Q. I'm sure every parent goes through this, but when my 8-year-old rolls her eyes at me, I lose my cool. How can I get her to stop without nagging or blowing this out of proportion?
A. It's irritating. You tell your child it's time to set the table and rather than saying, "Sure Mom, I'd be happy to" or, "In a minute -- as soon as I finish my math homework," or "I can't believe you're asking me to do one more chore," she rolls her eyes in exasperation.
Eye rolling expresses disrespect. There you are making a reasonable request and your child responds with an eye roll as if to say, "You are so annoying." It's close to expressing contempt for what you've said, if not for you personally. Rolling eyes can quickly become a habit. Unfortunately, by losing your cool, nagging, or blowing this disconcerting behavior out of proportion, you are actually reinforcing it.
Your child knows that she and she alone controls those eyes and so will use them to communicate irritation especially since doing brings about a predicable emotional response from you. It's very powerful and thus rewarding for a child to trigger a parent's negative emotions. It's up to you to change your response to those rolling eyes so it won't work for your daughter any longer.
Here are some respectful responses to eye rolling:
When you've make it through an eye rolling exchange without losing your cool, nagging, or blowing it out of proportion, take a deep breath and say lovingly to yourself, "I'm fine; I'm a good person and mother. This behavior of my daughter's will pass."
Jan Faull, MEd, is a veteran parent educator and the author of two parenting books, Mommy, I Have to Go Potty and Unplugging Power Struggles. She writes a biweekly parenting advice column for HealthyKids.com and a weekly parenting advice column in the Seattle Times newspaper. Jan Faull is the mother of three grown children and lives in the Seattle area.
Originally published on HealthyKids.com, June 2005.