Image 1I finished a great parenting book a few weeks ago and I’ve been wanting to tell you all about it, but I needed to let the messages marinate and settle a bit before I wrote about it.

It’s by Dr. Laura Markham of Aha! Parenting, and if you don’t follow her on social media, do, because she truly does offer lots of aha! moments to moms and dads alike.

Her book is called Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids : How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting, and I will just go ahead and confess that I have, in fact, still continued to yell at my kids since I read it.  The problem is a ‘me’ problem, not a ‘them’ problem, and I am working on it.  Buying and reading this book was a step in the right direction but it’s not a magic potion.

The book is framed around “Three Big Ideas” that can shift a parent’s perspective about parenting:

  1. Regulating Yourself
  2. Fostering Connection
  3. Coaching, Not Controlling

 

While I enjoyed all of the book, in the past few weeks of the marinating process, it’s been Big Idea #1 that has resonated the most.

Here’s the crux of this Big Idea:

(Y)our first responsibility in parenting is being mindful of your own inner state.  Mindfulness is the opposite of ‘losing’ your temper.  Don’t get me wrong – mindfulness doesn’t mean you don’t feel anger.  Being mindful means that you pay attention to what you’re feeling but don’t act on it.  Anger is part of all relationships.  Acting on it mindlessly, with words or actions, is what compromises our parenting.

page 6 (emphasis in original)

Dr. Markham urges to experience anger as a “message that something isn’t working in our lives” instead of acting through fight-or-flight responses and she offers many tips do just that.

This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered this idea before.  I’ve logged enough hours on a therapist’s couch to have encountered mindfulness-based emotional regulation.  And this technique has helped improve other relationships in my life.  But I’d never really thought through the implications of applying it to my parenting relationships.

(Is that because I viewed parenting as a task or a job and not as a relationship?  I don’t know … thoughts for another day.)

So, anger as a diagnostic … what did I learn?

In the past few weeks I’ve worked very hard to remain mindful about my emotions when around my kids and I wanted to share some lessons I have learned in hopes that perhaps you can see the value in this practice.

Boundaries, people.

It turns out, some of my angriest moments around the house emerge when I feel as though my boundaries are not being respected.  This encompasses everything from being bitten (again and again and again) by a teething toddler, to having my clothes tugged down in public, to having a child bust in on me while I am in the bathroom, to having my phone conversations be completely and totally interrupted.  I lose my mind.

So, instead of fuming at them (or, admittedly, sometimes after I fume) I’ve tried to ask myself what my emotional responses are telling me.  They’re kids, and they have little to no sense of boundaries yet, so why do I get so upset?

What I’ve come to realize is that all of these violations make me feel like I don’t matter.  That I am not a human worthy of respect, which dredges up a lot of emotional baggage for me (which I won’t be discussing here) but suffice it to say it’s not baggage I’d really acknowledged before.

I still don’t like having my pants pulled down by a five-year-old, but at least I know why, now.

The intentional infliction of physical pain.

It sends me over the edge to see my big kids beat the heck out of one another.  And boy, do they ever fight.  It’s one thing to try to physically separate them, but it’s another to lose my mind on them and add to the emotional mania of the moment by yelling and screaming at them.  This is an area where I must do better at dealing with my anger.

I’m not fully certain where my anger comes from with this one, yet.  I know part of it is that I made both those little bodies and it literally pains me to see one of them being attacked.

But, I also think I’m dealing with scars from my own childhood.  I have very vivid memories of awful, physical fights with the sibling closest to me in age who, although younger, was always bigger.  I don’t blame him – we were kids.  But, I think my kids’ fights just conjure up all the pain and anger and emotion of the fights I experienced, and it sets me off again.  It’s like I’m right there in the thick of it again.

Like I said, I’m still working through this one.  I am not very good at maintaining my calm when they’re physically after one another, but I am doing my best.

Sometimes Mama needs a little mothering, too.

By stepping away from my emotions a bit, I have been able to discern a pretty clear pattern.  That is, when I don’t have the time to take care of my own basic needs, my ability to maintain my calm absolutely tanks.

What I’m talking about is more than being “stressed” and reacting out of stress.  It’s more than reaching the end of my rope.

Rather, I’ve noticed that when I am the most likely to anger, if I pay attention, my life is out of balance.

Sometimes, that’s because of things I cannot control – like my husband’s travel schedule, a child’s illness, or the weather.  So, sometimes I just have to suck it up.  But even then, it helps to acknowledge and be aware that I am off-kilter.

Sometimes I can make positive changes towards getting back into balance, and now that I am more mindful, I am taking positive steps to do that when I can.

As Dr. Markham says,

The secret work of adulthood is that we are still growing up, and parenting forces us to learn to parent ourselves as well as our child.

page 29

And, a final word.

When your child looks back, this will be the childhood he remembers.

page 252

So, yeah, that’s a lot of pressure.  But it’s also a message of empowerment, too.  We get to create a world for these little people, and that is an honor and a privilege.  With privileges come responsibility (isn’t that what we tell them, at least?) and I know that one responsibility I bear is to get better control of my emotions.

If you, like me, want to yell less and foster a more peaceful home environment, give Dr. Markham’s book a look. It’s available in my Marketplace.

(Find this and other natural parenting posts at Thank Goodness It’s Monday #32.)

7 Responses to “Parenting Myself : Anger as a Symptom”

  1. on 15 Aug 2013 at 3:24 pmSarah

    This was a really great post and the last quote from the book made me tear up a little. I’m impressed at your ability to be so insightful and then apply those insights to your behavior with your kids. Enjoyed reading this. Thanks – SLP

  2. on 15 Aug 2013 at 9:35 pmTracy S

    I’ve been thinking about this all day. “Is that because I viewed parenting as a task or a job and not as a relationship?”

  3. on 15 Aug 2013 at 9:47 pmKristine Rudolph

    Funny enough, I’ve always spoken of breastfeeding as a “relationship” and not a task. But when I articulate parenting, it’s often more in terms of my job.

    Again, much to ponder.

  4. on 19 Aug 2013 at 5:20 pmJessica

    Kristine, this is so bravely honest that I had to stop by and say “thank you.” Having the privilege of knowing you in real life, and knowing that your kids are absolutely incredible, it’s hard to believe that they ever argue or that you ever have a cross moment — but I’ve gotta admit, it makes me feel not so bad about my own moments. I have bought the book you recommended and can’t wait to read it to discover my own a-ha moments (which might be a little uncomfortable). You have a way of reaching other moms that nobody else can duplicate — I’m so glad you’re in this mommy-world!

  5. on 19 Aug 2013 at 8:56 pmKristine Rudolph

    Thanks so much for reading, Jessica.

    Lordy, Lordy, how my kids tussle! They get tired, hungry and cranky like the rest of us. They are kids, after all! A fact which I have to remind myself and my hubby frequently.

    Thanks for the kind words.

  6. on 21 Aug 2013 at 8:38 pmKristina (The Greening Of Westford)

    Wow! I could have written this about myself. And ironically enough, I have been coming to some of the same conclusions as you. One of my big issues is when my children don’t listen to me – I’m not being heard and that makes me feel like I don’t matter. Straight from my childhood as well. Total light bulb moment when I made that connection! It helps to realize where the emotion comes from so you can retrain your brain. Thank you for this and the book recommendation.

  7. […] Parenting Myself: Anger as a Symptom from Kristine […]

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