This follows on very much from Can I Shout at my Kids?
We went back to discussing anger at my last counselling session.
Last week I had got emotional as I was writing posts about my teenage years but I hadn’t really cried; I hadn’t felt able to. So I watched a film that is almost guaranteed to make me bawl and it didn’t let me down again. It never used to make me cry; indeed it’s not a sad film. It’s a French rite of passage film for a young girl. Unlike American films of this variety it looks at the emotional turmoil not just of the girl but of her parents and even grandmother and this is what makes it a good film. I went to see it four times when it came out and I think I yearned to be her, to have ‘normal’ childhood problems about boys, to be able to shout at parents who would think about what you said, who were not perfect themselves but would at least try and involve you in what was going on. Now, rather than yearning to be her, I think I’m crying for lost childhood.
Her parents protected her from what was going on in their relationship, not by hiding it, but by diluting what they told her (mummy and daddy are having a few problems so are going to live apart for a while, but no we’re not getting divorced). I suppose, to a certain extent, this is what I try and do with my children.
If it’s a practical problem I try and explain it. If their behaviour is causing problems I try and explain what and why. If they’re upsetting me I try to explain it and to just tell them. If things from outside the family are getting to me I will let them know. I try not to shout (or swear) but to make my feelings known. I suppose the more trivial the issue is, the easier I find it to get angry at them. “It would be really helpful if you put the remote controls back in front of the television so we could all find them.” can easily get transformed into “I’ve spent 10 minutes looking for the remotes because you didn’t put them away. Stop what you’re doing and find them, or else. I put them back and I ask you to put them back because I get angry when I can’t find them and that puts me in a bad mood”.
I usually try to show them how it affects their life, that my being cross will mean that I say no when they ask for something so that it affects them indirectly and negatively.
Do I ever say “sod off and leave me alone, I’ve had enough”? Under my breath I do, but not out loud. Should I? I still don’t think so.
The parents in the film were protecting their daughter by not telling them the full extent of the problems they were having, but telling her enough so that she had some sense of what was going on. I consider that I am protecting my children by not shouting or crying at them but am I just not teaching them that actions don’t have consequences?
I try and teach them to be considerate of each other, to learn to co-operate and compromise with each other, to take turns if necessary, to talk things through rather then bashing each other. These things are good to learn but where 3 children of close age share a bedroom, they are also vital for survival (theirs and mine). I have noticed that their willingness to compromise sometimes means that when they are playing with an only child, who is used to getting his way, that their wishes are left unmet as the single child is not used to that same degree of co-operation. I’m not saying that my children never thump each other but at least they know they’re not supposed to.
I expect similar co-operation from my children and try and offer it in the “if you want to go out/ watch television / play on the computer then you must tidy your room /do your homework/ complete tasks first”.
I do occasionally walk away, saying “I can’t deal with you at the moment” and probably will go and hide in my room for an hour or so, telling anyone who knocks to go away. I do feel somewhat childish as I do this but I also recognise that I need to get away from the situation because I will only get more angry if I don’t and I don’t want to get more angry than I already have.
I asked my sister how she felt when she threw tantrums as a teenager. She says she remembers how our father would hold her down on his lap so she couldn’t be destructive. She said she did this when she felt life was too much, too awful and it would all get on top of her and she would want to break anything. He didn’t hold her to comfort her or to reassure her, just to stop her breaking anything else. Afterwards she would feel guilty. I did not get a sense of cathartic release from her.
I too feel guilty, when I’ve shouted at any of mine, and will later apologise. I never tell 2son for example how angry he can make me be when he’s being unco-operative or winding his brothers up. I have told him how frustrating I find him and how difficult I find not knowing how to help him but I try not to blame him out loud for the gradual deterioration of tempers and behaviour in the family over the last year. My feeling is that knowledge would weigh heavy on him and not help. Maybe I’m wrong.
So I try and explain what’s wrong to them so that they understand. Maybe a little more anger and a few more tears on my part would make them understand better. Maybe trying to stay quite so calm means that they think that adults are somehow more impervious to emotions and that I’m not helping them. Maybe they need to learn that their actions do hurt me, really hurt me and that I’m protecting them too much from that. But I also feel that they are only children and they shouldn’t have to worry about all the things I have to worry about. I could do with worrying less too.
Maybe I also need to go back and discuss vocabulary with my counsellor, what exactly is meant by “getting angry”, whether there are levels that are acceptable and levels that aren’t. I have on very rare occasions smacked them, not for a long time now. I don’t think you should have to, that I’ve only ever done it when incredibly frustrated and angry. It didn’t shock the child, in fact I do remember them jeering that I hadn’t even hurt them. It hurt me more than it did them.
I also have to question whether I’m turning into my parents. I certainly get more angry with my children than they ever did with me. As a child I built up suppressed emotions during our little chats that never got released in anger. Maybe I need to get a little bit angry so they understand that it’s all right to get a little bit angry too. I still think it should only be a little bit angry, rather than a lot.