Saturday, 21 June 2014

Anger is never without reason, but seldom with a good one.

Anger is never without reason, but seldom with a good one - Benjamin Franklin

Anger is an emotion which comes forth without any caution and can easily overwhelm a person. It is able to change your mood and behaviour instantaneously- increased heart rate, blood pressure and levels of adrenaline.

At most times than not, it usually correlates with yelling, a brute impulse act or fleeing (fight or flight). However, it is containable with some logic which is considered the opposite of emotion - Wikipedia

So at any given time, anger must not be fuelled or dealt with anger, but by being mindful and with empathy. Sounds pretty straight forward, don't you agree?

To many, the answer may be a resounding YES but I on the other hand, am constantly battling with it. Anger looms over me and threatens to strike at the slightest misdemeanour because life is like a box of chocolates, when you have a toddler who just plummeted into the terrible twos and a couple of
confused tweens.

Every day was a game of batting and balling with tantrums, power struggles and autonomy.
If yelling and raising my voice worked, I need not repeat it a zillion times!

I used to get annoyed and upset watching my kids bicker, scuffle and mess up the house. My calm requests to stop the nuisance always ended up falling on deaf ears, until my monstrosity act of turning green like the Hulk.

Each time I start yelling, they pay attention to me and peace is conjured. However, this "peace" is short lived because it always ends in regret, remorse and leaves me with a pounding headache.

At each scream fest, I catch myself periodically saying to them " had you listened to me, I would not have to yell!

Communication is the key (it's not only what you say but how you say it matters)

Apparently, kids whether tweens or toddlers are as busy as adults. They too have a lot on their minds and with completely different set of priorities They may not understand why it is so important to shower immediately or wash their feet after visiting the park. Some children who might acknowledge your orders which were barked from across the room, might respond with "yes mummy, I am going to" or "I am coming" and half an hour later you'll find her still in the living room (a recipe for disaster)

Perhaps it was time to change the approach to yield different results. Perhaps by treating them how you would a colleague at workplace or engaging them in a conversation to let them know your intention might work better than ordering them. So now I try to start by saying, "can I tell you something?" seems always to work and once you have eye contact, say what you wanted them to do. They will know you mean business. But if your child is still doing what she was, chances are you will lose the plot and be tempted to scream "didn't I tell you to shower, like an hour ago!? Go now!", from the kitchen where you are hurriedly preparing dinner because you overslept during your nap, thanks late night blogging!

Let me, let you in a secret. It never works! Screaming does not work. Even with a thundering loud voice, you cannot move or make your children do what you wanted them to do. No amount of nagging helps either because from my experience, nagging is an opportunity for my kids to shut-off and they do it so well that I am fooled into believing they were paying attention to my words with their eye contact and head nodding but in reality, they were not listening to a word I said.

New Approach

We know that spanking doesn't work and timeout is kind of a mixed bag," says Elizabeth Gershoff, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin. However, "We know that reasoning does work," she says.

After my melt down, I resorted to getting help from Uncle Google and this stood out the most, a quote by Haim G. Ginott:



"When a child hits a child, we call it aggression.

When a child hits and adult, we call it hostility.

When an adult hits an adult, we call it assault.

When an adult hits a child, we call it discipline."

In the name of discipline, I was punishing my children! Screaming or hitting are equally bad and I was guilty of it. I knew I had to stop because my kids were growing faster than I expected. The day they are capable of walking out on an argument or disagreement is not very far and I don't want that to happen, ever!

So my new approach is to treat them like little adults.

I remind myself (constantly) there is no such thing as a misbehaving child. That she is only doing what she was made to do at her age or reacting to her environment (you cannot expect a child not to go crazy in a candy store).

So now we try to set reasonable rules which are revealed well in advance to my children. I have stopped saying "if you break this rule, this will happen", instead I say " I trust you will be able to adhere to these rules and if not, let's set rules which we both can agree to".

This gives the child a sense of power and the chances of her breaking her own rule is minimal and if it does happen, we have a brainstorming session over dinner and discuss what went wrong. Sending her to her room to think about her actions never worked because her room was a wonder world, full of toys and books to occupy her time instead of thinking about her actions.

I spent many years as a public school teacher and over the course I had developed a difficult to shake-off habit: I love giving instruction which always ends with a condescending “Do you understand?” With a strong-willed child at home, this kind of language does not work well because she hates to be instructed. So there is no opportunity for me to ask, if she understood. So I had to come up with clever ways of letting my children think it was their idea. Once they believe it was their idea, they will do almost anything wholeheartedly.

It was tough getting my 8 and 9 year old ready whenever we needed to go out. So nowadays they decide how and when they will get ready for an outing. I have taken them out looking like they just got out of bed, although deep down I was cringing at the sight of their messy hair and torn pants. They weren't too bothered in the beginning but after bumping into their friends numerous times, they are more presentable and ready for an outing nowadays, usually faster than I.

The only way to fend off negative behaviour is through communication and bear in mind, when communicating with our mini-me we must do it respectfully, by treating them like adults. It has to be related to them otherwise they cannot understand the importance of the rule being discussed. Which brings us back to being creative. It must also be reasonable, something that they are capable of performing with minimal help and needs to be repeated subtly so we don’t like a broken record.

Most of you must have heard this advice numerous time, I know I had and I never took it seriously then. But it works! Or at least it has been working for me thus far.


This article was featured in Babytalk June 2014 issue.

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