We’ve all encountered it. You watched her actions and listened to her cruel words and harsh behaviour towards her child. You felt her intense energy as she expressed herself and worst of all, you saw the effect it was having on her child – the sadness, the fear, and you worried she was stripping away more and more self-worth from that child with every angry word she spat.
A part of you may have identified with her anger for a brief second, but you quickly justified it by saying “I’m nowhere near THAT bad” even though silently you knew you were guilty of that level of anger at times (or had the potential to be that angry).
You watched all this and you judged. You looked at this woman and this one event, which is all you know of this stranger, and in an instant you rated her as a ‘bad mother’ or at best ‘a mother that was damaging her child’.
“How could she do that to her child?!” You asked yourself (or maybe commented to a friend).
But let’s step out of the world of judgement and self-righteousness for a moment and think about what’s happening for this woman.
What do think is going on behind that behaviour? How do you think this woman feels about herself or her life to be behaving this way?
What might have happened in this woman’s life to lead her to such intense pain, hurt and aggression about this current moment?
Think about your own actions for a minute. You know, those ones you wish you could take back? What was going on for you to behave the way you did? Why didn’t you do the ‘right thing’ even though you knew you should?
How did you feel about yourself when you made a mistake or acted inappropriately?
This woman is no different to you or me. Her actions do not define her as a person, they simply define how she feeling about her life in that moment.
Anger is never about the events, it is about how we perceive events and what we perceive them to mean about our self-worth or our quality of life.
This woman has a story and that story has resulted in her thinking and feeling a certain way about life that has caused her to behave in the way that you are seeing right now.
And if the truth be told (and I hear it over and over again in my line of work) there are many parents who feel exactly like this mother, but just keep it behind closed doors, appearing to be the pinnacle of perfection in public, but when no one’s looking, it all falls apart. I myself, was guilty of that too.
However, perhaps this mother was never taught how to be a calm, happy, easy going parent.
Perhaps this mother is going through some big challenges that she just doesn’t know how to handle and it’s all getting on top of her.
Perhaps this mother doesn’t feel good enough, confident enough, feels out of control, doesn’t know how to parent the way she wants to, feels anxious about raising her child, is struggling to cope or has just plain had enough and can’t see any end in sight to the demands of being a parent.
There’s not a parent on this planet that cannot relate to any one of those feelings that I just mentioned above.
So if we all understand this story, why do we judge her so quickly and offer our disapproving looks to this woman who is clearly in pain?
There’s no doubt that a parent with anger issues is causing some sort of effect to her child and their beliefs about themselves and life, and if she is hurting her child, then we absolutely must do something to help the child be removed from that situation.
But wouldn’t an extended course of action be to help that child in the long term by helping his mother?
But we live in a society that tends to want to ostracise, judge and criticise those who don’t fit the mould. We exploit their behaviour, talk about it, spread gossip and create headlines about it (“you won’t believe what I saw this woman do today”), we post it on Facebook and we want nothing to do with them.
But what if our judgements and distasteful looks are just perpetuating the very beliefs this woman has about herself and her life and is actually fuelling the very behaviour you would like to see her change?
What if our reactions are just feeding her already incorrect beliefs about herself and how useless and out of control she feels, how she believes she is the shittiest mother in the world and to some extremes, even feels like her kids would be better off if she just left this world altogether?
What if this woman needs our love and support, not our scorn?
If we, as a society of parents ourselves, could truly see the pain and lack of knowledge going on behind that mum’s behaviour, would you want to hurt her further, or would you want to help her?
Instead of judging her, why don’t we help her, show her some kindness, be the breath of fresh air that shows her that she is important and she is worthy of being cared about?
Help her to feel good about herself, give her a break from the kids if you know her, give her a smile if you don’t. Visualise yourself giving this woman a comforting hug and send some loving, calming energy and empathy her way, because you can relate to the frustrations of motherhood.
Imagine the effect it would have on stressed out mothers everywhere if we all adopted a community approach to loving, supporting and understanding each other as parents. Imagine the effect of a parenting community who helped each other through their challenges, whether that parent was our friend or not.
The bottom line to anger, is that if you see it in someone, or you are feeling high levels of it yourself (and everyone will have their own standards of what that is), this is not an indication that you are worth-less. This is an indication that the way you are perceiving life needs to change, and that you just need to learn the tools on how to do that.
No one ever wants to feel angry, nor do they want to take that anger out on anyone else, particularly those they love.
The problem is not the parent themselves. It is the lack of information on how to handle life any other way. Often anger has just become a habit, a deep hole where logically they know they need to get out of, but they JUST…DON’T…KNOW…HOW.
The answer to anger management in parenthood is not ridicule and judgement, it’s education and support – information that helps parents understand the specific thinking that causes anger in the first place and a set of tools to help parents to change that thinking in the heat of the moment so that anger doesn’t even become the habitual reaction.
When angry as parents we are told to ‘walk away’ or ‘take time out’ but that’s just not enough! That only serves to help us until the next situation triggers the same thoughts that causes the same reaction.
That’s exactly why we created The 28 Day Tame your Temper parenting Challenge.
As seen on Channel 7’s Sunrise, over 4,500 people have participated in this life changing online course that is transforming the way parents react to the challenges of parenting by learning how to identify and change the thinking that causes anger.
When parents display anger, this is not cause to judge and inflict further reasons for that parent to feel bad, it’s a responsibility to educate, help and support that parent.
By reading this article, it is my hope that next time you encounter a mother who is feeling overly frustrated and angry with her children, that you think about the human behind the behaviour and start to think about ways you can lift that parent up in some way….any way, that might be small, but may just make a massive difference to her life in ways that you may never realise.
It is my hope that you can see a little bit of yourself in her and can extend some compassion towards her instead of judgement.
We can all make a difference and it can all start with how you respond to situations just like this.