“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:  https://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

Back to Basics: Dealing With Anger

Anger is a very real emotion in parenting, and I think so many times people are afraid to talk about it.  Acknowledging that anger can exist in ourselves towards our children not only makes us feel sad and guilty, it forces us to face our own imperfections.

I wrote this in May of last year:

“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.”

The whole post the above came from is here:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/05/22/the-battlefield-of-the-mind-anger-and-parenting/

I wrote some more regarding anger in parenting last November (modified text for this post today):

Conflict is a part of life, and anger is not a BAD emotion – it is just a feeling like other feelings.  However, many parents choose to discipline their children when they are angry or hurt.  Some parents choose to hit their children when they are angry.  Hitting a child is wrong, (if you need an argument for this please see this post:   https://theparentingpassageway.com/2008/10/20/getting-past-fear/ )  and when we lose control and responsibility for our actions when we are angry we lose that teachable moment.  A  split-second action in anger can also cause a parent to have remorse and guilt.  It can necessitate an apology!

Instead of losing control, I would like to talk to you today about how not to be the angry parent……I believe anger issues actually are OUR problem, the parent’s problem.  Usually we are trying to do something in a tight time frame, we are carrying in baggage from our own childhood (“I NEVER would have talked to MY parents that way!), we are tired and stressed out over things that may or may not even have to do with that child, we are carrying unrealistic expectations of that child’s behavior, or just in general our needs are not being met.

The questions becomes:  what do we want our CHILDREN to do when they are angry and how can we model that for them?  If we walk around yelling and slamming doors, how can we be surprised when our six-year old does that?

After you are calm, hopefully you can return to the situation and work to solve the problem. Help the child, guide the child.  Breathe in and breathe out.

Patience is developed over time.  I am certain I am more patient with this third child than I was with my first child.  Learning to relax into parenting and how to let go of the mentality that every single thing must be addressed so the child will not become a Detriment To Society is also learned.  Set a timer and see if you can keep your patience for half an hour if that is where you are, and work up from there. You can do this!  Fill your own tank so you have something to give.  Get your children into a rhythm with an early bedtime so you have time for you and time for you and your spouse.

Most of all, be thankful.  Go look at your children while they are sleeping, those small faces, realize how very little ages three, four and five really are.  And in this time of dwindling light and moving into darkness, work to cultivate yourself as a light for your family.

Need more help?

Here is the popular back post on “defiance”:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/16/a-few-fast-words-regarding-defiance-in-children-under-the-age-of-6/

Here is a post for when you are feeling chronically angry toward your family:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/01/05/an-emergency-how-to-how-to-parent-peacefully-with-children-under-age-9/  This is probably my personal favorite post I have ever written on anger.

Many blessings to you all tonight,

Carrie

The De-Escalator

Do you frequently come into a situation in your home in which a conflict needs to be worked out?  (Uh, every parent on the planet nods their head here).  Okay, so then do you typically escalate the situation or do you de-escalate it?

I ask this because many times we are in the midst of a situation in which our children require our guidance, and we think we are offering guidance, but we are doing it in the heat of the moment and in such a way that most likely all the child will remember afterwards is not the situation, not the “lesson” to be learned, but the way you made him or her feel.  Remember, you cannot guide the situation or have the child learn anything from the situation if everyone is crying, screaming, yelling or hitting.  You really  have to wait until things calm down until you can guide.  And then the piece after that is in the activity of doing, of restitution.  Save the lecture!  Work on the doing!

This is also true in any relationship where there is a conflict.  I remember finding this 45 record (remember those from oh so long ago?)  amongst my mother’s things – The Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out.”  Here it is to get you in the mood for some conflict resolution:

 

Love this, and what a timely reminder in conflict.  This phrase also happens to be the title of a nifty little NonViolent Communication book entitled (yes!):  “We Can Work It Out:  Resolving Conflicts Peacefully and  Powerfully:  A presentation of Nonvionent Communication ideas, and their use” by Marshall B Rosenberg, PhD.  This little booklet is only about 22 pages long, but I think it is very valuable in helping decipher what to do in conflict. 

The minute we start thinking, “Well, the problem with my child is that they won’t do “X”” that is really not expressing what we NEED.  We also do this with our spouses as well:   “Well, if my husband didn’t do “X” everything would be fine.”  I find that often mothers don’t really know what they need, but they sure know what they don’t like when they see it. :)  However, in order to have someone help you get what you want, you have to know what you need.

Dr. Rosenburg has a wonderful sentence in this book:  “At the point where either party hears themselves being criticized, diagnosed, or intellectually interpreted, I predict their energy will turn toward self-defense and counter-accusations rather than toward resolutions that meet everyone’s needs.” 

So, I think if you can define what you DO want, and then think of a strategy that meets what your need is, then you  have a much better chance at guiding your child.

The other part that can be very challenging but necessary in parenting is what Dr. Rosenburg calls “sensing the needs of others regardless of how others are expressing themselves.’ 

This is very hard with children if they are yelling or hitting or screaming.  But they are telling you something with this behavior if you can look underneath all that and then try to meet that need that they are showing you.  They need action from you, not a lot of words or questioning.

So, when you walk into a situation that requires conflict resolution, a situation that requires you to be “The De-Escalator”, know that you can do this. Children and family members give us the chance to practice this every day.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Parental Anger and Forgiveness of Children

This month I mentioned we are going to be looking at temperaments, love languages and nonviolent communication in an effort to be better wives, husbands, parents, friends and people.  We kicked it off with a  post on love, a post on patience, a post on changing our language and now this week we will be moving into the heart of the matter. 

So let’s dive in.  I wrote a post not too far back about “Parenting Exhaustion” that seemed to really strike a chord for this time of year, you can read it here:https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/04/13/parenting-exhaustion/  This post today is sort of a piggyback on the “Parenting Exhaustion” post and the post about yelling in parenting available here:  https://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/04/30/yelling-in-parenting/

Sometimes mothers talk to me and  feel as if they are doing a relatively good job at controlling their actions, voice and thoughts during a time of parenting challenge, but worry that afterwards, they just don’t feel loving toward their children for several hours.   They don’t feel like taking their child somewhere, and they are still thinking about whatever happened even though the child has obviously moved on quickly and is no longer thinking about the time in the morning when they were so frustrated and screaming, or hitting their parent, etc.   Children live in the moment, more about that in a minute, but let’s start with the mothers.

Some mothers I have spoke with really do attribute these feelings to fatigue and perhaps not enough exercise or time to themselves.  I think this is a possible contributor.  It certainly is easier to let things roll off your back when you are better rested and feel positive.  Many mothers describe how hard it is even to get fifteen minutes alone.  Even if husbands have taken the baby to give the mother a break, they are sometimes walking around with the baby right in front of the mother so the minute the baby cries, it is, “Why look, he wants Mommy!”   Some mothers feel as if they are on duty all the time, or at least on call.   Some mothers want to exercise and recharge that way, but  have a really hard time leaving their children, even older children, in the child care section at a gym. And, it is easy  if it is nighttime and Daddy is home but everyone is falling apart to sort of feel as if one cannot actually leave.  So self-care does become a hard-to-fulfill priority.

Some mothers have told me they thought anger and holding on to parenting challenges was lack of self-care but then they realized that they were fairly angry all the time about many things.  They scheduled sessions with a counselor and realized they had issues coming from their childhood that needed to be addressed so they could be happier parents.  That is a possibility as well.  I don’t think there is one thing wrong with seeing a mental health care professional for a tune-up just the way you see a physician for a physical check-up.  Parenting is a big adjustment, and each stage in parenting can bring different challenges.

The books on anger that I most often recommend are “love and anger: the parental dilemma” by Nancy Samalin and “How Anger Hurts Your Kids” by McKay, et al.  For other books about  gentle discipline, please see here: https://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/11/27/favorite-books-for-gentle-discipline/

So, if we handle things well, why do we feel so badly that we don’t bounce back as quickly as our children do?   As I always say, it is one thing to read in a parenting book that a child of “X” age is likely to spit, or hit, or kick, or scream in your face, but it is a whole different ballgame when those behaviors actually happen to you!  In real life!

So, I think in some ways this boils down to how you handle forgiveness in general.  What do you do, and how do you handle forgiveness in such circumstances as when someone won’t apologize to you, if you remember some “wrong” that has been done to you, how do you handle yourself when you make a mistake?  How do YOU react if someone talks to you about something you have done that wasn’t right?  We all are human, aren’t we?

And please do know that with a very small child, a child up to the nine-year change, that child really just lives in the present moment with probably very little connection to what just happened and how you are feeling (and do remember my mantra about the verbal games young children can play about feelings and such if they have been “trained” in such ways.   See back posts about this).

I think this can also go back to the original incident.  Did you handle the parenting challenge by stuffing your feelings so far down and smiling through the whole thing?  Probably not very authentic.  Gentle discipline still means you can be authentic.  I think it is okay to say,”Mommy doesn’t like that when you do that.” It is okay to feel angry or frustrated.  What is not okay is hitting your child or screaming at your child.  Show them what to do with anger or frustration that is productive, how to handle conflict. Don’t show them the way to handle conflict is to just stuff it down so you feel sick the whole day!  Model calming down and forgiveness.

I think it is okay to say, “Would you please draw me a picture and tell me you love me?” as restitution once things have calmed down.  I think it is okay to go sit outside and say, “I am going to sit here a minute until I feel better.”  l think it is okay to assume a child must be rather tired or over-stimulated  and perhaps just need to be home instead of going out that  afternoon and to go to bed a bit earlier.  But, what doesn’t work is the guilt trip thing, the “write the lecture down and leave it under their pillow so they can read it thing”….Because if you are having a hard time moving on from some incident that happened, , some part of your own Inner Child is saying, “Wow, that child was not nice and on some level I would like to see more remorse on that child’s part!  More angst!  In fact, that child should feel terrible… treat your mother like that!  I gave birth to that child!”  So, essentially we want to see more sorrow and sadness and restitution. 

I think what happens as we parent though, is hopefully that we get better at forgiveness.  We become better at forgiving ourselves, our spouses, and yes, our children.  We start to realize that  a little self-care goes a long way, and that as mothers we can make our children  a top priority but that we also need some inner work for ourselves to make the family run better.  We can  hone our skills of compassion, of meeting our child where they are  and enjoying them.  We can choose forgiveness and essentially choose to be warm and loving and to realize a child is not going to react to things the way an adult would, which is often really what we want.  We want that small child to be able to say, “Wow, I will never do that again” and how horrible they feel..Your child in their first seven year cycle of life does  not view things the same way you do being in your thirties!

That is the hard thing about parenting, to understand and carry what children do when they are small and don’t know better and need to be guided over and over.  To understand that whilst developmental stages still need to be guided because children have to live out in the real world eventually, that most of all what they need is love and compassion and forgiveness. 

We all learn together.

Many blessings,

Carrie