I want everyone to leave my blog, right now, and go over and read this one. It's a post by Bernadette Noll, about what is, for me, the most fascinating and vexing parenting reality: what to do, how to respond, when I get angry at my kids.
By now, all faithful readers of my blog know that I sometimes lose it with my kids, as evidenced here. To give myself credit, it doesn't happen often. But it's so huge when it does, and it feels so overwhelming, that I find it absolutely compelling. I want to understand myself in these moments. And mostly, I want to find a reliable and principled way to deal with them.
So now I am inspired by Bernadette, and I was planning to write more on this topic anyway! I got several comments on that post about smacking my son, folks saying how courageous I was to write it. To me it doesn't feel that way. It feels natural to write about it. If I'm not ashamed to ACT that way with my kids, I sure shouldn't be afraid to WRITE about it. (Oh...but I was ashamed to act that way! anyway...)
Here's what I wrote on Bernadette's "comments" page:
"Why isn't everybody in the world talking about these moments with our kids? In our ker-ay-zee world of war and suicide bombers, why aren't all parents taught, early and often, about these inevitable times? Because they're just the very most important opportunities, that's all. Dealing with anger--that almighty mobilizer and protector of our selves--is the linchpin of our work as parents. Whatever we do, our kids will take as true, and bring out into the world. Just like all the other billions of humans are doing."
Family life is the greatest of intimacies. It's about love and sharing, and it's also about our needs bumping up against each other. When anger comes up, it is always our self telling us that we are ignoring and/or neglecting it. The trick, especially with kids, is to heed that warning and stand up for ourselves, AND to do so in a way that we would feel proud to see our kids replicate. I want to give my kids a way to deal with their own, and others', anger--one that will best serve them in life, outside of our unique family communication system.
When I am angry at my children, it is generally for these reasons:
- They are behaving egocentrically, i.e., incapable--usually temporarily--of thinking of anyone else. Of course! They're kids
- They are harming persons or property.
- They don't "get it" about what's expected in a given setting.
- They are demanding my presence, only in an unacceptable way--by acting out. They need my authority and leadership (and often, a pillow).
- I am overwhelmed and undercared-for in some/many ways.