“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