Seeing red, and how to deal with it.

This morning was an early one – up at 5h00, with both boys wanting different things, from Easter eggs to Cbeebies. I’m comfortable with the TV as my (very happy) helper at that time of the morning, and with boys settled in front of Mr Maker, I snuck off to check mail on my computer in the next room.

And that’s where things started going pear-shaped. Both boys came through, both wanting to sit on the one spare seat, and then Daniel (the older one) wanted to watch YouTube (which he can surf by himself), a Thomas the Tank Engine video, and then he asked for his own computer games (which are not set up at the moment) – all in the space of about 30 seconds. He responded to my ‘no, not now’ answers to all of those by stomping his feet, shouting at me and throwing a basketful of Lego in all directions. Not a normal reaction for this mostly peaceful boy – but a reaction that made me see red, and lose the 5h30 plot a little.

I smacked his pyjama’d bottom, told him that he is not allowed to throw things at me, and told him to go to his room. When he sat there apologising in tears, I thought of all those experts that tell us to be consistent and mean what we say, and I insisted that he go to his room, eventually resorting to carrying him there to prove my point.

And then I stopped and thought about it (which I probably should have done before the part where I saw red). This whole scene started because both my little boys wanted to be with me, and Daniel particularly wanted my attention. When he didn’t get it in the way that he was hoping for, he got frustrated, and angry. Which made me angry. But why am I allowed to get angry, and he is not? If he is allowed to get angry (which I believe he is), just how do I teach him how to express that anger? And how do I control my own emotions when I am frustrated (at being up at the crack of dawn) myself, and just want a little bit of space?

I know I am the adult in this, and I know it is my job to teach him how to deal with his feelings in a constructive way.

But I don’t think I did a very good job of teaching him, or setting a good example, this morning. How do other parents deal with their little ones’ frustration?

*A note: This is only the third time in his nearly five years that I have smacked Daniel on his bottom. I believe that there is a time and a place for a smack on the bottom, but never with anything other than my hand, and more for effect than injury. I don’t think that his actions this morning deserved my response, which is why I’m disturbed by it, and would love to how other parents deal with this type of situation.

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Author

Kerry Haggard

Kerry Haggard

Kerry Haggard, mother to the two most beautiful boys that ever there were. She’s willing to do pretty much anything for the two little Haggards, but every now and then she does draw the line – and hopes that they will understand why one day. You can follow her on Twitter: @KerryHaggard

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9 Responses

  1. I hug them tight and tell them that although their emotions are big, they need to tell you with words not with angry behaviour what’s bothering them. And acknowledge that you also let your emotions overcome you.

  2. Wow, a thoughtful read. As a single parent (I’m a divorced daddy) I’ve been through this awful experience myself. I question my every move and motive!

    I’ve been blessed with a lady friend who is my opposite number: Her question is always: What will the child think of me? My question is always: Did I do the right thing? We are looking at opposite sides of the situation. I think she is a softie, she thinks I am too hard.

    Yet I always come back to the point made by Ds Barry van Rensburg in a sermon, some years ago when I was still hurting from my divorce. He said: “I am what I am”. The point is – our children will love us because of what we are, not in spite of what we are. They love us because they know who we are. They know our good side and our bad side and they prefer the good side. And that is all that matters.

    Leon

  3. Hi Kerry,

    I can so relate to you on this one – we all lose it sometimes, but that doesn’t make it any easier in the moment afterwards when the guilt strikes. FWIW, these are the bits of advice and wisdom I cling to:

    1. “It’s not the conflict, it’s the resolution”. We make mistakes, we realise we’ve done wrong, we apologise and we try to change things for the better next time (success, like perfection, is not guaranteed). Your son is learning that yes, people behave in ways they regret sometimes, but it’s not the end of the world and things can be worked out.

    2. “Consistency is overrated” – the world is not a consistent place. Kids also need to learn that there are times you can push the limits, and times to give it a rest. (That “parents must always be consistent” line is based on pretty outdated psychology).

    3. This is a tip from that great book “How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen” – when my kids were too small to properly verbalise their anger, I tried giving them other ways to express it physically. eg. hit a pillow, scribble all over a piece of paper, etc. Watching a kid attack a piece of paper can be quite instructive – those feelings are strong!

    Nobody is perfect, least of all at 5:30 in the morning. It sounds like you’re doing a great job 🙂

  4. I think the problem is to react in anger. A hiding has its place but never ever ever in anger. Tantrums are not normal behaviour in the real world, except of course if you are president of the ancyl. To not discipline him would also been wrong, but it must not be done in anger.

  5. We all make mistakes and feel bad about them. I think the important thing is to appologise, just as we would expect our children to do. Saying sorry to my children has been a truly humbling experience, but the rewards that it brings and the life lessons that are learnt far outweigh the uncomfort you may feel.

  6. I think parents all cave under the pressure. Your honesty and drive to keep developing as a parent, your proven reticence to smack, your notion of equality – all these will get you as close to the right answer as you’re going to get, every time (and every time a bit closer :)). I guess the mantra for me, every time I have to remind myself to keep my cool (and sometimes failing), is this: breathe deep, then show them how you want them to act/react – by acting that way – i.e., calmly, flexibly, understandingly.

    If it doesn’t work, well, that’s the real test. Will I lose it or not? It’s too much of a heart-break to let it happen, so don’t do it to yourself and everyone else concerned. Plus, it won’t work in the long run, in fact it comes back to bite you and plague them. Find a corrective measure that works for YOUR kid (my daughter doesn’t respond to minimal smacks, neither does my boy, and he really hates stern disapproval, so stuff gets taken away from her and he is allowed to run off and fume until he can listen to reason and apologise – all of which is administered with an impassive face and implacable attitude – on a good day).

    But as I say, we all fail at our own rules. Good luck and good article and good job.

  7. Never underestimate the power of rest!
    Hey, put them in front of the TV and go back to bed rather than into the electronic world. They understand that sleeping is passive and will be more gentle with you. And after a wee doze and full wake-up, you too will be your usual considered self meaning that the incident would never have seen the light of day.

  8. I have a 3 year old boy. I am a single mother and have no support from the father. As a full time working mother and sole provider of my child, I completely understand the meaning of “getting frustrated.”

    My son is at that age where he throws things and shouts at me when he does not get his way. You need to understand that children need discipline. I give my child a smack on the bum when I feel that his attitude has reached the point of no return and needs to understand that I am in charge and not him. I never feel bad for giving him a smack and sending him to his room and making him think about what he has just done. The point of it is to make them respect you, and not to walk all over you. If you give in to their tantrims, they will treat you that same way the rest of their lives.

    When my son has thought about what he has done wrong, he comes to me and say’s sorry. I give him a big hug and remind him that I love him no matter what but that his attitude is unacceptable. If you do not love your children after you have disciplined them, then they learn rejection instead of respect. (That is the important part).

    I grew up in a very strict, respectful and afrikaans home and I love my parents more than anything. I still respect them to this day and that is how I plan to bring my child up.

    Never feel bad for trying to give your children a great future and to respect those around them.

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