“Love And Anger: The Parental Dilemma” -Chapter Five: “Going It Alone”

Calling all my single parents!  I would love to hear from you and if you thought this chapter was right on or not. I do find it interesting that the authors also did not make notes about mothers who are single because they never married or mothers who are single due to death of a spouse or partner.  Also, even if you are not single I thought there were quite a few nuggets to be gleamed for all families in this chapter, so read on!

First, the authors open this chapter with the talks they held with a group of single mothers and she notes, “All of the women were the primary caretakers for their children.  Even in-joint custody arrangements, the women reported that they still performed all the essential functions of shopping for clothes, arranging doctor appointments, getting children haircuts, and the like.  When emergency calls were made from school, it was almost never the father who left work to pick up the child.  The joint custody was not entirely “joint” and certainly not equal.”

This chapter has sections on Shattered Ideals,  The Guilty Party, Everyday Conflicts, The Lonely Parent, and Making Peace as a Family.

I think one section that could be beneficial to all families is the section on “The Lonely Parent.”  I liked the mother who said on page 117, “As one mother reflected, “The hardest thing is letting go, especially since I sometimes feel lonely. I want us to share more.  But I believe that children retreat from “needy” parents.  If we are personally fulfilled, they pick up on that and are more willing to be open with us….”  The authors go on to talk about how it is not that children are incapable of “empathy, love, or generous gestures – just that their egocentricity is a basic reality.”  In the view of Waldorf Education, a child is not  considered full grown until age 21, and I think the authors have noted well that whilst children have capacity for all sorts of things, we should not expect them to rise up and  be adults because these children are not.

I also liked this on page 117:  “I have heard parenting described as a “thankless” task, and often it seems that way.  Many a parent has complained that their children do not seem to understand or appreciate all the time and effort that goes into making their lives better.  So much energy and emotion is invested in trying to fill our children’s needs and make them happy that sometimes we grow furious when children seem lacking in gratitude.”

There were also good nuggets for all parents to think about in the last section of this chapter.  What did you all think about it?

Many blessings,

Carrie

“Love And Anger: The Parental Dilemma” Chapter Four “Kids Versus Kids”

This is a really interesting chapter that covers dealing with both sibling rivalry and peer relationships between children.  There are many great practical ideas on this chapter, and I hope you all enjoyed reading it!

The sections in this chapter are:  Why Siblings Fight, The Myth of Loving Siblings, Children Hurting Children, The Fairness Trap, Trouble With Peers, and Compassionate Intervention.

Regarding sibling behavior, the author writes:  “The reality of sibling behavior is in direct opposition to all of our fantasies about having a “happy” family – one that is peaceful and harmonious.  In spite of what we may have experienced in our own childhoods, we cling to a vision (established by television sitcoms like “Leave It To Beaver”) of loving children who are kind to each other and rarely fight.  When our children don’t fit the ideal, we blame them for creating negative friction in what we believe should be a conflict-free household. Parents are eager to learn the skills that will end the battles, but before they can learn skills, they must first revise their expectations…..It’s useful to remember that children can’t help feeling as they do, and many well-intentioned parents try to minimize or deny a child’s feelings because they hear them as cruel or unloving. ….Parents need to accept the feelings of jealousy, resentment, or anger that a sibling might have, while setting limits on hurtful actions.”

The authors go on to discuss when to intervene and when to not intervene, when an older child hurts a younger sibling, tattling, and fairness.

The sections regarding peers starts with this statement:  “Rivalry exists, not only among siblings, but among groups of children as well.” The peer sections talk about allowing your child to vent their feelings without getting too involved in the situation or making the child feel the exclusion is his or her fault.

Sometimes I think this can be the hardest job as a parent:  to really see one’s child struggling socially either in making friends, in being too aggressive or bossy with friends, in being timid or shy or so sensitive that every little social interaction that doesn’t go quite to the child’s plan seems to bother him or her.  I think this chapter does do a good job in reminding parents to be that more neutral sounding board and to step back and let their child’s relationship with other children unfold.  Again, though, I think this is much more pertinent to older children and not to children under the age of 7 and perhaps not even as pertinent to those under the age of 9.

So again, I found much of this chapter, aside from perhaps the section on dealing with a new baby in the house, to be geared toward children ages 7 and up who are dealing these social challenges with siblings and peers as a more separate individual.  

What did you all think about this chapter?

Love to all,

Carrie

“Love And Anger: The Parental Dilemma”–Chapter Three

“Who’s The Boss?” is the title of this chapter, and it opens with the premise that children test authority.

This chapter does have one section geared toward toddlers, but for the most part I really feel much of this chapter, with its talk of consequences and such, is geared more toward parents of older children (ages 7 and up). However, if you are the parent of a child under the age of 7, certainly the parts about how we as parents react to challenges to our rules are worthy as a topic for our own inner work and personal parenting development.  Did you all feel this way regarding what ages of children this chapter might be most applicable to in reading this? 

So anyway, let’s kick it off with this gem of a paragraph on page 50:

It offends our sensibilities as parents to be confronted with the fact that we are not the all-powerful bosses of our children.  They tell us this themselves.  “You are not the boss of me!” is the favorite parental button pusher of many children.  What we want is for them to understand that our judgment is based on years of experience, that what we say is the rule, and that they should do as we tell them because we love them and have greater wisdom than they do.  (We also want them to be grateful to us for all the efforts we make for them.)  When they refuse to accept our restrictions, we become frustrated and enraged, and threaten, punish, and hit or – just an ineffective- back down and give in.”

Woo boy, I could write a whole series of posts off this one paragraph.  However, two main issues or challenges of parents today come to mind.  The first challenge is this:  I see so many parents who seem afraid to have rules in their homes, but who are then angry when their children do not do what they want, and don’t seem to know how to hold authority in their homes without yelling, screaming, demeaning, feeling “put-upon”, etc.

So, to begin with, one must accept the fact that one has authority and power just by virtue of being a parent, and that part of this authority is demonstrating a good use of power, not an abuse of power. You can set the rules and tone in your home, and you can be calm when those rules are broken and you can come up with better ways than yelling, screaming, hitting or anything else to help guide your children.  That is essentially what this book is about.  It is also what this blog is about in many posts!

For the back discussion of power and authority,  try this series of back posts for help: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/12/01/power-authority-and-respect-in-parenting/  and here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/12/02/re-claiming-authority-part-one/

And don’t forget the posts regarding EVERY AGE from birth through age 9 on typical development and ways to have peaceful living with each age.  Just use the search engine on this blog and type in the age and see what comes up or go through the archives month by month.

I think the other thing the above paragraph from page 51 makes me think of that is a challenge for many parents is this: CONSISTENCY.  Consistency is so important in discipline and alleviates so many difficulties.  Rhythm is a huge part of consistent help for younger children in guiding what behaviors happen when and what is appropriate.  It is also important in matters of restitution for all children, but especially for older children.            

You can do this! On page 51, the authors remark that knowing developmental stages is half the battle.  However, knowing this does not mean that you do nothing and completely ignore the behavior, but it also means that you have an idea that your child may not grow up to be The Terrible Person Who Makes You Look Like You Failed As A Parent just because it takes 500 times to make something stick.  You must find the Middle Way in your feelings about this. 

I think part of  the learning curve and you must be consistent and persevere longer than your children do.  Do not get discouraged, keep going! “Many of today’s parents, who have rejected the punitive environments of their own upbringings are, like Rebecca, confused and disappointed when their children still express anger and defiance. They had hoped that their more benevolent approach to parenting would do away with these inevitable power struggles.”

Children are immature, they are not rational and logical, and they will use words and actions in immature ways. Their words and actions may anger you. But, the question is, can you hold on that one second past your child? Can you drop your end of the rope when your child is in a tug of war with you? Can you express your own emotions in a mature way? We most likely cannot do these things all the time as we are not perfect. However, the striving is really, really, important. The thinking ahead is really important: what are the limits in my home? What will I do when these limits are broken? How will I react when my child says they hate me or they won’t? What will the consequences be?

The authors suggest to stop turning things into a power struggle and to frame things with a “yes” if you can – “yes, you may have that later”. Use humor instead. Set consequences when you are calm. Take a breather before you respond. I think in some ways technology in our society has deluded people into thinking we don’t have to think carefully or prudently, that there should be an answer right away. Most things in parenting don’t have such a simple answer, and if you have not thought it out ahead of time or dealt with something similar before, you need to stop and think and not provide a new jerk reaction to the situation.

Anyway, okay, that was a lot of my own tangents from reading this chapter…I would love to hear what you thought and what your reaction was to this chapter.

Many blessings,

Carrie

“Love and Anger: The Parental Dilemma”–Chapter Two

This chapter is entitled, “Everyday Madness” and opens by talking about the anger that can occur in parents over everyday, ordinary things such as children not brushing their teeth or cleaning their rooms, whining, dawdling, fighting with siblings and how guilty parents feel about feeling that way.

But why do parents feel so guilty about this?  From page 25:  “Having skills in the way we respond can make a difference and make us feel less at the mercy of our impulses.  Most parents think they should be able to handle the every day stuff automatically, but why should they think that, since no one ever taught them how?  On the contrary, I can imagine that most of us were raised in households where the dynamics were very similar to the ones described here, in which we were told repeatedly that the things we wanted were not worth making a fuss over.”

The author talks about her experiment regarding leaving a “tape recorder on during breakfast or dinner, to record what you say and how you say it.  When my children were younger, I tried it, and I got a terrible shock…”

What would your tone sound like to your children if you did that experiment in your household?  If it would not be what you would want to hear, how could you change this?

The authors talk about changing our parenting language, something I have written frequently about on this blog.  The follow-up to this, for older children, is to have them take responsibility for themselves.

The authors say on page 28:  “When, after these well-meaning reminders, our children fail to respond or continue to be forgetful anyway, we’re angry:  “I reminded you!  How could you forget?  Are you deaf?  Stupid?  Trying to drive me crazy?”  But often after we have vented our disgust and anger, we may then rush to bail them out, so that they won’t have to suffer or be unhappy for having been forgetful, irresponsible, or careless.  We want our children to become more responsible, but how often do we really give them the chance?  We forget that the best way children learn is by experiencing the consequences of their actions.”

Part of what we need to do as parents with our older children is to not blame or attack,  but to be gracious and kind without bailing the child out.  The child may be angry or wail or cry, but that is really okay.  All feelings are okay!  And children come to us with their own destinies, their own work, and sometimes they have to rise up and do this work without you getting in the way.

This chapter also points out scenarios where the parents were proactive and set the rule in their home – see the scenario on page 33 for an example.  If we don’t set down the rules, the children will not know.  You cannot get angry at your children for not knowing!  Rhythm is your most powerful ally in this regard.  Rhythm is strength and helps with discipline!

The authors also point out normal developmental stages – see page 34 – where between ages three and six, children do interrupt and whine, seven and eight year olds daydream and don’t do chores, etc.  The point is NOT that this is acceptable, but it is normal.  If you know what is developmentally appropriate, that can be the first point in planning what you will do when this behavior will inevitably occur. 

And most of dealing with normal developmental challenges is LESS WORDS, MORE DOING. Help your child move away from a sibling that is putting their feet in their face before they start hitting each other.  Hand your child a sponge to clean  up the milk he spilled.  State rules clearly and impartially:  “This is what happens” for older children; for younger children it should all be part of the daily rhythm.  Use verses, rhymes, singing and movement whilst you are singing to get the job done.  Humor can go a long way!

I would love to hear your thoughts on this chapter if you have the book.

Many blessings,
Carrie

“Love And Anger: The Parental Dilemma” Chapter One

So we are embarking on our new chapter by chapter book today:  “Love and Anger:  The Parental Dilemma” by Nancy Samalin with Catherine Whitney.  You can read about the introduction to this book, with a link as to where to purchase it here:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2011/03/25/love-and-anger-the-parental-dilemma-introduction/

This first chapter opens up with a quote from a father ( that I am sure many of us have said or have heard a parent say):  “I was the perfect father until my son was born.”

The scenario opening this chapter regards a working mother and her seven year old son who was prone to making a huge mess in their apartment:  “By the time Sharon walked in the door, she had already built up such an anger that she started yelling before she could stop herself.  Now she stood towering over the chaos in her living room, hands planted on her hips and face contorted in rage."  The mother later recounts in a parenting workshop that she cannot believe where her anger went.  How many of us have ever felt that way?

The author writes on page 4, “The subject of anger almost always comes up when parents gather, and it’s a subject that troubles them a great deal.  They believe that good parents don’t yell, much less shriek, loving parents don’t seethe with resentment, mature adults never give in to uncontrolled rage.  They look to me {the author} for ways to exorcise these uncomfortable feeling, hoping that I’ll offer them a solution, like a magic elixir, so they won’t feel angry with their children anymore.”

The author goes on to say that anger is normal, both on the part of the parent and the child, and points out the ultimate parenting paradox:   that often the greater our love, the greater too our capacity for feeling a troubling range of emotions including anger, resentment, rage. What we need to do is to teach OURSELVES and our children how to express anger, rage, those troubling emotions without attacking our children and in a way that may actually be helpful.

The author mentions that for many families their homes are battlegrounds filled with sarcasm, bickering, shouting, power struggles.   There can be many points of irritation, many hot buttons that trigger parents’ anger.  Here is a small sampling of the things parents listed as anger-provoking from a very long list on page 5:   “When they won’t do what I say”  “When they won’t take no for an answer.”  “When they defy me.”  “When they give me that attitude.”    “When they talk back and say things that hurt or insult me.” 

However, anger and rage can be downright scary; both for ourselves and our children.  It can fill us with self-loathing, guilt and other things that do not more our family lives forward. 

We must learn to separate our actions from our feelings.  All feelings are okay, not all actions are.  I am sure many of you have heard that before, but it is important to be able to deal with anger without hurting, insulting, demeaning our children.  I personally think the ability to  be firm and  hold boundaries in a loving way takes practice.  There will always be conflict between your needs and wants and what your child needs and wants.  Add in multiple children and it just gets more complex from there.   Our children will not always be happy about the boundaries that we set, yet those boundaries are there to help them  mature and grow.  Boundaries are not mean; they look toward the future when the things your children will do as adults may cost in big ways – in their jobs, their marriages, their own parenting of your grandchildren. 

And to do that we need to be able to accept all the emotions that come with being human, but to develop the will to stay the course that will benefit our children the most.  Only can we take responsibility for our own feelings and attitudes, our own actions, and yes, our own mistakes, can we move forward and truly be free.

I hope you will join along in reading this book with me.

Many blessings and much love,

Carrie

“Love and Anger: The Parental Dilemma” Introduction

Well, let’s kick off our new book to look at chapter-by-chapter.  This book is by Nancy Samalin and Catherine Whitney.    Here is a link to this book on Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Love-Anger-Parental-Nancy-Samalin/dp/0140129928/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1301051202&sr=8-1

I think most of us can agree that staying home with our children all day is wonderful; we wouldn’t want to trade that for the world.  Our children are precious, they are funny, and to hear their joy and laughter just makes our hearts feel good.  All that love wrapped up in a small package of childhood.   I personally have so much gratitude that I can stay home with my children and homeschool them.

But there is often another side that seems to go with parenting these days.  I am not sure if it is due to a combination of economic stress, a lack of extended family and other support due to families being more transitory, a lack of a cohesive view toward childhood in our society, a lack of turning toward a religious or spiritual path to help support and guide the parenting journey – but mothers today seem more confused, more stressed  and yes, more angry by their children’s behavior than ever before.

There it is, that parental dilemma of love and anger toward our children.  I don’t think it does much good to pretend that anger in parenting does not exist or to even strive toward having a valium-calm household.  Peaceful and loving household, yes.  Sterile and without emotion just so any conflict might be avoided, no.  That is not life in my book.

Living with children is messy, noisy, sleep-depriving at times, joyous, fun, wonderful.  I have said it before, and I will say it again:  parenting will stretch your soul like a yoga pose you can’t get out of.

I have met wonderful parents over my many years of working with parents, parents who were so mature and had it all together and were so self-controlled.  They were centered, and calm, and whilst they didn’t always do everything “right” (and what is that anyway?), they seemed to raise children who became great adults.

I want to be like that, don’t you?

So let’s take a walk through the introduction of this book!

In the Introduction to this book, the authors write, “I use this example (there is an opening example of parental anger written by none other than Dr. Benjamin Spock, MD who found himself in a blended family situation) to demonstrate that there are no absolute guidelines forged from our own experiences and the experiences of others. ….This caveat –that no single expert has all the answers-  is important to note, for you will not find  a series of no-fail solutions in the pages of this book.”

The goal of this book, the authors write, is to “offer practical, positive ways to redirect [that] anger.”

Many blessings as we go through this book,

Carrie