March 1, 2022

Being "Safe Spaces" For Our Kids

We’ve all had it happen: Grandma says the kids were perfect angels for her all weekend, and then they’re crying and fighting as soon as we get them home. Do we really have to be “safe spaces” for our kids’ worst behavior and most negative feelings?

We know we have to be our kids’ soft place to fall. We understand why they absolutely fall apart after a long day at school. But does it really have to be Mom who always gets the worst of it? 

Our listener Michelle wrote in to say:

I have been pondering something I call the "Safe Space Paradox,” or why children behave so differently around their primary caregiver. I am repeatedly told by grandparents, teachers, my husband, that my children were "perfect angels" for them. And yet the minute I open the door it is a cue for my children to resume the whining, fighting, and crying. 

I understand this is because of the deep emotional connection children form with their primary caregiver. But is there any research on ways to actually improve this? Or that I can actually enjoy this precious side of my children?

In this episode, we discuss

  • why kids really do save their worst behavior for us (and why we're part of the reason that can happen)
  • how hard it can be to feel like the dirty hand towel for everyone's bad feelings
  • strategies that work (a little) to help out-of-control kids contain their large feelings


For more on "after school restraint collapse," check out our episode "Why 5 to 8 p.m. Is The Worst: How To Handle the After-School Crankies"

Here are links to some writing on the topic that we discuss in this episode:

Lauren Cahn for Reader's Digest: Here’s Why Kids Behave So Much Worse Around Their Parents

Fern Weis for Motherly: The real reason your kids act worse for you than anyone else—and how to help

Beth Shaw for Psychology Today: When Trauma Gets Stuck in the Body


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