“Love And Anger: The Parental Dilemma”–Chapter Six: “High Hopes And Shattered Expectations” Part One

I loved this chapter because I felt like it really got to the crux of so many parenting issues and challenges, and maybe even hits on some of the reasons parents get angry when they don’t know why they even feel angry.

The chapter opens with a picture of a two little boys.  One, an eight-year-old, wants to play instead of practicing the piano where the mother recognized how pleased she would be to sit in the audience and hear her son play beautifully.  The other scenario was of a little five year old in kindergarten who was having a harder time separating from his mother than the other children in the class.

It’s so easy for us to get stuck in false ideals for our children, ideals based on what we’ve heard from others or the way we’ve seen others behave.  We’re embarrassed if our children don’t seem to be doing as well as we imagine other children are doing.”

The authors go on to say, “Often children need special help when they don’t easily adjust to their environment.  But what constitutes real help?  Sometimes when we think we are helping them, we are inadvertently communicating to them that they have let us down by not accomplishing what we think they should.  This message can damage a child’s self-esteem. Dorothy Corkill Briggs, a noted expert on the subject of self-esteem in children, writes in Experts Advise Parents, “If a child believes he is unlovable or lovable only on condition, he may develop all kinds of competence.  However, these skills are hollow victories.  No amount of competence ever substitutes for lovability…Each child needs to be cherished for his sheer existence.”  So the question becomes:  How can we learn to set aside our disappointment and relate to our children as unique individuals with special needs of their own?”

I found these pages really interesting.  I think there often can be a finer line than parents want to admit in meeting a child where they are and lifting that child up to where they need to go in terms of behavior.  I have seen parebts who have done a great job in connecting with that child and fostering love, but had such a hard time in expecting any right action from that child.

In terms of activities outside the home, I am sure we have all seen the split between parents who enrolled their children in all kinds of things at fairly early ages but also the parents who seemed to not want to let their children  spread their wings with activities or within the community at all.

I guess I found it interesting that the authors’ mixed parental anger regarding activities and how children manage (or not) parental expectations and the requirements for that activity (and whether this is intrinsic to the child or parent-pushed) and parental anger regarding behavior and developmental differences.  I think if I was the editor of this chapter I would have insisted these issues be addressed separately.  They seem like two very different things!

However, upon reading the next section of the chapter entitled, “Wanting The Best”, it struck me that the common ground between these two areas is that how parents do want the best for their children, and how do we as parents react when we feel disappointed in our children’s behavior, abilities, actions.  Do we meet it with anger or do we meet it with love?  Do we meet it with a sideways sort of plan to help lift the child up if this is needed, or do we lecture?  How can we be allies and the authority in our homes?

I would love to hear your experiences and also thoughts on this chapter if you are reading along…In the next post, we will skip ahead in this chapter to address the section entitled, “The “Special” Child Challenge”.

Many blessings,

Carrie

“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

Loving Yourself

I see so many mothers striving to set the tone for their families; mothers who are really working to create a family life that will nurture their children even if it means hard work and facing emotional growth on their part.  It is heart-warming and exciting to see mothers who are doing that!

I also see so many mothers who want to strive but don’t seem to have any idea how to take the bull by the horns and be the authority for their family.  For whatever reason, the idea of being the person who sets the tone in their home for their family is scary, or met with fear instead of joy.

I think the root of this may lie in that these mothers do not think they are worthy of being an Authentic Leader in their home.  I have a few words for you today, just for you.

To My Precious Striving Friend,

You know, you are worthy of setting the tone for your spouse/partner and your children.  It doesn’t matter if you didn’t have the best childhood, and have no memories of home-cooked meals or nightly routines and rhythms.  It doesn’t matter at all if you can find the will within yourself to rise up and to want to learn how to create a nurturing home life for your family.

The truth is, this process will nurture you.  It will nurture your family, and it will nurture the children in the neighborhood who come over to play with your children, it will nurture all those who come into your house.  Your house is more than a physical space, but it has an ambience, a feeling, and a  tone to it that you set and nurture every day by having a vision and what you do to feed the beauty, truth and goodness that lives in your home.

You are worthy of having this.  You love your family, and you are being drawn to this idea of being an Authentic Leader in your home for a purpose and a reason.  You, this very day, are helping to raise your grandchildren by the way you love and treat your children.  You are extending your values and beliefs through the generations to come.

You feel confused as to how to take on this role?  Don’t be afraid.  Authority is  not a bad thing; only misuse and abuse of power is…Authority is about making the right decisions at the right time for the children in the family who are not yet ready to do it for themselves.  They need all the lessons you have learn; you have experience in love and warmth to share.   No one will ever love your children more than you!

You don’t know where to start in practical terms?  Start with yourself.  Parents and homeschooling parents are not more patient or better than anyone else, but we have to be more persistent in working on our own areas of challenge.  Work on your courage, your patience, your warmth…pick one area and make a plan!  Read sacred texts, find inspiring verses to keep you on track, study, meditate, pray. 

Create warmth through the beauty in your home, through the truth and goodness you show your children, your partner, yourself!  Ask yourself, is this good, is this true, is this worthy, is this pure?  If it is not, what are you doing?  You deserve to be surrounded by these things.  Rise up and claim it!

To My Precious Striving Friend, you can do this!  Be an Authentic Leader in your home, do what is right!  It is not about perfection but the process of striving.  Overcome your own inertia, your own doubts, your own fears and make a plan to start somewhere.  The journey begins with the one step, and if you stumble, get back up and keep going.  Your family is counting on you.

Live big!

Love,

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