There’s no nice way to start this post…
I came across a link on Facebook a few days ago – a news story about a couple that brutally and sexually assaulted their son. The boy died in the hospital, suffering from shaken baby syndrome, as well as numerous bruises and broken bones. He was one month old.
According to the bible, we’re supposed to love our fellow man. We’re not supposed to hold murder in our thoughts. Right now, that’s an incredible struggle. Every day, week, month and year, more news stories crop up, spewing the nauseating, heart breaking stories of attacks on our children. Many of those attacks are either caused by, or facilitated by, the very people who are supposed to protect them.
After reading the story, I asked my dad how you stop from hating people who do such horrible things. He said,
“Think of all the things in your life that you’ve done. Think of the worst things you’ve done. A lot of people would look at those things and say, ‘I don’t understand how you could do that’. -And you’ll say, ‘well, I was young and stupid’ or ‘I didn’t think’. We all do stupid things.”
He then told me about a news story he’d read recently about a woman frustrated with her job and life in general. Her daughter came in, covered in expensive lipstick, and said “Mommy, I was trying to write you a letter and it got all over me. I can’t get it off.”
The woman reacted in frustration and smacked her daughter, who fell backwards and snapped her neck. She found the letter her daughter had tried to write on her bed. “Mommy, I love you.”
After he finished he said, “That woman is going to have to live with that for the rest of her life. She’s not going to able to forget it – it’s not going to go away. All because she did something stupid without thinking.”
I think my dad’s pretty wise.
Images flashed through my mind – the times I’ve lost my temper and yelled, the first time I held my babies in my arms, the many times I’ve reacted to life’s difficulties with carelessness and without thought….
You know that saying: but for the grace of God, there go I? Yes. That.
Getting a Grip on Anger
Working at home with three kids in the fast paced, ever-changing industry of internet marketing can be extremely frustrating. It took me five years, if not longer, to get a grip and realize I had to figure out how to control that frustration: keep it contained so it didn’t spill over to my kids. –And I know I’m not the only one.
Although the things I’ve set in place don’t work all the time (mainly, I think, because I forget to keep a tight rein on myself), I have found some things that help in a work/home environment with little ones under foot. Maybe they’ll help you too, and if you have some methods that work, please feel free to share them.
A few years ago, I had a discussion with myself. I told myself I’d never pronounce a disciplinary measure while angry, whether the result was a swat to the butt, time in their rooms or grounding. It took about six weeks to realize that wasn’t enough.
Now when I’m angry, I ground myself. I tell my children I need time to calm down and then leave the room.
I found some amazing side benefits to this. Taking the time to calm down also allows me time to think about the situation. In turn, this enables me to find more inventive, and more fitting, discipline. For example, about a year ago, C stomped into his bedroom and slammed the door for the umpteenth time.
Instead of yelling at him, I calmly told him that slamming the door in anger was an act of defiance and made him open and shut the door quietly 10 times. The second time, it was 20 times, and he had to say “slamming the door is an act of defiance” each time he opened the door. I thought it was stupid, but it was all I could think of.
Crazy thing is that it worked! A year later, he has yet to slam the door in anger.
How to Interrupt
Sometimes it feels like my kids can’t make it to the bathroom and back without asking me how. Even though I know most of that feeling comes from frustration over how well (or not) work is going, I haven’t quite managed to stop snapping when the interruptions become frequent.
Although I explained to them that the snapping came from frustration about work and not anger at them, it still didn’t solve the problem. So… I taught them the “right” way to interrupt. They come into my office and put their hand on my shoulder until I acknowledge them, and then stand where I can see them.
There are two reasons for this. One, a lot of my work involves writing. A hand on my shoulder catches my attention enough to realize they’re there, without breaking into my thought before I can finish it.
Two, we’ve found that leaving their hand on my shoulder is irritating; it’s almost as bad as having someone nag at you. However, if they take their hand off and I can’t see them, I can easily forget to stop once the thought is finished. Standing where I can see them keeps them in my mind without the nagging feeling.
It doesn’t work all the time because they forget or I do, but the times it works, it works well.
If I Shut My Doors, Pretend I’m Not Home
Now, even as I write this, I realize some of you can’t shut your doors. I live with my parents, which makes it easier to do – and, my kids are 6 and older.
When I shut my doors, I make sure my kids know I’m going into a conference or really have to concentrate. It took awhile for them to get used to the idea, but they now know that when my doors are shut, they aren’t welcome unless it’s an emergency.
At the end of most work days, I try to make it a point to go around and hug my children. They know that means “Mom’s home” and that I’m available. Sometimes, this means a barrage of voices from all sides at once, but hey, that’s part of having kids.
The times I’ve remembered to do this, they react better towards me the rest of the day. There seems to be a reconnection happening that I haven’t quite pinpointed yet. It’s fascinating, really. I can almost always tell by their actions whether I forgot or not.
I Wish I’d Been More Consistent
The things above – well, they work most of the time. When they don’t, it’s usually because either my kids or I forgot to follow the rules.
Consistency, though… hind sight is 20/20. Consistency is so amazingly important, and not just for your kids. It also requires your own discipline. “I’ve set this rule in place. This is the punishment for this offense.” Once that’s done and you stick with it, you and your children no longer have to wonder what the punishment will be for specific broken rules.
Amazingly, children (at least my own) seem to crave that consistency. After all, how can you weigh the consequences of an action if you never know how light or severe a punishment will be?
Darn it – I sure wish I’d known that from the jump…
I hope one or any of the “anger calmers” I use will be helpful for you. –And again, please feel free to share your own experiences and tips in the comments.
Kids don’t come with a parenting manual, but maybe we can band together and write one!