They say it’s those whom we love the most that are also the ones we hurt. I have found this to be excruciatingly true as a mother who struggles with sometimes uncontrollable anger. And sometimes a lot of it.
I have memories as a child of my mother’s similar temper. I loved her so much, but I also feared her rage. I never thought it might be something I could “inherit,” and when I only had one, very well-behaved child to care for I thought I was a pretty awesome stay-at-home mother. But then my daughter turned two. I had a newborn by then, and was still adjusting to my new role as mother-of-two.
It was at that time that my preschooler’s whining, crying, willful disobedience, and outright tantrums seemed to bring out the worst in me. There were some days in fits of frustration and uncontrollable anger that I would scream at my daughter, slam doors, spank her a little too hard, or other worse things I cannot even forgive myself for. I NEVER wanted to be the mom who treated her kids that way.
When things are good, temperaments are calm, and my mind is rational it seems so clear to me how I should react to my children’s misbehavior. I truly believe that my children are watching me, and learning from me. I know that angry outbursts and harsh punishments are not the way to teach them. I WANT to be a gentle parent. But then my oldest daughter will ask me “why not” for the hundredth time, my middle daughter will give me that attitude she is famous for, and my son will spit at me or hit, and all that cool, collected and rational thinking is gone, and this mommy monster just comes out of me. So what can I do?
How do I stay calm, and not throw an adult tantrum when my kids throw theirs? What do I do to make it right when I mess up? Can I keep my kids from suffering the same fate when they are grown? I have to believe so, and in the meantime, here is what I do:
I keep on reading.
The Gentle Parent, Parenting with Love and Logic, ChildWise, and Grace Based Parenting are just a few of my favorites. I have pages dogeared and bookmarked, all ready for when I feel like I’m going to lose it and need some wisdom to talk me down from the ledge. I lock myself in my room and read the same, calming passages over and over again until I cool down, and have the words to properly handle the situation.
I have accountability partners.
Better than a book; my husband, best friends, and even God are there for me to call out to whenever I need some sane, human council, or just an understanding, listening ear.
I take time-outs.
Time-outs are not just for misbehaving littles. If I can’t control my outbursts or my actions, I walk away so I can cool off. And while doing so, I usually employ one or both of the above.
We talk about it.
Communication is key for the health of all relationships, even with little people. After a cooling off period, I talk openly with my kids and my husband about what happened, what went wrong, and what we can do better next time. And then…
…I apologize. A lot.
I recognize when I blow it, and I ask for forgiveness. We expect our children to “say your sorry” when they mess up. Why should we be any different?
Are you seeing a trend here? It’s interesting how these anger management lessons for adults are similar to those we use on our kids. Frankly, it’s because children are just little adults and adults are just big kids. If we are healthy, we all function the same way inside. The best way to raise healthy, well-adjusted adults is to introduce these things to our kids, and sometimes, the best way to BE a healthy, well-adjusted adult is to keep practicing them ourselves!