Continuing on from Part 1 that was published last week, I covered how my wife and I maintain boundaries and structure, push for improvement and love unconditionally, as a united front with both of our children.
This week I will be discussing how I try to, and sometimes don’t, hold it together when things don’t go according to plan. I will also be talking about how we are all human and lose our temper, but as parents we need to regroup and own up to those actions. And finally, I will cover how important it is to understand the children you love so dearly.
A quick shout out to Brian Gordon for the use, from Google, of the below image.
Hold it together
Children will push you. They will look like little angels, playing in their room, smiles and laughter, then silence… fearful, fearful silence… then screaming, then finger pointing, then tears, and tantrums and kicking and flailing on the floor. Then, for no reason, a sudden declaration of hunger but everything you offer is not good enough, they then eat a bowl of dog biscuits, happily, and finally fall asleep face down in the dog bed. You may feel at this point, slightly elated, but you know sleep is fleeting and soon the small demon that lives in your house, that you named, nurtured and show off to all your friends as your little princess, will wake up.
Dramatic, I know, but a story that I am sure will resonate with a lot of parents out there. At times you have probably thought to yourself Do they do it on purpose? Do they just hate me? Did I do something wrong? Was it the salami I ate during pregnancy? I can assure you it’s none of these things. Children, like adults, have a fickle mind and can’t always articulate the ideas that are in their heads. I remember a moment when my daughter, only 18 months old, woke up and came barrelling out to give me a hug, I picked her up, go to give her a cuddle, then she started smacking me in the face while crying. So I put her down. She ran to the kitchen and began pulling all of her bowls out of the cupboard and throwing them everywhere. I assumed she is trying to tell me she was hungry. I offered her a myriad of fruit, nuts, crackers, cereal, toast, sandwiches and yoghurt. What didn’t immediately get denied and pushed away is accepted, placed in her mouth and summarily spat out in disgust. This then led to continued crying.
I was at a loss. I didn’t know what my daughter wanted, other than food, and it seemed that no matter what I offered it wasn’t good enough. Eventually, however, I managed to work out that she wanted the left over baked vegetables from the night before, which she saw go into the orange container, and I did not. It would have been very easy, and somewhat understandable, for me to have lost it during this exchange. I also know that there are parents out there right now who have had, or are having, moments with their own children and the just feel like they need to scream. But please, hold it together, they need you to be stable, understanding and nurturing. Most often the child doesn’t actually know what they want, or at least how to tell you what they want. And this goes double for emotions, a child will often bite or hit in frustration at a situation. So remember you are the parent, hold it together, wait for reinforcements, and tag out if you have to.
Regroup and own up
My wife will be the first to tell you, I have a slight issue with my temper. I like to think that I am passionate and emotionally invested, which often manifests itself as an over display of noise and words. But I do. I get frustrated, annoyed, and quite frankly angry when I have repeated for the 437th time today for my son to chew with his mouth shut, or wash his hands after going to toilet, or not bite his nails, or to check both ways before crossing the road. I don’t always handle situations the best. I know my wife is not exactly Mother Theresa either. But we are only human, as are you, and we all have our moments.
I remember one faithful day, my son Joseph was simulating a once begotten herd of frozen snails, ALL DAY! I was trying to be patient, I was trying to be the calm, collected, cool Dad who gently reminded him to hurry up a little, and what chores he had left, and how there were only so many hours in a day. I even took a step back and allowed him to complete the tasks he had been given in his own time, within reason. After an hour, I decided it couldn’t hurt to go and check to see the progress of my son. He wasn’t even doing the jobs that had been given to him. He was playing, as most 14 year old boys do, and not really doing much of anything that would be considered constructive. And I may have lost my cool. I jumped up and down, I ranted, I raved, I yelled. I am almost certain children for three blocks thought they were the ones getting in trouble and stopped what they were doing.
It was not my proudest moment. I left him standing in the backyard after receiving a large dose of Rage Dad, and I walked inside with a loud crash behind me of the door slamming shut. My wife, God bless her, walked outside and very calmly instructed our son that it would be in his best interest to complete the tasks that had been set out for him post haste. I however, went into my room, and sat quietly and reflected for a while. I thought about how I acted, I thought about how it would have made Joseph feel and collected my thoughts. Joseph had still done wrong for dragging his heels the whole afternoon. So I found my son, gave him a hug which he begrudgingly accepted, I told him that I loved him, I apologised for losing my temper and we sat and talked about why I was upset, what he needed to do and how the afternoon was going to play out. I then reminded my son that I loved him, gave him another hug, and left him to his chores.
I am in no way a perfect parent, none of us are. The important thing to remember is, the words we say in anger can cut our children deep, as we often say them so impassioned that they believe them to be true. They have to know that we love them, that we do everything we do because we want the best for them, and we need to apologise for behaving the way we did.
Understand the children
As a nursing student we are taught about the developmental theories of the likes of Piaget and Erikson. These theorists describe stages that we all go through and what we achieve in these stages. Erikson for example talks about going through stages as being either successful and learning a virtue or unsuccessful and developing a deficiency. Erikson wrote for the infancy developmental age of birth to 1 ½ years;
If the care the infant receives is consistent, predictable and reliable, they will develop a sense of trust which will carry with them to other relationships, and they will be able to feel secure even when threatened.
The child will attain Hope if successful and Fear if unsuccessful. Now Erikson has himself acknowledged that his theories are more observational and general in nature then defining developmental truths, but the thought is the same. Most children will go through developmental groups, The Wonder Weeks group refer to them as Mental Leaps and describe 20 events in the early development of your child that will test you, but grow them.
As our children get older, they develop their own personalities, attitudes, feelings, ideas and moral compasses. We as parents may not always understand our children quirks, most of the time we won’t know where they developed that particular idiosyncrasy , but we accept them all the same. Our children are different and unique, God made them that way. Our job is to understand them, love them, and nurture them.
There are a myriad of tools to assist in understanding your children, three that I have used, or at least found to be useful are;
But as parents we generally know, instinctively, what our children are like. I know that Joseph is eager to help out around the house provided someone else is helping, he hates being forcibly isolated, he learns best when someone shows him, he hates being cold, he benefits from being told that you love him but responds best to physical touch and quality time, he likes to be included in what is going on, and is a stickler for time and structure. So get to know what makes your child tick, they are all different. I am still trying to work out my youngest, Darby, but I know if I keep at it I will find out eventually. I hope.
To wrap up, try and hold it together, regroup and own up to your mistakes and understand your children. These three things aren’t the be all and end all, it is only just scratching the surface of how difficult it is to raise children and what we need to do as parents to ensure we not only survive, but make sure our children thrive. We need to continue to grow as parents, and to let our children know that we are all learning too, we all make mistakes and we all need a little patience sometimes.
If you have a story about your children and the tests they have put you through, or have hot tips of your own that you wish to share, write them down in the comments below and share them around and don’t forget to subscribe using the Maintain Your Rage button.
Maintain The Rage,