Posts Tagged ‘anger’

Like magic, the screaming toddler is quelled

February 16, 2012

By Stacey Devlin

For more than 10 months, we fought with our three-year-old son, Tige.

Arguing, cajoling, pleading, screaming, reasoning, crying, everything –  and when all that failed, spanking. Nothing worked, and I started to think, is something wrong with me, or with him?

If you’ve ever heard of the book, Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline, that sums up our relationship.

In fact, I got that book and tried to find the key to making things easy, but when the answer didn’t jump out at me in the first 30 pages, I put it aside. I have little time for reading with now two little guys running around, and my desperation for an answer has left me impatient with any lengthy books on child-rearing.

Tige is beautiful, spirited, loveable, but trying.

When his little brother was born, Tige’s behavior got worse, and I found myself throwing tantrums right alongside him. After many long nights, relentless battles over dinner, clothes and manners, and prolonged frustration, I lost my patience.

I felt like I was out of control, and I was spanking him knowing that it wasn’t teaching him anything.  Frustrated, I talked with other moms at our church. They too had “spirited” kids.

Even though I desperately wanted Tige to listen, and for his behavior to improve, I didn’t want to take that spirit out of him.

One mom from church told me that of the 50 plus parenting books she’d read, the only one she really ever needed was 1, 2, 3 Magic.

I immediately got it.

1, 2, 3 Magic, Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 by Thomas W. Phelan revolves around the principle that children are not little adults. They can’t be reasoned with, they’re not going to see the light when you explain something time after time, and they can’t be reasonably expected to listen the first time you ask them to do something.

It’s all part of being a kid.

And so as we learn not to fight with them like they’re adults, we see that our job is to calmly help them understand that what they’re doing is wrong.

The great thing about this book is that it is quick to read. We covered it in about 45 minutes, and were soon resolved to be a 1,2,3 team.

So far, it’s been successful. When I see Tige complying with our requests using the 1,2,3 method, it makes me feel like a better parent. It’s tough not to get emotionally involved by forcing him to comply, but when I restrain myself – which is the underlying theme of the book – I feel calmer, and I see that he’s calmer too.

I’m hardly yelling anymore, and at the time of this writing, I haven’t spanked him in two weeks. I feel great and I can tell that he does too.

We move past one small obstacle at a time – but best of all, we’re happy as a mom and kid doing it together.

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Speak softly and carry a big heart

July 2, 2011

Six months and one day ago, as we rang in the New Year, my resolution was to refrain from raising my voice at my boys.

I gave it my best effort.

I had almost forgotten about it until two days ago when my oldest son asked me, “Dad, have you ever yelled at me?”

“Of course,” I said, trying remember the last time I actually had used volume to make a point, but I came up cold.

I really don’t remember the last time.

The resolution to speak softly has become a new habit and now, having broken the old habit of shouting, here’s what I’ve discovered.

Yelling discourages dialog. It says, “I’m louder. I’m superior. I win. The end.”

Not yelling encourages listening. Now when I speak in corrective terms, my kids listen carefully. If I tell them quietly but clearly, “if you don’t go up stairs right now and clean your room, I’m going to come up with a trash bag and clean it myself,” they know I mean it.

Yelling gives us a false assumption that we’ve actually punished. After spouting off an angry pitch at our kids, so often we take no further action toward correcting their behavior. When children are little, yelling is terrifying to them. It is enough to get them moving. But as they get older, they get desensitized to it. The problem is, we keep doing it thinking it is still effective.

Yelling is knee jerk. It’s from the place of anger, the place of irrational reaction.

Not yelling is controlled. It’s from the place of caring, the place of rational response.

Personally, I feel a lot less stress when I don’t yell. When the boys do something that would otherwise make my blood boil, I find myself thinking calmly in the gap between emotion and reaction, and asking “what is the most effective way to deal with this?”

And then I apply it.

If it doesn’t work, I try something else. But I don’t get irrational.

Yelling, I have discovered, is one of those psycho-somatic things … like smiling. If you do it, the corresponding emotion soon follows.  So even if I wasn’t mad, all it took was brief shouting session to get me there.

I know many parents who are semi-to-staunchly authoritarian. Some might think that my newer softer tone makes me a push over.

Some might even say it makes me a weak father figure.

But I would offer that any action born from anger is not controlled – and that in fact, it takes a great deal of strength to restrain our actions – especially when we are angry.

Comparatively, acting on impulse seems weak.

I’m happy I broke the yelling habit. In doing so, I’m setting a better example for my boys.

Over time, they too will understand what I now do: we don’t have to use a loud voice to make a strong point.