Have you ever felt frustrated or angry at your child and then been brought to the sudden realization that they didn’t do anything wrong? They weren’t even the source of your frustration or anger. You were actually upset about something else entirely, but they just happened to walk into the cross hairs of your misguided, misdirected fury.
My recent misguided anger. Computers drive me crazy!
It’s funny how much important information there is on our computers and devices these days and how abruptly all of it comes flooding to your mind along with the hot and heavy emotions of frustration, anger, and even a form of grief when it appears that you’ve lost it all. It’s the sensation you get when you make the first drop on a roller coaster or when you jump off of a cliff into the water, only the initial fear never turns to exhilaration. It simply settles into stress, panic and worry.
I experienced this recently when I went to pull up a blog post to work on for TRU Parenting and my computer would not respond. It appeared at the time that all of my hard work for the website had either disappeared or was no longer accessible. My heart absolutely sank. I tried multiple fixes and nothing seemed to work. So what did I do? I took my frustration home with me.
When I got home, I found that it consumed my thoughts. I worried that I had lost all of my hard work. I was frustrated and angry, more so than I had been in a while, and it showed. My wife and kids both sensed that something wasn’t going well. At dinner, things that are not generally a problem, became a problem. I snapped at both of my two oldest boys for little things that never would have bothered me otherwise. I even made my second son go to his room, simply for being a kid. Luckily, I was able to manage my anger enough that I did not yell or lash out physically in any way but my attitude stole my family’s joy for several hours and motivated me to act in ways that do not fit the principles of TRU Parenting that I strive for.
After some time of stewing over my predicament, I realized that I was angry about losing a computer full of documents that taught principles of teaching my kids positive principles and skills, building solid relationships with kindness and gentle limits and boundaries and to focus on self regulation and improvement. I had violated each one of those principles as a result of my misplaced frustration.
I don’t think I’m the only one
This is not an uncommon issue with parents. I’ve recently participated in several discussions on facebook with parents that have told stories of becoming frustrated with their spouse, work or some other stress in their life that has boiled over into their interaction with their children. One mom expressed that she knew she would “blow it” with her kids that day because she had gotten in a big fight with her kid’s father the night before. She went on to describe her “parent tantrum” with her 5 year old son because he was walking on the cracks at the grocery store. The irritation and anger from other relationships made its way into the interactions with her child. It wasn’t his fault. She wasn’t even angry at what he was doing, but he got the attitude and backlash. It’s easy to let our frustration and anger at our spouse, our boss, the jerk that cut us off in traffic and even our computer or other lifeless objects to influence how we perceive our child and their behavior, and then to project that anger we feel towards things that are more difficult, less controllable targets onto our vulnerable kids. Sometimes it’s not just a projection onto an easier target but we simply allow those feelings to permeate and poison every part of our lives. However, there are some things we can do to stop allowing our moments of frustration, anger and negativity to take charge of our parenting and whole lives.
6 Steps to stop misplaced anger from getting in your way of TRU Parenting and TRU living
1. Recognize your feelings and where they come from: Name what you are feeling either our loud or write it down. Then ask yourself what triggered your emotion and why you feel the way you do. Also note the things or people that did not trigger or cause your negative emotion. In essence, identify the innocent and decide not to punish the innocent for someone or something else’s crime. If you recognize that you are upset that your husband comes home and sits in his lazy chair and doesn’t help with the kids say or write, “I am frustrated that my husband doesn’t help with the kids when he gets home in the evening. This is not the kids’ fault.” It’s important to note that this dynamic can go the other way as well, frustrations with the kids can boil over into other relationships as well.
2. Separate yourself and calm down: If you find yourself having a hard time lightening you mood and engaging with your kids in positive ways but you recognize that it’s just because the emotion of some other setting has crept in to your interaction with them, excuse yourself. Go to your room or a bathroom and just relax. Take a mini vacation and speak or write step #1 in a journal or on a scrap of paper. Take some deep breathes, refocus and reconnect with the present.
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3. If you can solve the problem that lead to your anger, write a plan for resolution and leave it behind (physically and figuratively): Chances are that you won’t be able to solve the problem right at that second but you will want it to be solved right then. When I was having my computer problems, I wanted it to be solved and obsessed about it. I couldn’t get it out of my head because I kept having thoughts of things I could do to fix it. I eventually made some quick notes in my phone of some simple actions I needed to do to try to resolve the problem. Once I had written down a plan for addressing the issue, I was better able to let go of it and be more present with my kids.
4. If you can’t change, control or solve the problem that lead to your anger, write your feelings down and leave them behind (physically and figuratively): There are some problems we face that are not as cut and dry as a computer problem. There are issues that we don’t always have control over. For these instances we cannot always write down a clear course of action to resolve the source of our anger but we can acknowledge and validate our emotions and then recognize that the problem will still be there for us to return to and sort through our emotions at a later time.
5. Change your sweater (Mr. Rogers Style): This probably seems very silly but the act of changing your clothing or shoes or doing something new or different can be helpful in enabling our minds to let go of whatever was happening before and make a mental and physical shift to a more positive situation. If you remember Mr. Rogers, he would always start his show by coming in the front door and the first thing he would do was change his sweater and shoes. This is a simple thing but can be helpful. Other things that can help us make a transition are things like, taking a quick shower, a few minutes of exercise or washing your hands in cold water.
6. Return to your child and do something fun, positive, and uplifting first, to adjust and improve the vibe/mood and reconnect mindfully with them. This could just be a quick tickle war, compliment war, or telling jokes. Do something to redirect your thoughts to all the reasons you love being your child’s parent.
Another important thing to remember in creating a new, more positive cycle of interaction with your kids is to make sure to apologize if you do slip up and find yourself blaming or reacting to your kids in frustration and anger that has overflowed from some other source. It’s amazing how understanding and grateful kids are when you are willing to recognize our own shortcomings and missteps and reconnect in meaningful ways.
Parents today are busier and have more going on than probably any other generation. This can mean new stress and frustration. It’s important that we learn to understand and channel that stress and emotion in a productive way. It happens to all of us. Our frustration from one thing effects our interaction with another, but if we can be more deliberate in following the 6 steps in this post and being mindfully connected with the present, we can prevent a large part of the conflict, “behavior” and other distress that we experience with our children.
Question: What “misplaced frustration or anger” have you allowed to affect your interactions with your kids?
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