The Battlefield of The Mind: Anger and Parenting

If we create a battlefield in our mind against our children, then all is lost.  By battlefield, I mean the minute we begin thinking, “My child is doing this on purpose!”  “My child is out to get me and make me miserable!”  “My child knew what they were doing and planned this!”  “My child is just wanting to push each and every one of the buttons I have!”   Keep reading to find out the implications of what I mean by that!

Mamas, I have been there and done that and I would like to share something with you that I have learned:  If we create a us versus them mentality in our mind and in our attitude before we even open our mouths, then we have lost.

We have lost the opportunity to warmly hold the space for our children, we have lost the moment to guide in peaceful energy the behavior we would like our child to show, we have lost the connection between us and our child.

For those of you who follow this blog who believe that childhood development unfolds according to seven-year cycles, the things we think in the moment of anger are then not even logical according to this framework!  To a Waldorf parent, a child under the age of 7 does not view themselves as even separate yet; they cannot at this point “do” something to “you”  because that separation from you does not yet exist.  To a Waldorf parent, a child under the age of 7 is truly not logical, does not pre-meditate and pre-plan.  Yes, they do test boundaries.  But it is most likely more spur of the moment rather than pre-planned!

For those of you who follow this blog who are attachment parenting, to you I would say that one of the foundations of loving guidance is putting respect and empathy at the core of your parenting.  Look at the situation and your child’s needs through  your more experienced life lenses ( and no, you do not have to use words to ASK them all this!  You are the wonderful, smart, intelligent adult who can figure this out without asking them!)  What did they need in that moment where they were doing something different than what you expected or wanted?  Did they need food, a break, something to do, guidance as to what was acceptable in the house or not, your attention, sleep?

And most  importantly, once this occurs and we are feeling angry, can we step back and find our needs underneath the anger?  Why are we so darned angry anyway?  Maybe we need respect, peace, quiet, a chance to sit down?

Can you take a breath and change the scenery?  Can the child make restitution, make a “healing action” to make the situation right again after everyone has calmed down?  Restitution is a very important part of parenting.  It shows the child that we all can make mistakes, but it is what we do with the mistake that is most important.

Most of all, no guilt trips on the child.  They don’t understand the extent of the emotions you are feeling, they really don’t understand all the words you are using, and all they feel is your anger.  Less words, more breathing, more warmth, more action toward the positive.

For you to meditate on is this concept of POSITIVE INTENT.  What could possibly be the positive intent behind this situation, behind this interaction?  Can I see it this way?

Because if you continue to play out the battlefield in your mind, the last person standing will be you with all the children around you out of the connection in the game.

Enjoy your children, find the joy.  You can do this!



24 thoughts on “The Battlefield of The Mind: Anger and Parenting

  1. Lauri,
    Interestingly enough, restitution (Webster’s definition: an act of restoring to or a condition of being restored) IS a better word than retribution (Webster’s: to pay back, but also means recompense, reward or something given or exacted in recompense ) but I chose to stick with retribution because I was 100 percent sure I had heard that “healing action” referred to as “retribution” in many Waldorf sources……Hahahahahaha. I went and looked through every Waldorf source I could find and no where did I see that word.
    So apparently I made it up in my own mind!
    Thanks for catching that, it is these things that keep me as a word jockey up at night, LOL.
    Carrie 🙂

  2. Oh, Carrie! I am printing this one out and will read it over and over and over again before going to bed. Thank you so much for wording it so beautifully. It really is touching my heart.

    • You and few other mothers I know in this same sort of spot were my inspiration! You all are such good mothers, so mindful and wonderful, and I remember having those same feelings you all are talking about! We all need these kinds of reminders, no matter what the ages of our children, I think.
      Love and hugs,
      Carrie 🙂

  3. I definitely want to second that comment – THANK YOU & THANK YOU! You have – and are – changing my life 😀

    I found you following an online friend’s recommendation – Farida @ Saints and Spinners – I have been reading about various homeschooling methods, thinking about what will work for us in the future (my boys are 3 and 10 months). I mentioned I had not read much about Waldorf homeschooling and she sent me here (for which she deserves a huge hug if I ever meet her in person!)

    I found far more than homeschooling however – it is your parenting advice which is resonating most deeply with me. I am trying to put it into practice and already seeing positive results – and I am sharing it with my sister and my son’s godmother, neither of whom have much interest in homeschooling or attachment parenting, but who are both struggling to fulfill their desire to be a better mother.

    THANK YOU again, with all my heart!

    (I hope you don’t mind, I copied this post in full on my blog as I REALLY want to make sure I never forget it!)

    • Thank you so much for being a reader. I really appreciate each and every one of my readers and this path we are on to be more peaceful parents. I will go check out your blog!
      Carrie 🙂

  4. Carrie,
    I just happened upon your site through a friend’s. I immediately saw the tag for anger in parenting (it is unfortunately what is first and foremost on my mind today) and came upon this. Thank you so much! I need the reminder. I am in a particularly tough place with my almost 4 year old boy and am feeling quite angry with myself for being angry with him. Maybe taking a moment to think through these questions will help me to let go of the anger altogether and work towards a more peaceful place!

    • Four can be a very challenging age – head to the main page and i think a post I just wrote about the four-year-old is still there!
      Thanks for reading! PS. also check the tags section under “anger in Parenting” for other anger posts.

  5. This is a lovely post…really well said, thank you.
    I read a lot of AP stuff… I will be following your blog and checking it out, I really appreciate what and how you write. Thanks!

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  7. I am truly enjoying your writings. They are helping me deal with myself and reminding me to hold space for my challenging, I mean, developmentally appropriate 4-year-old son.
    HOWEVER…I really need help. I am looking for any advice.
    There are many situations, but I’ll give a specific one…
    We get in the car and he refuses to put on his seatbelt. He won’t allow for any help. He screams at the top of his lungs if you even offer to help, and if you lean in to assist, he punches and kicks you in the face, all the while screaming and writhing all over the place. Tonight, it took 2 people to restrain him to get that belt on. (by the way, this behavior occurs with other scenarios, so don’t think it’s about being restrained with a seat belt). I was extremely angry, but didn’t scream or spank, which previously this episode would absolutely drive me to do. Getting hit or kicked is the proverbial straw for me! But I did push him away and hold him there sort of against the door so the belt could be latched. Admittedly, I did this hard. He felt my anger. He asked about why I hurt him for a couple of hours after the episode. I realize from reading your info, that he truly does not even connect his behavior with mine. I think he’s sad and feels betrayed by my anger. I could go on and on about that part, but really, I need help. I have no idea how to effectively deal with this behavior. It happens all the time and towards anyone. Before having a child, I was never going to spank, but now I find myself having done it so much that I fear the consequences of that. I have a lot of work to do to undo that programming and I am at a loss for how to deal with his behavior. Please help, if you can.
    Thank you,

    • Shawna, I am so HAPPY to hear you make the positive changes that you are doing! Celebrate your successes!! You are using this small episode as a beginning of the successful parent I know you can be!! I know it is such hard work and anytime you need encouragement, I urge you to check in here. I also urge you to get some support – is there a local La leche League Chapter or Attachment parenting group near you? Also, pop over to the Mothering Dot Commune forum and post on their gentle discipline subforum and read the old threads. Go through all these old posts tagged anger or No spanking and just within the past several weeks I did a post with all the gentle discipline books I love.
      This is going to take time Shawna, you all are used to being adversaries and power stuggling rather than working as a team. Not that a four year old is always going to work as a time, they ARE experimenting with power, the use of power, what pushes people’s buttons. You have to hold the space and not get sucked into it, you just have to. A four year old can be very challenging, have you read the posts on defiance and also all the four year old posts?
      My first thought would be to allow for lots of extra time, and to limit going out of the house. I don’t know if you work, so if you have to go out or not, but if you are a stay at home mom , first thought would be to go as few places as possible. The other thought would just be to remove him from the car when he is that upset. Part of sitting in the car is putting your seatbelt on. You have to be willing to wai t a bit, which is so hard. I remember times where I waited 45 minutes for my younger daughter because no one could force her into her seat. It really stinks, it is really maddening, and sometimes just having a ho hum attitude. Talk on the phone. and ignore!
      It sounds like he has so much anger to get out, I would have a peek at Lawrence Cohen’s “Playful Parenting”. I am wondering if you shift gears and make things playful, will that diffuse some of the conflict? Here is an example:
      “Come on, Fireman Bob, we have work to do. Do you hear the sirens going? ” Maybe you could throw one of those cheap fireman hats in the car WITHOUT HIM KNOWING and pull it out as a surprise for this scenario. Or a policeman. Or a garbage truck driver. The possibilities are endless, think of all the people who drive trucks! Do you know any fireman fingerplays or songs you could sing whilst getting him in?
      Fireman bob, you can pull the straps over but all fireman have to be tucked in by their Fire Chief because this Fire Engine goes FAST! I smell the fire, hurry!”
      Do you have snacks at the ready so all Fireman could eat a quick snack on their way to the fire?

      This is a just an example, I think the point is if you can turn it into more fantasy and movement rather than “You have to do X now”…Set him up for success as well. It doesn’t sound like he has had much success working with you in the past.

      I think the other piece of this though is restitution. Later on, after all this is done, you go to him and you say, “Your hands really forgot what they were doing and your hands hurt Mommy. Maybe your hands could draw me a beautiful picture?” and give him some crayons to draw with , or blocks to build with, or his hands can wash the dishes or whathave you. There has to be a piece where he fixes what he does wrong, show him those strong arms and legs can do helpful, wonderful things.

      I will send this to your email as well, I have no idea how this comment section works and if it goes to you or what? I am so not technical
      You are doing great, I am so excited for your energy shift, your post really brought tears to my eyes! You can do this!

  8. Thank you, Carrie. (by the way, your reply went directly to my email because I indicated that I wanted direct updates when I posted) I read your reply this morning, and after wiping away my own tears, I reflected long and hard, which I am still doing. I am actively engaging in a paradigm shift, and it’s hard to do. I think the absolutely hardest part is forgiving myself.
    Anyway, your response is helpful and resonates with me as the “right” things to do. I struggle with not feeling very creative or playful, especially when I’m in the heat of the moment. Also, distraction usually doesn’t work. It’s as if my son is too darn smart and just sees through it. I’m not making excuses, I’m just painting the picture, which I’m sure others relate to as well. I know that I need to find my own joy again. I’ve truly lost it along the way, and he feels that. I know he needs to see and feel my happiness. At the start of this school year (he was still 3), I put him in pre-k at a private school (not waldorf – there isn’t anything like that within an hour’s drive), because he is so smart that I thought it’d be good for him. Also, he’s an only child and we live in the woods/mountains on 10 acres, so I thought it’d be good for him to socialize. What we’ve found is that he’s not transitioning very well at all. He hates the structure and he is hitting and freaking out in class against all others, including the teachers. Sometimes he goes into the aftercare program for a couple of hours until I can get him, and he has never had the slightest problem in there. There is very little structure and it’s mainly older kids. This speaks volumes to me. First of all, I am not putting him back in school. My husband (who has been the stay at home parent since his birth and now works full time since school started) is willing to leave his job to be home with our son again. I think we’re going to do that. I think the stress of school on Jonny is too much for him. I agree that as little time away from home as possible is crucial. Again, before having a kiddo, I was very “book smart” about all this and this was one of my beliefs. Now, I always forget how young he is because he looks like he’s 5 and has the “academic intelligence” of a 6-year-old, so I get enthused about getting him involved in stuff, when he has no interest in leaving my side (or his dad’s).
    Another thing I want to humbly reveal is how I’ve relied on television to help me through the day with him. Again, I was “never going to allow” my child to watch t.v. prior to all this! We don’t have t.v. like most homes, but we do have a DVD player with lots of animated and animal-based movies that we allow him to watch. I find that because of our dynamic and total lack of peace, that this is my only way to get a grip and regain some energy. I desperately need a break from him and often, which I feel so sad about, but it’s true. He is not yet at the age where he wants to play on his own. He will for a few minutes, but frankly that’s not enough for me to refill my well with the spoon that I feel I’m using. And because of his super intense, bossy, relentless personality, I just dread engaging with him at times.
    I want to say that I am not going to take over your blog with my verbosity about my son. But you are a breath of fresh air for me. I am longwindedly giving details so that you may have a fuller picture. Also, it’s in the details that others may recognize their own situation and find connection.
    So, again, thank you. I welcome your and other’s response. I am on the road to healing and I know it will all work out in the end.
    Peace and blessings,

    • Shawna, I have posts on here about forgiveness of ourselves in parenting – type forgiveness in the search engine for this blog and see what comes up!
      I totally understand what you are saying about your son, and all I can say from experience is to stop talking to him. He may have great verbal abilities, but his level of consciousness is still only at that under seven years of age level, his memory is still not developed well as far as being able to connect his actions to other thiings, and many of our intellectually brightest children have serious lack of balance with gross and fine motor skills, social skills and need balance. I think you are absolutely right in that this structured program is not meeting his needs right now, and his behavior at school and at home is telling you that…
      I would encourage you to spend as much time outside as possible in place of as much media you can stand, and to get some support from local mothers. Are there any Attachment Parenting or LLL groups in your area?
      I am so proud of you, be easy with yourself and forgive yourself. Parenting is not easy, but it is rewarding. It will force you to assume uncomfortable yoga contortions of the soul and push it further than you ever thought possible. You obviously love your son, he chose you to be his Mommy for a reason. You can do this!!
      Thinking of you,

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