Can you say you parent with love, not rage?
A while back I caught a news clip on Rage Rooms. And it really bothered me. I still have not been able to let it go.
Why? Because, I think, as parents, we should not have so much rage directed at our children that we would need to go in to a private room and smash a baby crib. We just should not. If we do, then we are doing something wrong.
If we have that much rage, then it is not our children. It is us. US.
Sure, children are frustrating. Infuriating, really. No kidding. A child can drive a parent from cute, cuddly, “oh I’m so blessed to have you in my life” to screaming, hollering, “because I said so!” faster than a zip line can drop your baby in to a swimming pool. It can happen instantly, with little-to-no warning. When it comes to children, there is no one-size-fits-all handbook on what causes them to tick and there is no one-size-fits-all handbook on a parent’s reaction to that ticking. It just IS, they just ARE, and we are often left in the wake of the incident, scratching our heads, screaming, crying, shaming ourselves, and wondering “where did it all go wrong?”.
There are, however, a lot of handbooks and guides on parenting – tips and tricks of the trade. If you find yourself sympathizing with the woman in the rage room, I’d advise you to check them out. Do a google search. Ask a friend for some recommendations. Check in to your local Head Start library or talk to a teacher, a daycare provider. If all else fails, get in touch with me. I’ll direct you to a few good ones.
Because, ultimately, if you consistently have anger directed towards your child – enough anger that you can walk out of your house, get in a car, drive to a place of business, pay someone $50, and go in to a private room to smash a crib – if you have that much anger, you need more help than that rage room can provide. Your anger should have disintegrated on the way over there. By the time you got there, you should have had no anger left. Whatever situation happened, happened, and you should have been able to blow off steam on the drive over there. If you didn’t, then there is something more going on than just a frustrating situation with your child.
And you are the problem. Not your child.
Tough words to swallow, I know.
But we need to wake up.
No one causes us to be angry. No one. Not even our children.
Anger is a reaction to a situation. We choose anger. No one makes us angry. No one has that much power over us. We choose to respond to something we dislike with anger.
And anger is an imposter; a “cover-up”.
If you peel that anger away, what you really find is something deeper. Hurt. Humiliation. Jealousy. Frustration. Sadness. Loneliness. Anger is just what we show the world. We don’t let the world see what is really going on inside us. We let them see the anger.
Often times, when we are angry with our children, it is because we are incredibly frustrated. We are frustrated with their behavior. We want them to do what we want them to do. We want to control them. But, they are people. Granted, they are little people. But they are still people. And we cannot control them any more than we can control our own boss. We can try everything within our power to get them to do what we want them to do, including being angry, but in the end, the choice is ultimately theirs to make. Not ours.
Yes, it is a hard pill to swallow. Even as infants, our children are not to be controlled by us. They are to be loved, shaped, guided, molded, taught, supported, empowered….did I mention loved? We can’t tell them when to sleep, eat, pee, cry or smile. They just do, and we try to regulate it, try to get them on a schedule, try to control it, if you will. But in the end, they are babies, and babies just do. So do preschoolers, teenagers, and everything in between. They just do. And we do our best to teach them.
But what we often forget is to do our best to love them. Love them, no matter what. Love them unconditionally. Love them despite all of the behaviors that make us angry. Love them during the melt-downs. During the temper-tantrums. Love them during the arguments. Love them during the power-struggles. Love them, love them, love them.
They are people worthy of love.
And it is so easy to do.
They are, after all, your children, right?
A chip off of the ol’ block?
Just like their mother? Their father? Then what’s not to love?
My youngest can be absolutely trying. He gets in to everything. But he has a mischievous grin and a twinkle in his eye, reminding me of his grandpa. And I love it. How could I not? It means he has an adventurous spirit. He wants to live life to the fullest and doesn’t mind taking a few risks. He’s not afraid of failure, even if it means he gets hurt. He cries, brushes it off (quite literally – thanks Grandma!) and tries again. How do you not love that?
When we parent our children, we need to approach our day, and, more specifically, our children, from a place of love. Not rage.
From a place of love.
We love them more than anything else in the world. We all do. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that.
And it’s time to relearn that.
Start in a quiet moment. The age of your child does not matter. It works for all ages. Well, okay, it might creep your teenager out a bit, but that’s okay. Just go with it. That’s your teenager’s emotion after all – you don’t have to own it (just like you don’t own his actions).
So start in a quiet moment and just look at your child. Really look at him. Admire his eyes. His ears. His nose. What is it that you love about him? Start with his physical appearance. Just adore how incredibly cute (or handsome) he is. He is yours. He is a part of you. And he is oh, so worthy of love. Always.
And then do it again, days later, in another quiet moment. What are some characteristics about him that you absolutely love? What amazes you about him? What do you admire most? Write them down, if time allows. Keep them near and dear. These are amazing things about your son. These are special things about your son. These are qualities that deserve love and respect.
Keep doing this, over and over again. In quiet moments. Remind yourself of what you love about your child. Spend time just staring at your child. Adore him. He is worthy of your love. Get comfortable doing this. Train yourself to do this.
And then try it when you are frustrated with your child.
Sure, little Jonny just dumped the HUGE FAMILY SIZED box of Honey Nut Cheerios all over the carpet. But look at how absolutely cute his little hands are, shaking the last few Cheerios out of the box! Look at that smile on his face – he’s absolutely tickled with himself for figuring out how to open the box! (And he got around the child-proof lock!) How smart is that? Isn’t he just brilliant?!
Sure, sweet Suzie is absolutely insistent that she is right, and yes, all the other girls are going to the dance. And yes, they are only 13. And she is going to argue and fight until you both are screaming at each other, only to collapse in to your own beds in fits of tears and pure exhaustion. But look at how she fights for something she believes in. Look at how she can stand up for herself! Sure, she’s only 13, and no, she’s not going to the dance. End of discussion. But check out those skills….she can get you to see almost anything her way. Look at the way she presents her case! She argues with such passion! Won’t those be awesome traits to have as an adult?
It is so much easier to stay calm in such frustrating situations, if you can look at the actions your child is taking out of love. Sure, Jonny dumped the Cheerios. But he wasn’t doing it to make you mad. He didn’t wake up that morning scheming different ways to make mom mad. He simply discovered a new skill that he wanted to practice. So use this moment to teach. With love.
Sweet little Suzie simply wants to be just like all of her friends. What 13-year-old doesn’t? Sure, the dance is in a barn. Sure, the barn is at a senior boy’s house. No, the parents won’t be home. Why would Suzie care? That’s not something they worry about at that age. Use this moment to teach. With love.
Love. Not rage.
When you can do this, it is so much easier to implement all of the other positive parenting tips and tricks of the trade. If you can approach your children with pure and simple love, in each and every situation, you no longer need to control them. Why should you? They are who they are and you love them for it. You will teach them. You will guide them. You will help them. You Will Set Boundaries. But never out of anger. Never for a lack of control. Only for love. What you do, you do from love.
There is no room for rage.