Posted by: Hannah | 08/30/2011

angry parents – a response

The fabulous and wonderful Not Mary P at Daycare Daze posted this morning about anger and how it impacts our parenting. (If you’ve never checked out her blog, and you have young children, you probably should. She’s got a great approach, tons of advice and resources, and as an added bonus she can really tell a story.)

Reading it over my morning coffee got me thinking, to the point where rather than hijacking her comments with my ramblings I decided to post instead.

When I was young, my parents were… very angry. A lot of the time. They both expressed it poorly. My mom would stew – you always knew when something was pissing her off, although you seldom knew what it was. The best tactic at those times was to tiptoe around, making no noise, and hoping to goodness something would happen to cheer her up. If you unwisely set her off at a time like that… well, a lot of dishes got smashed, there was a lot of yelling, and ‘time-out’ meant ‘get outside and don’t come back in for a good long while’. My dad would blow quicker, with less brooding first; I learned some of the best swear words from Dad, but unfortunately the blow-up didn’t clear the air. He would instead sink into a black pit of shame & remorse that was frankly harder to deal with than the yelling.

Mom gradually got better at not losing her temper, although I still think she’s not very good at expressing her anger in a reasoned or constructive way. Dad and I continued to have loud screaming fights until I left home; we get along fine now, and I don’t think he’s blown his top in years, either. Certainly I have no concerns about the kids going to stay with them… I know they are far better grandparents than parents.

As an adult I have more of an appreciation for the extreme pressures they were under at the time. And I don’t know that I would have done any better in their situation. But I do know that I have struggled my whole life with how to express anger ‘correctly’ – and that parenting has been harder for me because of it.

I don’t smash plates. I don’t break furniture. I don’t hit. I do get angry though. Sometimes too angry. I say things I shouldn’t. Sometimes when Thing #1 is being a whiny, entitled drama queen, I search for words that will hurt, just to get through his self-pity and make him hear me. When Thing #2 pitches a fit because I have the nerve to offer to help him pick out clothes, sometimes I just walk away from him with a scowl on my face – withholding love and refusing to hug him. Yes, a three year old. No, that’s not grown-up; that’s childish & petulant.

When I do lose it, I always apologize and say that I shouldn’t have behaved like that. I expect them to try and express anger in appropriate ways. I am not good at modelling that; I try, but I worry that one over-the-top reaction negates ten reasoned, adult ones.

It’s something I work on every day, but man, is it tough. It’s the hardest thing about parenting, in my opinion. Because in the moment, saying in calm and measured tones “I am very angry right now” just doesn’t do my feelings justice. Losing my temper is an inherently selfish act, and it’s so difficult to stop… as Homer Simpson said “It’s true! I’m a rageaholic! I can’t live without rageahol!”

I try. I try so hard. I think I’m doing better. I hope the kids don’t remember the yelling as much as they remember the good stuff in between. And I hope too that they remember my honest attempts to take responsibility when I do lose it.

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Responses

  1. It’s really hard. I try very hard to not be angry with the kids – but of course sometimes we all get angry. I do always apologize if I yell at them, especially if it wasn’t really warranted. My mother was one of those who would stew silently and then do something passive aggressively, or say mean things. I really try not to be like that, because in my opinion it was awful – the silence and black clouds.

  2. My family wasn’t always good at expressing much of anything (except when it came to political debates), and there was a lot of passive agressive behaviour. I don’t know if my bottle-it-up-until-I-explode cames from that or is just a coincidence. I’m still not good at expressing my anger, but I’m significantly better at just letting things go so it’s not much of an issue anymore. But, it was. A lot of the hurt I felt when mom died was because I didn’t know how to diplomatically tell people to bugger the hell off. And, my impatience coupled with my temper was one fo the first things that got me thinking about whether I really wanted kids (I don’t) or I just wanted someone to love me unconditionally (I do). I think I’d be a good mom, but I think that I would need a calm husband/partner/whatever to help me reign in my temper. Anyway, kids are pretty resilient and the important thing is that you’re trying to be the best mom you can be. Tempers are lost and childish bahaviour happens in all relationships, no matter who you are.

  3. I’m right there with you, but for different reasons.

    Between my poor dad, who a) is British and b) had his own rage control issues (he would bellow at very-unexpected moments), and my mom, who was taught to hold everything in, and did it very well, PLUS a controlling dance teacher who would lost her temper regularly but would scream at me for expressing any strong emotion…to say I have rage issues would be to wildly understate the case.

    When I lose my temper, I feel my entire history flashing through me…all of those moments when I wanted to rage and scream and take control, but couldn’t…it’s horrible. I say horrible things. I act like the most obnoxious of toddlers. All the stuff that you do, I do. And I HATE it.

    Thank you for posting that article. It looks amazing. I’ve read so many parenting books that make me feel like a hideous person for losing control…it’s nice to know it’s not just me.

  4. My family (such as it is) remains a case of closet anger. Hold it in. No one let it out, unless then drunk. That’s ok.

    While I’m glad the angry, parents who don’t love each other crap is done, I try to see past my guilt after I’ve been an asshole, and explain to the girls that I’m human, I get angry, and here’s why. Maybe I’m tired. Maybe I need them to pick up after themselves, whine less. Maybe I need to listen more, or sit the hell down. I want them to know they’re entitled to be angry sometimes, as am I, but it’s all in the execution.

    I don’t know if I’m doing it right either. But I figure letting them see us mad or frustrated or just plain DONE with the freaking whining isn’t a total bad thing.

    I hope. :p

  5. I fall into anger before falling into any other emotion. There’s a lot of baggage that has caused that, however I carry a heavy burden of guilt over how my past affects my present, and my children’s present. The anger is something I am always working on. Always.

  6. i’ve been short-tempered lately, more than i ever have been with the kids.

    i need to check it. it’s not cool. i’m annoyed half the time. thanks – all of you – for making me feel more human about it and reminding me that i can make choices to change it.


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