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How to commit to Anger Management in parenting

“I try so hard to change, but every time I vow never to get angry again, I just end up giving up, falling back into the same habits, and then I give up, feeling like a complete failure”

This is such a common sentiment of frustrated parents.

We get angry. We feel guilty. We apologise. We hate ourselves or beat ourselves up. We vow to be calm next time. We don’t. Repeat.

But it’s not like you haven’t tried, right? You really have. You have probably researched anger management suggestions – take a deep breath, walk away when angry, take more time out.

You’ve researched child behaviour strategies in an attempt to change your child’s behaviour so you don’t need to get so angry

But the cycle still repeats itself or you change for a little while, but it all comes creeping back in.


How can you stay committed to being calm?

Has there ever been a time where you repeatedly made a mistake, over and over again?  Every time you do it, you say to yourself, ‘why do I keeping doing that? I really should stop that.’  But one day, you do it again, only this time it caused you so much pain, it was imperative that you never made that mistake again. Your commitment to change became a MUST, instead of just a ‘should’.

This happened to a client of mine.  Here is her story.

“It was a typical morning where my 12yo was too slow getting ready for school. As usual, I nagged, she ignored, I got angry, she got defiant and disrespectful, I yelled some more and she got upset.  But I had had enough. I ranted all the way to school.

‘You’re always running late. You make me so late for work. I’m so tired of everything having to be YOUR way. You think the whole world revolves around you.  But it doesn’t. You know while you were at camp last week, I didn’t have one problem getting your siblings ready for school, but you return and here we go, back to being late again.  I’ve had enough of your behaviour. Stop being so selfish!’

It wasn’t one of my finest moments.

I dropped her off at school, and left, trying desperately to get to work on time. However on my way to work, I received a call. My daughter was a mess. She was inconsolably crying and wouldn’t let anyone talk to her and wouldn’t go to class. I had to turn around.

I got to the school and sat down with her. Now I was a mess. We both cried and talked it out. As we discussed what had happened, my daughter revealed to me that she had perceived my rantings to mean that the family was better off without her and that she was not wanted in the family. I was gutted.  I couldn’t believe I’d made her feel this way.

It was at that point I realised, something HAD to change. I had tried to change in the past, but now I realised the pain I was causing my children by my outbursts. I HAD TO find another way.’

This mum, was motivated by pain, which is often what shifts us from a ‘should’ to an unequivocal ‘must’.

You see, time and life can really get the better of us and parenting can be ridiculously challenging, but what I have seen with the thousands of clients that I work with every year, that programs like our 28 Day Tame your Temper Parenting Challenge or other programs that initiate changes, become a huge priority when you are at the point where change is an absolute MUST.  

ALL decisions and actions we take, come from our priorities. Our priorities come from our ‘stories’ (our perceptions) on life. We are always motivated by the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. This is always our agenda behind anything.

Think about this scenario:  You have a whole list of things you need to get done for the day – cooking, cleaning, lunches, washing, etc., however your best friend calls you in tears and tells you that she’s really struggling in life and about to do the unthinkable.

What do you do?

You drop your list of to-dos, you get the kids sorted and you get over there A.S.A.P! Naturally you made it a huge priority.

Why did you do this? 

Because the pain you felt when hearing her tears and you contemplating life without her, and the pleasure (if you could call it that) you sought from being able to help her to stay in this world, HUGELY overrode your ‘pleasure story’ about your to-do list that was initially your priority before the call.

Consider another scenario:  You know you ‘should’ do your to-do list, but you’ve had a big day, you’re tired and the kids have been challenging. There’s a moment when they’ve all gone to bed and your favourite TV show is on.  You decide to watch TV and ‘stuff the housework’.  Why did you do that?

Because in that moment, you felt the pain of the day, mixed it with the pain of the chores (effort, boredom, whatever) and you moved towards the more pleasurable option.

However, throw in an impending visit from a highly anal, house cleaning freak of a mother or mother in law, and all of a sudden, despite the pain of your day, there’s even more pain attached to having the house a mess for your visitor, so you force yourself to get up and clean up.

3 ways to make anger management your top priority

In regards to your anger, to find the motivation to learn how to be calm and really commit to the effort it takes to break the habit to yell, then I suggest you do the following to give yourself the ‘ammo’ needed to change the ‘should’ to a ‘MUST’!

  1. Talk to your kids about how they feel about your anger.  If they aren’t old enough to talk, that’s okay. You can just observe their responses to your yelling.   
    What effect are you having on them? Hear it from their mouths.
    Not so you can feel guilty about it. Don’t go down that road as that’s just a cop out saying, “I SHOULD do this, but I didn’t so I’ll just beat myself up instead’.  
    You’re doing this exercise to give yourself a wake-up call that promotes a MUST –  To FEEL the pain of your angry reactions.   Hear what they are saying/feeling about it.  Ask them how they feel about themselves or how they interpret things when you get angry. Understand the impact your anger is having on them so you start to associate immense pain to getting angry.  This is really important. You want to feel that anger is causing you pain.

  2.  Write an EXHAUSTIVE list of the cost this anger is having on yourself personally, and the quality of your relationships.  Take into consideration what this anger has already cost you in your life, look at how much it will cost you if you continue for the next year, the next 5 years, the next 10 years, the next 20 years, when you’re an old lady/man, what will life be like if you continue with anger being your default?

  3. And finally, it’s REALLY important that you go the other way too (otherwise you’ll just be only focussing on the awful.  There is another side to all this).  What will life be like when you change, when you’re calmer?  What will it FEEL like to be calm? How will that benefit your life? In what ways?  What will life be like in a year from now, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, when you’re an old lady/man looking back on your life?  How will things be different? What is life already like when you are calm, cool and connected with your kids? What do those times feel like?

You see, when you attach enough pain to your current behaviour, to the point where you cannot possibly live with this behaviour any longer, and equally, attach immense pleasure to the goal of changing, you will find your motivation and you will make change a priority.

Until then, you will find excuses and you will place it by the wayside in lieu of other things you are making a priority (because they are more pleasurable or because you are avoiding more intense pain through your reactions).  Your brain will keep finding evidence of how you ‘don’t have time’ or ‘something else is more important’.

Even now, as you read this article, there will be many of you saying, “But I can’t. I’ve tried all that. ‘This’ situation stops me. My depression stops me. It’s hereditary. I don’t know any other way.”

This may be confronting, but listen to those stories you tell yourself about why you can’t change and don’t allow them to stop you.  There are millions of people in the world who have overcome the most unbelievable challenges because they decided that they WILL NOT give up. There was no other option but to completely immerse themselves in learning, growing, practicing and committing to getting to their goal. There is absolutely no reason why you cannot do the same with your anger.

I, too, have had to walk this road from anger to calm. I still have to commit to everything I teach in the 28 Day Tame your Temper Parenting Challenge in my own life.  But I remember that day when I screamed at my kids and saw the look of fear on their faces and had my meltdown. I’ve had to walk this very talk that I’m now teaching you.

You might have to work for it. You may have to do some digging. You may have to resolve some issues. But the outcome will be so worth it.

You have it in you. You just need to decide whether change is going to remain a ‘should’ or a MUST.

Is the ‘no smacking’ rule really making our kids into monsters?

Message from a parent to the PSC…

As I reflect on my childhood and growing up I wonder if we are creating parents who are too soft?

What I mean by this is when I was younger and I did something wrong I would get a whack across the bottom with a wooden spoon – granted, this was a last resort and there were warnings before this, however I know that I learnt my lesson and wouldn’t be repeating that behaviour anytime soon.

My parents were not violent in any way – yes they raised their voice when needed etc, but I was disciplined and I learnt respect for my parents – they were the boss, not me.

When I fast forward 25 years and I look at all the rules there are around how we discipline our children today and the generation of youth coming through – are we being too soft?

I say this because it seems we have a generation that has little respect for authority (be it teachers, parents, police etc) and I often wonder is this because there are so many rules that stop us from disciplining our children a bit more firmly?

Please don’t take this the wrong way as I certainly don’t want to hurt my child and be a parent that resorts to this as I understand children repeat our behaviour etc – but it never did me any harm when I needed to be brought into line.

I’m hoping you can give me your thoughts on this as it’s something I do think about often when I watch the news and see these teenagers (who seem to be getting younger and younger) that are committing terrible offences and I ask myself where are their parents and why are they getting away with this?


Jackie Hall’s response:

It’s a question that many parents ask (although are often afraid to voice it out loud. However, I’m so glad that one participant did. This was my response….

The first thing that I want to say, is that there is value that comes from everything. Whenever we experience something painful, we learn. Whenever we experience something enjoyable, we learn. Highs and lows are a part of life, and they always lead to other highs and lows.

With every approach we take with parenting, it will always lead to another consequence and another experience that will be learnt from and lead to more learnings.

My stand point on physical discipline is, yes it can manage behaviour, but there are other ways to go about it that are much more empowering to a child if handled correctly.

When, as children we did the ‘wrong thing’ in the past and got a whack for it, we did learn not to do that again, but what else did we learn in the process. After working with thousands of clients over the years, I see over and over again that at the core of parental/adult stress is childhood beliefs that came from how their parents administered discipline and how they treated their children. Of course this is not exclusively the cause, but very often it is very much the cause.

I see that parents who were physically disciplined grew up adopting a perception of self, such as…

  • I’m not good enough. I didn’t try hard enough, wanting to please others, needing to please others to feel good enough
  • The pressure to get life right or do more, be more, have more, achieve more to get life right in order to feel any sort of self-approval (the belief, only when others approve of me can I feel I can approve of myself)
  • Wanting to be the peacekeeper because they hate the conflict that comes with challenges that stemmed from childhood conflict.
  • Acting in the same angry ways because that’s what you do when you don’t get your own way. That’s what was modelled.

And this is not even an exhaustive list of beliefs that can be adopted from physical punishment as a child.

Now if you had a family environment as a child, where there was plenty of light and shade in the relationship – for example, your parents were open to communication, played with you, loved you, gave you loads of affection, flexibility, you had a say, etc, then the repercussions of getting smacked most likely paled in comparison to the reference points of love that you received from your parents, so you may not have gained beliefs from the smacking that still impact you today.

However, rarely was physical punishment delivered in this way, especially not at the time of administering it. Smacking is almost always chosen because of anger and issues of control from the parent. It’s more than likely not coming from a place of teaching you a lesson, but more to punish you for what you did wrong or trying to control you into submission.

Discipline, does not even mean punishment though. It actually comes from the latin word disciplinaire, which means – to teach.

There are other ways to teach children to WANT TO co-operate. There are other ways to teach children respect. There are other ways to teach children consequences for their actions that still teach them the error of their ways, but also teach them how to correct their own behaviour, but the issue is, these ways take time, repetition, consistency and patience.

If we fast forward to today’s society, from the time of physical punishment to now, the effects of smacking have been widely documented so we’ve been given a very strong message that smacking is a taboo approach to use, but the problem is,  up  until recently, there was no replacement offered for it either. This gap is what organisations like

The Parental Stress Centre of Australia and PPP and similar organisations are trying to teach parents now – to help them know what to do instead of smacking.

The reason why we are seeing kids so unruly these days, is a complex one, and it’s not necessarily about the elimination of smacking but a combination of the fast paced nature of modern society, a pressure filled get-your-life-right-now society, the effects of an adult’s childhood self-worth issues and how they deal with their world and thus, their children, and the lack of information on how else we can teach our kids if we aren’t administering physical discipline.

On top of that we are seeing more strong willed children coming into the world with a confidence that won’t accept being bossed around and who, even if you resorted to smacking, are likely to buck the system anyway and move you even further from the relationship you want (unless of course you have loads of ‘light’ – fun, love, affection, joy, respect, communication, letting them have a say etc., to offset the very few times you use it when you’re not getting angry….again, a rarity).

So what you get is a generation of people trying to control children (parental, societal, educational), unable to do it and feeling at a loss as to what to do, leaving kids also confused, unloved, misguided and angry as hell because they aren’t getting what they want either.

It’s very common to see in human nature, that if there is no easy answer and things get too hard, it’s easier to stick our head in the sand. The problem escalates and we keep going round and round in circles. Hence why it appears that physical discipline was an answer that worked.

As part of evolution, we have learnt a lot about the long lasting emotional effects of physical discipline and so many parents aspired to eradicate it and do something different. But with all change, there must be period of transition, and that’s where I believe we are today.

People like myself, and those who are ready to take those steps towards change, join programs, like ours, because you’re looking for those alternative solutions, and that’s a great thing.

At the PSC, we are seeing kids become beautiful, co-operative, happy, confident kids because their parents are learning how to separate their own stuff, from their child’s behaviour – ie stop personalising it, resolve their own past hurts, and then approach their child’s behaviour from a place of teaching and modelling.

Parents are learning to accept the reality of where their kids are in their physical and emotional development and are approaching their behaviour in the spirit of co-operation, communication, kindness, connection, loving consequences and showing kids what respect, love and kindness is. Kids mirror this, because that’s how the brain learns, and so the cycles are slowly breaking.

But in this transition period, these ways are just starting to be learnt, adopted and mastered.

What is required is an educational approach, not a corporal punishment one. Isn’t that what we’re trying to stop in the world when we’re trying to create peace and stop war?

Our kids are just like us. They want the same thing as us – love, connection, approval, appreciation, to feel good enough. When we treat them that way, we show them how to be that way.

When we teach them the realities of life through our consequences, teach them how to get what they want amicably, teach them to negotiate, and the benefits of showing others love and respect, they start to feel the discord of their own actions when they don’t behave this way. It won’t resonate with them. It won’t feel right. They won’t need you to teach it. They will FEEL it.

We don’t need to smack our kids to learn respect. We just need to show them what respect looks like. Let them FEEL the discord of their actions by asking them questions like:

Does that [behaviour] actually make you feel better?

Is there another way we can help you feel better that will actually get you what you want [because what you are doing isn’t actually going to lead you to what you want – ie tantrum, backchat etc]?

When you act this way, it makes you feel ‘x’, but if you do ‘y’ you will probably feel much better.

Or, how can you move towards a better feeling place and get more of what you want? Does this behaviour move you closer to what you want, or further away?

These sorts of questions help a child learn to be their own internal guidance system. It teaches them to make their own decisions. You still work with them on the rules, rewards and consequences (notice I said work WITH them) and they still experience the results of their decisions, but they start to learn they have choices and what feels good and what doesn’t.

As humans, kindness is innately born within us. We come from pure sensory energy where we know no labels or judgements. We are born with very few neural connections in the brain – enough to eat, sleep, heart rate and very basic human functions. The rest is learnt through environment.

If we show our kids how to feel the discord of our actions, show them how to be kind, respectful, remorseful, honest with ourselves, etc. If we teach them how to handle life’s ups and downs and see the value in our mistakes and challenges, and we teach them to feel good about themselves, then all this dysfunction we are seeing in our young kids will stop.

But we have to BE the change we wish to see in our kids and as a society we have a long way to go in letting go of our own stressful thinking lessons to find the ultimate balance in how to teach our children to feel good too.

It’s a big question and a big answer too, thus there are no simple solutions.  However modelling how you want your child to behave and treating your home as though it’s a training ground for life by showing them cause and effects of their choices and decisions (ie natural consequences), are two of the most powerful tools you can use instead of using smacking for discipline.

Other relevant articles:

I Stopped Myself From Having One Of ‘Those’ Mornings

This morning was one of those chaotic, can’t find anything, running late, have to get out the door on time, kids have the shits kind of morning. You know the ones. They can potentially lead to you having just as big a meltdown as the kids.

Except, instead of just getting over it, like the kids do, these mornings tend to leave you feeling really guilty all day because of how you treated your kids.

These are the types of thoughts that went on in my head to change the default thinking that usually sends me into anger.

  • This is just one of ‘those’ mornings. It’s not a reflection of the rest of my day (or my life).
  • The reality is that Ryan can’t find his shoes so I’m going to have to help him look for them. Now where could they be?
  • Jackie, stop! The reality is that Ryan (8yo) has woken up in a feral mood. Do you really think shouting at him and getting angry is going to get him out of it? Just give him a hug instead. Get out of the world of you and your ‘late-ness’ and focus on Ryan and what he needs from you right now. You know this is more likely to speed him up.
  • Seriously, how much later am I really going to be. Is it really going to matter if I’m 15 minutes late. Calm down. Take a step back and focus on what we need to do. The reality is, this morning didn’t go to plan.  It happens. Move on.
  • When I finally get out the door, these moments are going to be a thing of the past. It won’t even matter by this afternoon.
  • Change the picture! I know you wanted the dishes done before you left, but today, it’s just not going to happen. That’s okay. Life will go on and that doesn’t matter either.

Oh yes, I’m going to say it again:

 All stress is conflict between beliefs (what you’re thinking) and reality.

Notice your thoughts that send you into stress and anger and practice pulling your attention into alignment with reality by accepting what is in front of you, looking at it from the perspective of the bigger picture and get solution focused about it.

In the grand scheme of things, will it really matter in one year’s time?

Keeping it real…

Jackie

Why Your Child’s Emotions Won’t Be Rational

“Your child’s behaviour is not rational….”
Quote from a website (can’t remember where, sorry)

I read this quote in an article on child behaviour and I remember thinking, “That is so true!”

Before the age of about 5/6 years of age, all the information our child is getting is going straight into the subconscious for processing, catogerising and understanding life. They are creating filters to enable them to interpret life. Basically, they’re trying to figure out how life even works.

Children need to create these filters before they can learn to get to the point of being able to judge, reason and use logic to determine their responses (behaviour).

Your child’s behaviour won’t be rational because rationale is a function of the conscious brain, and before the age of 5/6 years of age, that ability hasn’t even really come into full swing.

We need to be patient with the reality of where our child’s behaviour is at and stop expecting them to live through our 20/30/40 something years of logic and reasoning skills (heck, even we aren’t entirely logical about our reactions – drinking, smoking, chocolate habits…ring any bells?)

Keeping it real.

Jackie

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