Thursday, June 10, 2010

Losing It, Part II. Your Own Children

If you are a parent you've probably noticed all the TV shows and self-help books out there to help you with disciplining your child. Most of them are similarly anti-freak out. They suggest that you quell your anger and deal with the child in a calm, rational tone. I, however, firmly believe that a good explosion every once in a while helps mom or dad stay sane and the kids stay good. I'm not talking about hitting or threatening your child. That is wrong. All I mean is a few seconds of completely irrational screaming and hollering about the injustice of it all. You don't call them names, you don't swear at them, you just say what is wrong in the loudest way possible. I mean, you can still feel guilty afterward if you like. In fact, that is probably a good deterrent. But don't beat yourself up about it. You are only human.

From a sociological point of view (hey, that minor is finally paying off!) our rage at children who repeatedly break the rules helps reinforce social norms. They learn that some things are sacred to adults-- getting to spend time alone, choosing when and how you are touched, being heard and acknowledged. Something that seems like such a small act to them is huge to you. And without the drama, they'll never know that.

The arguments against parent rage usually fall back on the argument that we would never treat strangers the way we treat our kids at times. True, we don't tell the clerk at the video store, "Don't you DARE answer that phone when I'm talking to you!" (even if we want to) but the clerk hasn't ignored everything you said all day long, laughed in your face when you were mad, or rolled his eyes at your very helpful suggestions.

In short, it is the incessant violation of social norms that finally drives parents to the edge. After six days of gentle redirection, "We ROLL the ball in the house. We don't throw it" and being ignored, we finally shout, "I don't EVER want to see you throw that ball AGAIN!" And guess what? Your little darling throws it again. KABOOM! You lose it. Fire shoots from your eyes and your arms reach out seven feet to crush the ball and send them, crying, to their rooms.

Is throwing the ball in the house the worst thing your child has ever done? You reacted less violently the being bitten on the leg. But it is the constant, never-ending need for social normalization that sends any sane person temporarily over the edge. Hopefully there will be someone there to pull you back up. Or you just do it yourself. You breath deeply. You close your eyes. You start again.


  1. Thanks for this post, Jen! It made me laugh and feel much more "normal!" =)

  2. Love it!! So I'm not the only one whoe loses it on my kids sometimes :) Thanks!!