Rage is a strong word, maybe way too strong or right on to what you have been feeling as you parent almost 24/7 in your home during this “stay at home” order. When I teach children about anger in my office, we usually discuss various levels of anger. I use a thermometer image and we point out where the levels of anger fall on the thermometer such as annoyed, frustrated, angry, furious, and enraged. Something I find myself saying to my clients and at home is the following (I cannot take credit for the quote), “It’s okay to be mad. It’s not okay to be mean.”
Most of us have felt levels of anger due to the numerous pressures and stressors of staying at home. If you have not felt rage, maybe you have been furious and screamed at your kids. Maybe you did not even know you could feel such anger. If you are extrovert, you need more people, and it is hard to cope. If you are an introvert, you need actual alone time, not alone time with all of your family members present, and it is hard to cope. The goal of this blog post is to give you some ideas of how to help yourself work through your anger so you are not mean to your children nor left with feelings of guilt or shame due to how you parent during the rest of this time at home.
My husband and I watched the Mr. Rogers movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, last month. If you have not seen it, I would recommend it! The part of the movie that stuck out to me the most, and I am roughly summarizing, is when Mr. Rogers spoke about adults remembering what it was like to be a child. Think about how you wanted to be treated by the adults in your life as a child. We often get too caught up in our role as the parent and wanting behavior change and total obedience from our children. I am not an advocate for permissive parenting, but I am an advocate for treating children with kindness, encouragement, and respect. You remember how you were treated as a child just as your children will. Remember that their brains are continuing to develop, they are going through immense change as we are in a pandemic, and the way they process things will likely be messy.
INTENTIONALITY INSTEAD OF AUTOPILOT
I just wish it were as easy as remembering what it was like to be a child and putting your wishes into action. The problem we often run into is that we parent on “autopilot.” This concept of parenting on “autopilot” and three questions of thinking through why a child acted the way he/she did, what you want to teach the child in the moment, and how can you teach the lesson comes from the book No-Drama Discipline by Siegel and Bryson. It’s really good! Days are running together, and it may feel as you are going through the motions due to burnout or exhaustion. Consider this time to polish your parenting skills as you seek to really see your child, understand him/her, and parent to teach them, not simply stop a behavior.
Lowering your expectations of what you can accomplish in a day during this time may be very valuable to some of you during this time. I love checking off a “to do” list, and I am accepting the fact that my to do list will not get done right now. Remember that your child is not the enemy even though some days it may seem like it. If you feel yourself starting to spiral or about to lose control of your emotions, leave the room (if your child is old enough to be left alone) and regroup. Adults need time outs more than children. If anything can be added to your week to release endorphins such as a phone call with a friend, exercise, reading, sitting outside, art, a devotion, do it and release some stress!
Many of you are frustrated and angry, some of you may rage. I write this post to provide encouragement in knowing you are not alone in feeling this way. I want to remind you that the “stay at home” order is a season. It has an end. If you are not proud of the way you have started, you can be proud of the way you finish. As a therapist, I am continually looking out for children’s safety. The New York Times recently wrote an article that this pandemic could cause a child abuse epidemic. None of us want this.
If you are feeling out of control, please reach out to a therapist and supports for help. By reading this article, you are a parent who is seeking to better yourself and your parenting. Tomorrow is a new day, and you can choose resisting rage and not acting in anger moment by moment.
Finally, here is a proverb that has helped me and produces positive results in my household. I hope it helps ground you as well. Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Moment by moment,
Siegel, D. J., & Bryson, T. P. (2014). No-Drama Discipline. New York: Bantam Books.
Agrawal, N. (2020). The Coronavirus Could Cause a Child Abuse Epidemic. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/07/opinion/coronavirus-child-abuse.html
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