It’s your fault I yell!
January 6, 2011 § 3 Comments
On my way to the library last night, I watched a vibrant little girl- around 3 or 4 years old- run past me. Then, I heard the girl’s mother, walking to catch up with her.
Before I get into what I saw, let me say that I’m not judging this mother. I know what it’s like to feel like life is so out of control you just want to heave everything out the window. I notice what I notice because I’ve been there. It’s frustrating. I use what I see in other parent-child interactions as a mirror to my own. I think this helps me regain a center.
Back to what I saw.
The mother, after calling the girl several times, exasperated, says, “You’re getting yourself in trouble.” The girl didn’t respond. The mother says, “Okay, fine.”
The “okay, fine” sounded to me like a resignation to the punishment that was to come. As in: It’s your fault you’re going to get punished.
I can see how the history between parent and child is often what makes us (read: me) skip ahead to the ultimate consequence. We’ve asked our child/ren to do/not do X, Y, or Z and boom! there they are at it again. So, again, I’m not saying this mother has no right to say whatever she wants/feels she needs to say.
What I am saying is that this resignation to punish is one I’ve heard in my own voice and seen in my own actions. I’m skipping ahead to the mad part of the discussion- or monologue, in most cases, I lay out for my child/ren.
I find myself, at night, reflecting on my day, noticing that I act as if I weren’t the boss of me.
I do have a very needy 2 year old and a fearful-of-everything-new 4 year old, but I’m still the boss of my emotions. Yeah, I can blame the fact that I got mad on the 4 y/o who decided it was okay to paint a picture while sitting on the sofa. I can also blame my 2 y/o for yelling… just because I can. I can reason.
If I can reason, then where does my power of reason come when I let myself get mad? Where is it when I let myself ride the wave of my emotional children?
The other night, Josh and I watched as our 2 year old dumped food on the table. That’s not a new sight. It normally has us both jumping to the conclusion that we should get mad (skipping ahead to parental resignation to punish or yell). That night, amazingly, we both caught ourselves, almost simultaneously, and as if it were the first time our boy had dumped food on the table, we lightly said, “oh, no, we don’t dump food”.
So now I’m wondering.
The boy doesn’t seem to remember that we just talked to him about dumping food. I know this sounds hard, but what about treating each new dumping of food (or whatever your kid does) as if it were the first time.
Wouldn’t that make us more compassionate? Less easy to anger?
But if I stand by at the dinner table just waiting for my little guy to start dumping food and then skip ahead to anger, shouldn’t I change methods? The “get angry” method doesn’t seem to stick. What else can I try?
I leave that question hanging and get back to the mom at the library.
Even if you don’t believe this to be true, consider that our kids aren’t trying to get a rise out of us or trying to push our buttons or manipulate us. What if they’re just giving us another opportunity to get it right? Call it pushing your buttons, that’s the point. What if they push our buttons to help us grow past our previous negative reaction?
I’ve got to add a disclaimer here that I’m not sure how this reframing would work with other adults. Adults are tricky beasts and have more baggage than kids. That’s why I like being with kids all day- despite any frustration. I also have to say that I’m not trained in anything. These are just my humble thoughts, my little way of trying to rise above my daily annoyances. If this stuff sounds like it would never work for you, or it sounds like I’m on a high horse, or I’m not considering things like clinical depression, etc, pull out what you want, leave what you don’t want. This is for me, ultimately.
As you know, I blog the process of my thoughts. Give this a whirl and leave me a comment. I’m not done with these thoughts. This is just where they are at the moment.