It's a scenario, imaginary in this case, that's not too far from the reality of many parents:
Celeste joined a moms' group to help meet some other parents in her neighborhood and find playmates for her son, Caleb. While the toddlers and preschoolers were attended to by caregivers, the parents listened to a presentation on how to install car seats properly and then chatted over coffee.
When coffee hour was over, the parents headed to the kid's play area to pick up their children. As Celeste and another mom approached the doorway, Celeste said "Ugh, I wish we had more time together — I really don't want to pick up Caleb. I love him, but I am not sure I like him."
WATCH: How to feel closer to your child. Story continues below video.
Who says that? A very open and honest parent. There are a lot of taboo subjects, but admitting you don't like your kid takes a lot of courage. Yet, there are likely many parents who are privately thrilled to be reading this post, finally feeling like they're not the only ones.
It's a dirty secret that we don't let out of our lips.
But why not? We love our partners and sometimes we have days when we don't like them. Our parents raised us and we love them, but we may hate their world views, their old values, or droning conversation about who is having hip surgery and that detergent went on sale this week.
Don't feel guilty, but do re-frame
Rather than being riddled with guilt, let's look deeper into what drives this dislike and how we can improve matters.
Our children are their own people. They have unique qualities and temperaments. They have their own likes and dislikes. We can put energy into wishing they were different and more to our "liking" or we can let go of our own expectations and learn to widen our ability to embrace difference and grow our own tolerance for other people.
Consider the gift of personal growth our children give us. See what I just did there? That is called a re-frame, and that is what I am hoping you can do with your thoughts about your child.
Remember: it's their behaviours that you dislike
Much of what we actually dislike is their behaviour. If we feel their misbehaviour is a reflection of our parenting, we feel they are an embarrassment to us personally. Our need to be a good or perfect parent is threatened. If they act out towards us, we take it personally that they don't like us, either. Our own rejection buttons get triggered.
These feelings will sour the relationship, and no matter how hard you try to hide it, children always pick up on this. They will feel your dislike for them as rejection. From that feeling of rejection, they will act out. That leads to more misbehaviour and distance and in turn, you're dislike of them. It's a vicious cycle.
But you can break that cycle! Catch yourself being triggered. Listen to your inner voice. Notice and challenge the negative dialogue and story you tell yourself. Loosen the grip these thoughts have on your emotions.
Maybe you didn't see yourself parenting a child who is really physical and active, but that is how the world unfolded — so are you going to fight that reality every day and be miserable? Or are you going to learn to love the fact that they're active? You have a choice.
It's up to parents to shift their attitudes and evolve the relationship with the child.
Review your child's strengths
Start by considering your child's strengths. Keep these top of mind and verbalize them to your child. If you focus on the positives, you're more likely to keep positive thoughts about your child top of mind.
When children hear good things about themselves, they feel more loved and liked, which means they are also more likely to co-operate with you. As the old adage goes; kids who feel good, do good. Kids who feel badly, do badly. Let's fill their buckets daily with comments about all that is wonderful about them and why we are grateful they are in our lives.
Do more of what you know connects you
While you may struggle with this child, you probably have times when you do connect well. What are those times? Maybe your child is too energetic and rambunctious for your quiet temperament, but you really hit it off when you play a game, such as catch together.
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Spend extra time connecting with that child in a way you know works. Even if it means spending more time with them than a sibling.
Learn your child's love language
The way you are accustomed to showing your child love might not be received well by them. Once you are dialled into how they receive love and learn how you best receive love, you should be able to find common ground for connecting better.
Check out Gary Chapman's love languages for children as a starting point.
Get some extra help
Take a parenting course. Easy-going kids who are easily likeable don't present much challenge to our parenting skills, but more difficult temperaments do.
I am always so grateful for kids who are challenging enough that their parents reach out for parent education or counselling because I know they are going to learn so much more than those who don't and that those kids are going to flourish like no others!
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