt by the explanation. 
  • Walk away - By denying the other person the negative attention, you are thereby cancelling the other person's wrongful intent. 
  • Re-think - When you restructure your thinking and tell yourself that the other person needs your help more than your revenge, you'll feel better about the situation. 
  • Forgive - Forgive the other person for the hurtful behavior and redirect your activities to something more positive.
The alternatives to revenge are not easy becuase of our natural fight or flight reaction, but with practice, you can help your children to eliminate revenge from their emotional vocabulary.

Happy parenting!

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