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Parenting And The Myth Of Anger Management

04/09/2015 8:08 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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When I was growing up, I vividly remember my mom once saying, "I thought I'd never get angry at my child, but look at what you just made me do?" So right then I knew that the never-getting-angry-at-kids thing does not work. Thanks mom!

Mom hadn't read any parenting books. In fact, I doubt the term "parenting" had been coined yet. You bathed, fed, scolded aka disciplined the kid and did OTHER STUFF. You didn't spend hours on the internet researching behavioural milestones, you didn't sign up on babycenter.com and you certainly didn't spare a second thought to the "tight scolding" you just gave. She had it simpler.

I, on the other hand, suffer from all the ailments of modern motherhood. I am signed up on and list-served by parenting websites, I've googled the heck out of every paediatric sneeze and rash and I have, on occasion, sought validation for my parenting style on the all too judgy social media. I feel mostly well-equipped, if exhausted, after wading through it all.

I think I have it under control when I am ambushed by something totally new. Like anger.

"I start out all nice and motherly, but soon enough I start to sound like a hugely unhinged version of the self-aware person I like to think I am."

What I don't understand is the way in which my anger (let's call it displeasure -- sounds much nicer) plays out. It's nothing big, you know, just the usual situations: "get out of bed or you'll be late for school", "don't stand there chewing your toothbrush and please please rinse your mouth", "for goodness sakes not the purple pajamas and flip flops to the park".

I start out all nice and motherly, but soon enough I start to sound like a hugely unhinged version of the self-aware person I like to think I am.

Let's start with threats.

Show me a parent who hasn't threatened their child and I will call them a liar to their face. There was a time when the sight of Homer Simpson lunging for Bart's neck would have me in splits. Now I feel tears of sympathy welling up for ol' Homie.

I've read enough parenting books to know that you shouldn't use threats, especially ones that you won't follow through on. This renders almost all my threats ineffective. In fact my threats threaten to make the situation worse.

For example:

Situation 1: Lolling about in bed, staring at the ceiling in the morning on a school day!

After 15 minutes of kind and compassionate parenting.

ME (Yelling): If you don't get up RIGHT NOW, I will make you live on that bed forever!

KID (Thinks): What if I get hungry?

ME (Angry and unthinking): I will bring you food and then you will have to live on this bed forever.

KID: Forever?

ME: FOREVER!!!

KID: What about when I want to go susu-potty?

ME: Arrrgh!

Situation 2: Wants to watch one more video on my phone.

After half an hour of indulgent, gentle parenting.

ME (Yelling): You give me back the phone RIGHT THIS MINUTE or I will take it from you and toss it out of the window!

KID: Which window?

ME (Angry and Unthinking): What do you mean which window? I can toss it from whichever window I want. It's my phone!

KID: I want to toss it! Can I toss it? (Leaps out of chair, towards the window.)

ME: Noooooooo!!!

See what I mean? It's like these little creatures come per-equipped with some sort of aggravation repellent skin shield. Parenting is a free anger management class that you are guaranteed to fail.

So, I try the next best thing. Sulking.

Say I am in situation 1.

After 15 minutes of cajoling and threats, I storm out of the room to go and stand in the kitchen. I realise soon enough that (a) It's too hot in there; (b) If I don't get her to move, she will miss her school bus, in which case:

(1) I will have to drop her to school, which is unbelievably tiring andshe will never learn.

(2) I could let her stay at home as punishment but then I will not be able to do any of the 550 things I was planning on doing in the six hours I get when she is away.

When I come back into the bedroom, it's like I never left. The "situation" remains the same.

The road that goes from The Mighty Parent to The Mumbling Minion takes only a few minutes to cover. And oh it's really not a road, more like a roundabout.

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