Anger — My Next Steps
Now that the cat’s out of the bag on my anger problem — and I’m finding I’m not alone (a huge thanks for the honesty, ladies!) — I figure I should continue to chronicle a little bit of my journey — you know, at least for the next 20 years or so. As one commenter on Tracey’s post wonderfully stated, “Hi, I’m ___, and I have an anger problem.”
A couple of weeks ago on a road trip, I initiated a heart-to-heart with my husband regarding my approach with our strong-willed child, who was going through a serious and exasperating stage of fit-throwing. I’ve raised three other children not to throw fits, mind you, but they all tried it out for a brief season at one point (which seemed to last forever). Each of my kids has required special effort at this point, particularly with my anger problem. So I was looking for the consistently wise intuition of my husband, who didn’t seem to get as steamed.
“You tend to discipline with your tone of voice,” he gently pointed out.
Of course, my immediate internal reaction was to get defensive (yeah, forget the part that I asked the guy for advice). But the truth: I didn’t really have a leg to stand on. He was right.
When I discipline in anger, I teach my kids that my anger is the threshold to look for — so that they know when to stop.
Later on the road trip, in a book where I was turning to for entertainment, mind you, I learned that when I discipline in anger, I teach my kids that my anger is the threshold to look for — so that they know when to stop. Translation: I’m not stopping because you told me to or because I know it’s wrong, but because you’re about to blow your top. Hmm. I think you might mean it this time. … Maybe I should run.
It reminded me of a parenting analogy I’d heard from Dr. James Dobson that I’d aspired to but rarely attained. Picture a cop pulling someone over, he said. Now cops never have to throw a fit when they walk calmly to your window, but your heart’s speeding faster than you were illegally driving. Are you afraid because of some fed-up look they’re casting through your windshield? Nope. You wisely fear their authority. You know they can give you the consequence they told you about for ignoring that little white posted sign — giving the consequence you (gulp) deserve with a little riiip off that white notepad. They don’t have to throw down their clipboard there on the asphalt and spew, “What did I tell you? Why did you do that?! These people are driving me crazy! I have had it!” But they have the power to make us obey the speed limit simply by glimpsing a row of lights on the top of a car (or was that a bike rack?).
So when my little guy presents through his poor behavior the wordless questions that all children ask — Do you love me? and Can I do whatever I want? — I have been trying to answer with calm confidence. “Yes” to the first, Buddy, and “No way” to the second. When he throws a fit, I walk calmly over to him (uh, most of the time) and give him the immediate consequence he came to expect. Surprise, surprise: the fit-throwing frequency — his and mine — has seriously diminished at my house, as has the stress level of multiple people.
One small step for Mom, one giant step for the Breitensteins.