Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Anger. Ours. Not Theirs.

Phoenix is probably the most even-tempered person I've ever known. It takes a LOT to get him worked up about anything. As a child, he threw maybe 5 temper tantrums. Easy, easy, easy. And in my young, naive idiocy, I thought it had something to do with me.

Buttercup was a tiny baby, and Phoenix was 18 months. We were visiting with a friend who had a son Phoenix's age, and we moms were discussing the way we discipline the boys. The following words actually came out of my mouth...

"I can't even imagine getting angry with him and raising my voice to yell at him."

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

As a seasoned mom, I know better.

I know what children can do to make us moms lose our gourds.

As one friend said (a different, more seasoned, funnier friend) about her crazed look, furrowed brow, and wild eyes, "I did not look like this before I had kids!"

Children can be maddening and infuriating, and what maddens and infuriates each of us is different.

I have an abundance of patience when taking care of little kids. I don't get rattled by much when it comes to toddlers and preschoolers.

(Except for extreme cases like Giant. He about sent me over the edge as a toddler and preschooler. (Read that post if you have a strong-willed, volatile child.))

With older kids, I have a harder time keeping calm. In theory, I know they are learning and growing just as much as toddlers, but in practice...they are as big or bigger than me. Surely they know better! 

But they don't.

So today I will give you some ideas on how to stay calm, cool, and collected in the face of horribly behaved kids.

1. The very first thing I have to do is make sure the child is actually behaving horribly. At first glance, things may look bleak, but by stopping and trying to see what is actually going on, the anger might melt away.

I once had all four little kids at a store purchasing kids' clothes. We were in the checkout line, and I was busy keeping the baby and toddler happy. When I looked down, I saw that Buttercup had DESTROYED the endcap display. It was hangers and hangers full of socks, and she had taken off almost every single one. My first instinct was to yell at her for making such a mess, but thankfully I instead stopped and calmly asked her what she was doing. She replied, "They are messed up. The blue ones on the back should be up here on this hanger." In her mind, she wasn't making a mess. She was cleaning up the mess some clumsy adult had made. I just can't get mad at that.

2. I must examine the root of my anger. Is it the child's behavior or my exhaustion/being overwhelmed/irritation with someone else the problem?

Recently, Cuckoo and I were at the school playground waiting for the big kids to finish school. His first trip down the slide ended in him sliding through a puddle and landing on the dirt at the end. He was a sopping wet, muddy mess. When he landed, I let out a guffaw of laughter, yelled, "Whoops!" and went to see just how naked he was going to have to be for the ride home. 

A woman I barely know (whose oldest is in kindergarten) said to me, "That is far from the reaction I would have had if it were my kid", implying that she would have been angry in the same situation. 

I used to go there. When a child makes a mess (or is the mess), my mind goes straight to the that's-just-one-more-thing-I-have-to-do-that-I-don't-have-time-for. But after hundreds of such messes, I've come to realize that my anger is ludicrous. The child didn't mean to slide into a mud puddle/spill his cereal/fall on the playground and rip his pants/drop the milk jug/run through the house excited to tell me something, leaving a trail of dog poo that was stuck to his shoe on the kitchen floor. Getting mad at him simply makes him less likely to slide down slides/eat/play at recess/get excited to tell me something.

3. Read the Bible.

I will never forget the day...

That morning, I had opened my Bible and just randomly started reading some Scripture. I landed on Proverbs 14. "He that is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly." I didn't think much of it, but said a prayer and went about my day.

While I was making lunch, the kids were in the "running room" (aka living room without a lick of furniture) around the corner. They were not running, but were happily playing. I went around to tell them that their food was ready, only to discover that they had been using this time to draw all over the walls with markers.

Normally, I would have lost it, but that day, the verse I had read just hours before popped into my head. I stopped, did some deep breathing and praying to God to help me not be foolish, then dealt with the situation. Not once did I raise my voice or lose my cool. 

4. Give the child a hug.

Many years ago, I once told a friend that when I'm angry and just don't know what to do, I simply hug the kid. She jokingly asked, "Why, so you can squeeze him to death?"

No.

Though the thought does cross my mind.

Honestly, I give him a hug simply so I can physically feel how small he really is. When I remember this, I can then remember that an angry adult can do some terrible damage to someone so little. With my words as well as my hands. 

This also works for a teenager, but for different reasons. Since the teens are as big or bigger than me, I don't feel how small they are. Instead, it throws them off. They either are so stunned they hug back, which will of course calm me down, or they wiggle away, which then turns into a joke and I hang on harder and we end up laughing a bit.

5. When all else fails, get the heck out of the room.

As I have told my children countless times, good choices are not made in a fit of rage. We will almost always regret the things we say or do to another person when we are angry. Leaving the room to calm down is the best option. Always. It doesn't mean the other person wins. It doesn't mean you condone the other person's behavior. It simply means a break is needed in order to solve the problem rationally.

I wish I could say that I've never yelled at a child. I wish I could say that I've never slapped a child.

I can't.

I get angry sometimes.

I sometimes do things and say things I regret.

It doesn't happen often, but it has happened.

And when I have done these things, I've done what I expect my kids to do.

I apologize. 

And I do my absolute best to learn from it and do better next time.

Now it's your turn.

What do you do when you get angry at your children?

What helps you get a handle on your emotions?

I want to hear!

Have a lovely day!

35 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. I love the story of Cuckoo sliding through a puddle and landing in the dirt - that was my son at the age of three. My mom and I had taken him to the seaside for the day and he wanted to go on one of those slides with several lanes which have dips in the middle - unfortunately he chose the one lane which had a puddle in the dip, slid straight through it and landed on the sand at the end. What did my mom and I do? - we laughed ourselves silly. It's a good job I'd taken a change of clothes for him though!

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    2. yes, ma'am!

      Ah, you are a smart mom indeed. Not only did you handle the mess appropriately, you came prepared for just such an occasion!

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  2. (when Ola was a puppy, she chewed things…as all puppies do). Phyllis and I both worked and our brilliant solution was to barricade Ola in the kitchen during the day (it's a galley style kitchen, small…3 walls are cabinets and refrigerators and the floor was vinyl). What could go wrong? I returned that first day and there in the middle of the kitchen, sitting on a pile of vinyl was Ola, wagging her tail and smiling (in that way that German Shepherd do so well), as if to say, "Hey! Look what I did! Took all day, but I got it all!"
    I smiled and said, "Good girl! Yeah I really was tired of that old vinyl too!"

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    1. Famous last words... "What could go wrong?" Plenty, as we all have to find out the hard way. :)

      These tips work for working with animals, too, as we found out when the dogs ripped my van apart. And Bryan's car. Twice.

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  3. Hi, I am visiting from A-Z. I liked your suggestions. I especially liked what you wrote about the hug. “Honestly, I give him a hug simply so I can physically feel how small he really is”.
    Oh yes, I have gotten angry at my children. Rarely, but it did happen, almost out of control angry. But the one thing having children taught me was patience. And also how to love another person completely and without condition.
    Great post!

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    1. Of all the things parenting teaches us, patience is one of the most useful. It's hard to learn sometimes, though!
      Thanks for stopping by and adding your thoughts!

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  4. This is a wonderful post. Because adult anger is very difficult for children to process and understand. They internalize it and it affects self esteem. You are a wise, loving and creative Mom.

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    1. Thanks Val. It is very hard for kids to understand, especially the sensitive ones. Turken hates to get in trouble, so even just talking to him in a normal voice gets him all teary. When people yell, not even at him, he gets scared. I'm even more careful with him.

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  5. Ahhhhh this is really good, for something which you snap-decision changed to. And great anyway!

    It's fascinating - Niece and Neff have very different expectations for when they're with me, than the ones they hold for with my mum or my Sis...and their behaviours sometimes baffle me. I HAVE been veryvery angry, and I've had to leave rooms. I've yelled, too. But also I know that there have been times when I've remained calm and patient about something because I HAVE been able to think it through and see the lack of malice, or accident, or sheer joie de vivre which resulted in whatever catastrophe it was.

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    1. Thank you.

      It is astounding how kids can change depending on who is in charge. I saw it all the time as a teacher. At a conference, I'll tell a parent how well-behaved and kind her child is, while the parent is astounded. Based on the child's behavior at home, she was prepared to hear all sorts of problems from me. I see it with my nieces and nephews, too. When they stay with us, they are very different than when their parents are around. It is fascinating, really.

      Pat yourself on the back for those times you've thought things through. It isn't easy to do. I always get so happy with myself when it's all over if I've handled it properly. :)

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  6. Kids can be trying, but our reaction to the things they do is key to our survival. You seem to approach things very well if you ask me.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. Well, thank you very much, Sandee!
      My kids are going to have t-shirts made up to make fun of all of my sayings someday...

      I tell them frequently that they can't control someone else's behavior, but they can control their reaction to it. It's hard to control it, but it is so important to do so!

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  7. Replies
    1. You are so sweet. Now it's the end. :)

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  8. I guess I exalt folly (though I'm not entirely sure what that means) because I am quick-tempered. My kids have heard me apologize for losing my tempter too many times. It's something I work on.

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    1. I'm working on it right along with you. Pretty sure I'll be working on it until the day Cuckoo moves out. :)

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  9. Wonderful suggestions! I'm your newest follower. :-) I'm blogging "Lifehacks for Christian Moms" at http://achristianmomsguide.blogspot.com/ .

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    1. I look forward to seeing you around and seeing some more of your lifehacks!

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  10. Children of our lives but they can be a pain at times but we still love them no matter what they do wrong. They are our destinies. Have a wonderful evening. See ya.

    Cruisin Paul

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    1. It is because we love them so much that we try so very hard to improve and stay calm.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  11. I was raised by parents who yelled, stormed, slapped, and derided. That resulted in a great deal of frustration, rage, and defeat. I did better with my own two kids, but by no means completely avoided such behavior. I wish I had known then what you know. I am always amazed at how well they've turned out despite parenting that was at best well-intended. I think your best advice is to adults and children alike is not to respond in fits of rage, this can cause damage that will last a lifetime, and the regrets will be huge. Walk away and breathe! Great post!!

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    1. Bryan and I used to counsel engaged couples before they married, and we always talked about families of origin. In times of stress, we almost always go back to what we're used to. It takes a conscience effort and a lot of work not to. Sounds like you did a lot of work, because I know you were in a lot of stress when the kids were young. I don't completely avoid the behavior either. We're human and make mistakes.

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  12. I dont know if my comment came out this morning or not... WHEW... always... anyway I just wanted you to know that I copied this post and gave it to someone today who is feeling overwhelmed with yelling at kids...not her style typically.... she was so appreciative... she is a good friend and really is just too stressed lately.... I think this helped her put things in perspective! Thanks.

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    1. Ha! Your comment did make it through, but on a different post. I was wondering why you'd want to print off a post about my mom. :)

      I am so glad something I wrote could help someone. I will say some prayers for your friend.

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    2. I was wondering that later on .... hahahaha! Funny I meant to get back to your Mom's selfie post!

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  13. I love all your ideas. I would add, "and pray" to your third suggestion. (You did pray, of course, so that isn't a new idea.) I have also found that music is a great tool. When I would get frustrated when my oldest was a toddler, I would often grab the children's songbook and sit and sing with my child. One day, he was the one who went and got the book and led me over to the rocking chair!

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    1. Ah! MUSIC! Great suggestion!! I don't know if I've ever sat and sang with one of my kids with a songbook. Shoot, we don't even have a songbook. We do sing, but with the help of a CD. But, it works well to break tension and get our moods to lighten. Thank you!

      And praying, of course. I sometimes forget that not everyone does that. :)

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  14. Really enjoyed this post! I haven't really experienced much anger towards baby boy yet, but I am well aware that the time is coming where I will. I know very well that I just got lucky that he is so even-tempered so far (he reminds me of the way you talk about Phoenix) and that it isn't anything I have done. Just telling him "no" calmly at this stage produces a face of hurt and tears. Bless his sweet soul! Anyway, I will be certainly keeping this post in my mind for the future, because I know these moments are coming!!

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    1. I'm glad! No, I imagine you haven't had reason to be mad at that sweet little thing yet. I hope it doesn't come for a long time. :) If he is anything like Phoenix, it probably won't. It wasn't until Phoenix was much older that he did anything to make me angry.

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  15. Good morning,

    I have no idea how or why I am up, but here I am! I like number 1 and 2 because they deal a lot with patience and assessing the situation before reacting. So many people, including myself sometimes, are prone to knee-jerk reactions. With your story about Buttercup, I can't imagine very many mothers I know who would have investigated before simply lashing out and berating their child. This is unfortunate. I feel when it comes to kids, those first two situations are fairly common. What they are doing, and how others perceive what they are doing, are not always the same.

    How do I avoid getting angry at my children? I avoid having them. I wrap it and then I double wrap it! HA sorry, it's been too long, so I had to be a little raunchy no?

    I'm pretty sure from what I've gleaned in the past that you laugh more than yell when it comes to the antics involving your children.

    I mean just look at them on the sidebar. Innocent little angels, each and every one of them! By the way, why hasn't your hubby received a coveted sidebar slot yet? You know he wants one!

    Good luck with the A to Z, I hope to stop by as often as I can!

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    1. I haven't always been so smart as to stop and ask. I've gotten better the more times I've been tested. :) My goal is to always ask a question to give them a chance to explain what they are doing before making any assessment. It usually happens.

      I would have worried if you didn't say something borderline offensive. :)

      I try really hard to keep things light. It's gotten much harder as the kids have gotten into their teen years. Wow. Not that they are bad kids, but it's really hard to forget that they shouldn't be expected to act like an adult, even when they are bigger than most adults. (of course, there are plenty of examples of adults who have never learned to act like an adult...but I digress...)

      Yeah, I doubt he wants one. He is in the about me page, though. It's a little compromise.

      Thank you!

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  16. Wow - Beautifully written and great advice; James will be 14 in 2 months and boy or boy it shows - so yes your words are greatly appreciated. I went back and read the post about Giant; what great advice. I'm sorry but I get that there are some kids that just drain the heck out of everyone; but I always say it, just scratch that surface and there is always goodness under there.

    My kids are proof - you know how many people would nod there heads when they heard we were adopting older kids and internationally - the thing is we met them first before we adopted (for 3 weeks) and yes we scratched the surface and saw good loving children. :)

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  17. Excellent ideas!!! I wish had I more patient and took the time to enjoy the times when the boys were little. It goes by so fast and of course when people tell you that...you really don't believe them. As I have gotten older I have learned to see the humour in most things otherwise there would be an awful lot of tears. :D

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Thank you for taking the time to tell me what you're thinking!