Anger in parenting and how we can change it
This is my story of struggling with anger in my parenting journey. I write it to encourage anyone who relates, in hopes of inspiring change. 😉
I’ve struggled in this area for all of my parenting years, and though sometimes I have more of a grip than others, it may always be something I need to guard against. Granted, I usually hit my limit in very understandable circumstances, and you probably do too. That isn’t an excuse, but it is something we can learn from. I will cover three of my temper-triggers at the bottom of this post, and how being aware of them can save me from a lot of unnecessary agony.
This is not an easy, or pretty topic for me to cover, but sometimes those are the ones we need to talk about the most. It is my hope that by sharing some of my story, I might encourage you in your parenting as well.
I happen to be a very verbal person. I communicate 99% of my thoughts, out loud, and they are often repeated in a variety of versions…Just to make sure the listener fully understands me.
I use my communication skills to connect with my boys throughout the day, and I think Dave would agree that our marriage is stronger because of the energy I’ve put into communication. I make sure that we are all in understanding at all times. About everything. I might just pride myself a little on these stellar communication skills, sometimes even repeating whatever Dave just said to the kids, confident that I will get the point across a little more clearly. (I’m sure you’re impressed...) I like communicating well.
However, when my kids have pushed my very last button, and my frustration builds to THAT POINT (a few of you know what I mean,) then sometimes I find myself speeding head first into trouble, and I just can’t seem to find the brakes.
That is when it happens: My heart begins to pound, and my hands start a’tremblin’…I am mad, and I want…no, NEED, to express it. AND NOW. My mind races, thinking through every consequence I could give, but absolutely nothing comes to me. Really, how could any quietly spoken consequence express the level of frustration that I have been pushed into? (and trust me, even little frustrations can feel enormous given enough pressure, and enough distorted perspective.)
I try not to yell, I really do. I have a ways to go with that, but I’m working on it. But the way I tend to handle things is equally ugly and hurtful: It is the angry lecture, with gritted teeth, and a ranting monologue listing every possible wrong-doing involved in whatever led me to this point. The past hours…or days…Or who knows how long because I pull deep and hard to make sure that my point is made. And made CLEAR.
It brings tears to my eyes to even admit this part of me…
Sunday morning, Luke and I left the house at 5:00 AM to get to a surf contest, which was cancelled after our hour and a half drive to get there. Knowing there was no contest, I sent Luke out to free surf for a little bit, then felt good knowing that we could get back to the North Shore for church. There was a guest speaker at church who I was really wanting to hear. But before we left to drive home, Luke asked for “JUST FIVE MINUTES” so he could play in the shore pound with his friends. We agreed on five minutes, and he ran down the beach. Way, way down the beach.
Well, five minutes stretched into ten, then fifteen, and my frustration built. Twenty…twenty five minutes…Finally, I began waving like crazy at Luke, who accidentally-on-purpose avoided a glance in my direction. A full thirty minutes went by, and I was pretty sure we would not even make it back to make it to church. Finally, I stormed down the beach and eventually got Luke’s attention. The look on my face let him know how very late it was. And how very much trouble he was in.
As we walked back to the car, I said something along the lines of “I’m so mad right now, I won’t even talk, because if I do I’ll be really, really mean.” Which was followed by non-stop talking for the next fifteen minutes in the car. And yes, it was really, really, mean.
I relieved myself of all of the pressure. I lectured. I spoke angry words. I brought up past and present, and character, and…yet the more I spoke, the worse I felt.
Someone tell me I’m not alone?
One glance in my rear-view mirror showed me the hurt I was causing my son.
And I can’t speak for all of you, but as for me–one of the hardest parts about these frustrated /angry parenting episodes, is that unloading on them doesn’t help, but it lends to more unloading…as if I am hoping that just a little more will finally make things better.
And because I have trained my boys to be respectful, they won’t speak up and say what an idiot I’m being, or how I’ve gone on a little too long. No, they’ll sit and take it. They’ll apologize, and say probably anything in the world to just get this over with.
Moms and Dads: We have a captive audience with our kids unlike anyone else in the world…And sometimes, (shrinking in shame here,) we become control freaks, lording over them every stress in our life, like a tyrannical fool. And as bad as we’re feeling about it, one lecture can lead us to the next and to the next…Oh, and if there happens to be another kid around, look out, because they’re probably next in line.
Because that anger thing–It is like a disease that spreads and spreads…UNLESS something stops it.
I did stop it yesterday, midway through my lecture. I humbled myself and I asked Luke’s forgiveness. He let it go, and eventually we moved on to other topics. But I felt lousy in the worst way. I drove with a knot in my gut, simultaneously longing for church, and dreading it. I knew I had blown it.
We made it to church, though a few minutes late. And as I had expected, the entire message (on forgiveness) spoke to me. Right where I needed it. And the worship, it did some healing work in my heart. I was sorry for my temper. Sorry for my lecture. Sorry for acting more childish than a kid who played too long in the shore pound.
I was embarrassed, and I was genuinely repentant.
Yet with the repentant heart came the question: HOW DO I CHANGE THIS? Where did I go wrong? How do I avoid this happening again?
I want to create different patterns before I cause permanent damage.
I don’t like repenting over the same sin repeatedly. It cheapens things, and makes me lose confidence that I am really heading any where at all.
Thankfully, God’s forgiveness is not in short supply. His love is enduring, and His grace is enough.
But what hit me the most, was the realization that I have taken advantage of both my boys’ forgiveness, and God’s grace. I have allowed myself the freedom to let the mouth speak too many words, because I know I can get by with it. And that is really, really wrong. I have spoken hurtful words to the people I love most without first filtering them…praying through them, and handling them with wisdom. And that is not okay.
I recognize that there are a few triggers which greatly influence me losing my temper.
ONE, is when I am tired. This means, I ought to be extra careful, (and quiet,) when I am tired. **And I ought to work on getting more sleep!
TWO, is when I haven’t had breaks from my kids in a while. Moms NEED to get away and refresh. Maybe more often than we realize.
THREE, when I’ve let things build up. If I am not disciplining for the small stuff, then I tend to carry all of those things over into the bigger issue, and make turn it into something it really isn’t. This morning’s lecture was really more about some things that happened yesterday, and last week, and I had simply let them go. I could have avoided built-up frustrations by parenting better yesterday.
Obviously, if I can improve on those THREE areas, I am in a much better state of mind to parent with maturity and wisdom.
But what about those times when I have not gotten enough sleep…When I haven’t been able to get a break from the kids and I am literally burnt out?…Or when some things have built up and I find myself out of PATIENCE…Heart racing, hands trembling…trouble coming?
Well, I know that it is best to get alone with God and pray. I know that taking ten deep breaths, or listening to orchestra, or calling a friend are great tools. These are all good and helpful.
But most important of all is remembering HOW MUCH GOD has forgiven me, and then forbidding myself from behaving in a way that only hurts my kids and myself. (Also known as SELF CONTROL, and if we are taking this seriously, we CAN DIG DEEP and find it.)
Then I can take a deep breath, and talk to my kids. I can promise them that WE WILL talk about this issue—AND WE WILL DOLE OUT SOME APPROPRIATE CONSEQUENCES–as soon as I have gathered myself. However long that may take…(Trust me, taking away a few of their favorite things for a day or two will teach them a much greater lesson than our maniac tirades ever will…#truth.)
THE BIGGEST LESSON:
I have realized that when I handle my frustrations the wrong way, I am being lazy, and selfish. I am putting my need to vent above my kids need for a reasonable, wise mother. And yes we are all pushed to our limits, but no–it’s not ok to be a lousy parent. I wouldn’t let this stuff fly to any friend, co-worker, or human being on earth, so why should I do it to my kids?
Do you have some experiences in this area that you can share? I would love to hear from you, and I think other parents would love to hear as well. Have you overcome these issues? Do you have some helpful tools? Is there a certain area that you struggle?
I should end the story with the fact that Luke and I had a good chat after church. I apologized not just for that morning, but for the times I have been angry and parented without self control. I explained my sorrow for taking advantage of his (and God’s) forgiveness, and let him know that I really want to improve in this area. And because his Sunday School class had covered the same topic as our church, he said he also had realized that HE had taken advantage of MY forgiveness, and felt badly for pushing me by not being more obedient.
And obviously, the act of repenting and communicating is a lesson in itself, modeling important character qualities to our kids. So sure, that counts for something.
Oh, parenting is hard work, isn’t it?…And one thing we can be sure of: The next challenge is just around the corner! 🙂 So, let’s all stay on our guard. Pray for self control, and remember to 1. Be rested. 2. Get breaks from your kids and stay refreshed, and 3. Don’t let things build up. Discipline early, and stay on top of things. It will all pay off for everyone! And please…Don’t take this stuff lightly. Your kids are worth it. You are worth it.
I do hope you’ll share in comments below, and as always, if this has blessed you, I hope you’ll pass it on through social media!