Saturday, August 9, 2008

Anger Without a Cause: Dealing with Children

This month's resolution has brought one thing into stark relief:

I do very well avoiding and managing anger in most situations. I have known that for a while, but what I have realized more fully this week is that I don't do such a good job when I am dealing with my children - and especially with my youngest daughter. Actually, I do a good job even then (as I rarely raise my voice without a purpose), but the quickly flaring anger generally is limited to our little twinkie and her older siblings. I wonder why that is.

I try very hard to not impose unrealistic expectations on others - to not judge and to allow for influences beyond my (and often their) control. I generally am very patient with them - and it would be hard to classify me as a hard taskmaster. Yet, on occasion, I find my consternation flaring quickly - and I realized today that it almost always is when I am dealing with something that I have said over and over and over again. That led me to an interesting thought.

I get angry most often when I have failed to ensure that something gets done - when they get caught up in something and don't finish what has been assigned, and I then don't follow through and remind them in the moment. I also get angry when my youngest does or says something that I have told her not to do multiple times. There is no maliciousness or contempt in their actions; they simply haven't completed their assignments - or she hasn't internalized fully the lesson I am trying to teach her. That led me to consider the mercy Heavenly Father extends to me as I fail to complete my assignments - how rarely He "yells at me" or "disciplines me" in some other way while I still am internalizing the lessons He is trying to teach me. It also led me to consider the injunction to forgive seventy times seven - a hyperbolic statement that is translated best as "without measure".

Ironically, I do a very good job when I "have cause to be angry". The times when I struggle the most are when I am angry "without a (just) cause". That had not hit me prior to this week, and it has made me think more deeply about how to avoid this as I relate with my kids.


Mama D said...

Ray, you are very good at not imposing unrealistic expectations on others - and to help others see when they are doing that themselves. You are a good dad - even when you occasionally raise your voice (and usually it is with just cause).

I had to smile when you called our amazing sweetie a "little twinkie." I used that exact term just the other day when she did something exasperating! :)

Papa D said...

Just for everyone else:

I call her a little twinkie, because she is small, the same shape (skinny) from top to bottom, filled with goodness - and is an inexhaustible source of energy. Also, if you get too much at once, she causes indigestion.

Anonymous said...

One day, one of my younger kids did something that had me at my wits end. My perception was that I had taught the principle over and over and over and this kid was willfully disobedient. I was brought up short by the thought that came into my mind at that point:

Yes, you have taught the principle over and over and over, but have you specifically taught THIS principle to THIS child?"

That diffused my anger in a hurry, for I could not honestly say yes to that question. I knew I'd said it over and over and over, but I was not sure I'd EVER said it one-on-one to that particular child. Oops. . .

So much of what we do as parents is passed from child to child. For example, I didn't teach the younger ones to count, to tell time, to tie shoes +++ because the older ones taught the younger ones while playing school with their younger siblings and all the stuffed animals in the house. I had subconsciously assumed that my teaching the older ones would transfer to the younger ones. Not so!

Jami said...

Ah, how I needed to read this one. Thanks.