As parents, we want better, strive harder, and give more to our children without contemplating the essential balance required to maintain our own wellbeing. To many of us, parenting involves love and dedication to the thankless commitment of raising our children in the hope of improving on the memories of our own childhood.
Life has a strange way of throwing us curve balls that continuously test our resolve. Parenting can be a series of painful repetitive tests that always favor failure as the outcome.
Mental ability differs greatly between children and parents, and this highly overlooked fact is cause for most parenting stumbling blocks. Children are yet to learn about the value of virtues but parents often use wrath to push virtuous behavior.
To children, unconditional love is a fact of life, but even this solid foundation cannot stand up to parents expressing anger and resentment toward them. Children will continuously test boundaries in their learning because they lack the understanding and experience of their parents.
We will look at the child-parent relationship and offer some solutions to dealing with stress-causing parenting issues.
The benefit of hindsight
This is a luxury reserved for grandparents and parents with grown-up kids. If we think back to our own childhood, we may remember the many punishments, the endless “time-out” hours spent in our bedroom, the anger in dad’s loud voice screaming over us that overwhelmed us with fear, or mom pretending not to hear our plea for love and support.
When we think back to our own childhood, we remember friendships with fondness. We remember so many of the early achievements that gave us a sense of invincibility.
Many of us will remember that our parents were not there to witness some of these first achievements, yet we don’t seek reason but instead, we judge our parents poorly for not being there for us.
Every parent will have issues with how their parents raised them, and the majority will vow to be better parents to their children. Life experiences are formed by a response to changing circumstances which in many cases bring hardships. Love is seldom in question, but parenting is always judged harshly.
Once again, thinking back to our own childhood, we would undoubtedly have made different choices if we were in our parent’s shoes. This is often a bitter pill to swallow when dealing with hindsight because we forget that our parents did their best for us based on the information they had at the time. They didn’t have the luxury of foresight that today is our hindsight.
Parenting is complicated
With all due respect, moms and dads have to have the knowledge of a child psychologist and the patience of a loving grandmother if they want seamless bliss in their home.
Children learning about life is messy. The right questions are not asked as most children wear a parent-given cloak, telling them they come first and are loved the most.
Boundaries created to promote good behavior are often disregarded just to keep the peace. This is a fundamental weakness in parenting as ignoring set boundaries gives in to manipulation, and children do this so well.
Children do not understand how a failing economy can affect their life. They don’t know how much pressure is placed on moms to make things work and be there for their every desire. Children focus on themselves and see both mom and dad as their providers and source of love and security. Children respond poorly when things don’t go their way, and mom is the one who usually has to pick up the pieces.
Parents behaving badly
When confronted with a situation, a parent may respond to their child’s behavior in a more destructive way than a loving, understanding, and uplifting manner.
Avoid lashing out at your child in anger. This behavior can be traced back to your own childhood, and it is often a result of scary emotions that pop up within you and cause your irrational childlike reaction related to your own fear, dismay, and guilt. This bursting feeling is caused by the conclusion we reach from our perception of the behavior.
All children will test their parents and sometimes push the wrong button, but children don’t control and cause a parent’s response. Poor reaction from a parent is no different from throwing a childlike tantrum, but this is normal as it reflects our own childhood scars.
Children pushing our buttons is a phenomenon called “ghosts in the nursery.” It simply means that children simulate the intense feelings of our childhood, and we re-enact the past in our response. The fears we experienced as children stay with us and haunt us when confronted with a similar situation. Parental anger towards children is harmful.
To put this in perspective, imagine your spouse screaming at you in a heated argument. Now think about this from a child’s vantage point when you yell at them in anger.
Your child depends on you for their food, shelter, love, safety, and protection, yet your actions threaten their very foundation, and what amplifies the fear is that you are two, three, or four times bigger than your child.
Amplify the feeling you have when your spouse screams at you 1000 times to understand how anger towards your children affects them.
Research shows that the development of children who suffer physical violence like spankings, anger, and verbal abuse are negatively affected and can result in lowered IQ, poor relationships with others, and substance abuse. In addition, anger towards children will push them away, making them more susceptible to peer pressure.
There is hope
The light at the end of the tunnel is how you handle your anger and how you teach this vital lesson to your children. Never act while you are angry. First, calm down in whatever way works for you and let your child see how you deal with your anger. Later, when calm, please speak to your child in a soft but firm mature tone about their behavior.
- No hitting
- No swearing
- No name-calling
- No immediate punishment
- No screaming
- No hurting
You become a positive role model for your child by managing your anger, and they will learn this important lesson that will stay with them for life.
Here are some ways to control and manage your anger:
- Set boundaries or limits and stick to them. Talk to your child about your work stress and ask them to be a little more considerate.
- Calm down before you act. Breathe deeply and focus on things that will lift your mood. This helps to teach your brain a new good habit which gives you better self-control.
- Give yourself a time-out away from your child so you can calm down.
- Listen to anger rather than acting on it. Learn what is making you angry and once in a calm state, work out ways to prevent becoming angry.
- Expressing anger reinforces and escalates it. You lose the ability to think rationally when acting out of anger. Rather express the fear that gives rise to anger but do not project your emotions on your child to deal with.
- Wait before you discipline your child. Tell your child you need to think about their behaviour and you will discuss it later with him or her.
- Avoid physical force altogether. About 85% of children say they have been spanked by their parents in spite of research showing how detrimental it is. Spanking becomes your way to manage and release your anger but its effects on your child are long-reaching.
- Avoid threats. Threats made in anger are unreasonable and if not acted out only serve to undermine your authority.
- Monitor your tone and word choice.
- Make a list of acceptable ways to deal with your anger. You should have this conversation with your children. Being a role model for your child means that the rules apply to you too so speak to them about managing anger. Post your list on the refrigerator door so your children can read and learn from it.
- Consider the fact that you might be part of the problem so learn from your children about your vulnerabilities and take responsibility for your emotions. In return, teach them how to cope with anger and be responsible for their actions.
- If you cannot cope it is best to consider counselling. Never be afraid to ask for help.
Is it right to tell your child how disappointed you are with their behavior?
No, not outright because it is shaming your child. Your child will know that you are disappointed without you spelling it out.
The simple fact that your child witnesses you constructively managing your anger over a situation will be enough for them to feel some form of responsibility.
Choose your words carefully when speaking to your child. You can tell your children what you expect from them, like honesty, but you are responsible for your own emotions. It would be best to teach your children to manage their emotions by being good role models.
I sometimes feel desperate and want to walk away from parenting. Is this normal?
For many parents, it is normal, especially under trying circumstances. You may want to consider some help or perhaps joining a support group where you can learn new ways of coping with the stresses of parenting.
I’ve tried everything, but my child’s behavior is only getting worse. What should I do?
It’s not wise to speculate on reasons, so the best advice I can give you is to sit down with a child psychologist and explain your relationship with your child. It may be necessary to make a later appointment where your child joins you.
I’m sure you will benefit greatly from the professional insight that will shed light on underlying issues you or your child may have.
Parenting can sometimes be a never-ending nightmare, yet we all smile and talk about the wonders of raising children.
Like we learn to project a good image of our family unit no matter how false it is, we too can learn how to deal with relationship issues within our family units where learning and practicing good family values are real and rewarding. We can create that “almost” perfect family image.
Learning to deal with anger in parenting requires a lot of patience and understanding. It may even require us as parents to confront the demons of our childhood and enforce change, so we don’t pass on the destructive parenting we experienced.
Read, research, listen, and ask as many questions as you can so you can better equip yourself to be the parent your child sees you as.
You are their life, provider, source of love and security, role model, and the person they love and depend on the most. You can be all this and so much more.