Google+ Authentic Parenting: The Most Effective Tool you’ve Never Used to Tame your Temper

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Most Effective Tool you’ve Never Used to Tame your Temper

written by Meredith Barth

I thought I was teaching my timid little boy to stand up for himself against other toy-stealing, body-pushing tots. Turns out I was giving myself the best tool imaginable to stop my parental anger dead in its tracks.

Jackson is the most sensitive and inclusive little soul I’ve ever met. At two and a half he has maturity so far beyond his years it’s staggering. And part of helping him navigate life with these beautiful traits is teaching him when to be assertive.

To protect him from becoming everyone’s doormat, I’ve given him phrases like “It’s not okay to take things from me” and “I’m going to keep this. You can have a turn when I’m done.” And in cases of physical attack, minor as they may be among two year olds, he has learned how to throw his red-light hand out in front of him with a strong “Stop! You can’t touch me like that.”

These tools have allowed him to approach peer play with confidence. Where he once shied away and preferred to play on his own, he now jumps in, knowing he’s capable of handling conflict should it arise. It was as if his power was lying dormant and those phrases helped him access it.

Image: Floyd Brown
Then one day, after an especially destructive episode of can’t-control-my-child rage, he was explaining how sad and scared he felt when I yelled. As I pondered what I could do to help him manage those feelings, it dawned on me that the same tools I’d offered to protect him from others could protect him from me.

So I gave him some new phrases: Mommy, please talk to me more respectfully; Mommy, it’s not okay to talk to me like that; Mommy, I feel sad/scared when you say that.

I told him that no one, not even Mommy, was allowed to treat him with disrespect. I gave him permission to stand up to me and the tools to make it possible, even at his young age.

I wanted to give back the power my anger was stealing from him through intimidation. And it worked. Instead of becoming a puddle in front of me or retreating, he stood tall and confronted me with these phrases. And let me tell you, nothing will bring your anger to a screeching halt like those words from the mouth of your precious child.

I would love to ditch my desire for control and communicate respectfully at all times. It’s my dream to be an always-patient, always-loving mother to him. But that’s not our reality right now, and, quite honestly, it probably never will be.

I can’t give him an ideal mother, but I can give him the tools to cope with an imperfect one.

Meredith Barth is a work at home AP mom to two boys. She’s a writer and web editor, leader of her local Holistic Moms Network chapter, and active member of La Leche League. She’s passionate about holistic living and community building, and is openly and authentically blogging her way through parenting struggles one day at a time.


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25 comments:

  1. oooh that is good, thank you I will be teaching these to my two boys. I of course will also use them when necessary when they are yelling etc at me and hopefully after a little while, we will all start treating each other a lot better.

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  2. I never thought of it that way. Thanks for sharing! I've been teaching my kids how to stick up for themselves with each other/at school. It's true that should go the same for Moms and Dads.
    I grew up in a very authoritative household and I still melt when people get angry with me. This is a great way to hopefully prevent that in my girls.

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  3. Thank you so much for this.

    As a child I was frequently intimidated and shamed by one parent's yelling - I never felt the power to stand up to it.

    I feel that anger now in myself, and while it's something I never want my daughter to experience, I can't say that she won't. Knowing that I can give her the power to stand up for it is such an amazing relief!

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  4. I LOVE this! We all have days when we slip up, and this is an important skill to teach our children. Thank you!

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  5. Thank you so much for this - needed to read this today. ((hugs))

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  6. I really love this. Thanks so much for posting it.

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  7. My kids have been known to tell me "you are not being the mom you want to be". It stops me in my tracks and is such a gift.
    Thanks for sharing.

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  8. This is a really helpful post, my son is only 17 months but has always been very placid and I sometimes worry that he is not assertive enough when other toddlers snatch toys or bash him on the head. I now know in the future I can provide him with verbal tools to boost his confidence. Thank you.

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  9. Those are FANTASTIC phrases. As a preschool teacher and a mom I see them working in both areas.

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  10. Thank you for this and your timing was perfect. We have had a rough few days and today seemed to be a complete 180 thanks to this technique. Huge thanks and much love mama!

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  11. I love the empowerment given; the love and respect you entrusted in your son and in yourself. This is definitely something I'll model with my kids. And I'm oh-so-subtle going to share this post with my own mother ;)

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  12. Thank YOU all for allowing me to bring something positive to the world out of my faults. It's an honor to be any small part of your parenting journey!

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  13. I love this! I was just thinking about how rare it is for parents to teach their children to stand up for themselves, and it's a natural extension of that to ensure it applies to *everyone*.

    Sometimes the people we love are the hardest to be honest with, because we don't want to hurt them/make them go away. What a wonderful way to teach them that sticking up for ourselves makes stronger relationships, not weaker ones.

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  14. Such a good point! I love the phrases, will have to remember them to teach my own children. It's hard to change what you grew up with but with a conscious effort and teaching your kids to stick up for themselves there will hopefully be success in the long run!

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  15. I love this. Ive been trying to teach my 3yo to do the same (he is also very sensitive) but he hasnt quite grasped it yet. however the other day i was stomping around ranting about something or other and he said "mummy, calm DOWN." That stopped me in my tracks. like, immediate departure of all anger.

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  16. I love this! Thank you so much for sharing.

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  17. Really interesting and thought provoking post. Thank you for having the courage to share!

    Gauri
    www.lovingearthmama.com

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  18. This is genius! Thanks for sharing!

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  19. ooh, this is awesome!! Last night in a getting-ready for bed challenge of wills (mama getting grumpier) my son (3.5) was having a meltdown and suddenly (at the peak moment for me of non-gentle response, talk about mama guilt!) sobbed "your making me sadder and sadder when you're sayin' that!". I love this idea of giving him go-to words/tools for when I get too grumpy/bossy with him and lose the respectful interaction. I also have done this for situations playing with others "...you could say, 'please stop doing ___, I don't like that'"...but never considered modeling what to say to me when I've over stepped gentle mama mode. He also pulled out "you're hurting my feelings" after the sadder & sadder plea...which is a good thing because it surely did diffuse me instantly and get us in a totally different place--from conflict to working together to get ready for bed, probably simply due to my change in attitude.

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  20. I so needed this reminder, and the bravery to give my son these words. Because I need this reminder frequently, and he's the best one to give it. Thank you.

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  21. Well said.

    My girls are so naturally assertive and seem to have inherited my "no shit from nobody" gene. But my boy needs a little extra help in his toolkit to stand up for himself.

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  22. Wow... that brought tears to my eyes... So real! So raw!...
    I can ssoooo identify with you!
    I'm gonna try this.

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  23. Excellent post. Thank you! I am going to teach these statements (and role play)to my hyper-sensitive/emotional little boy today.

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