22 October 2009

Parenting in ALL CAPS

It is hard to comprehend, as you cradle your newborn in your arms, how much this child will annoy and anger you someday. This is the flip side of love; the ones we adore the most are also the ones most skilled at driving us crazy, sometimes in equal measure.

Spanking has been out for some time, but now, the tide is turning against yelling at our children. I take this with mixed emotions, as yelling is an inevitable, and necessary part of the job.  

In my better moments, my study of mindfulness practices pay dividends. I was talking with a friend about meditation recently, and quipped that one of the greatest benefits I have derived from my yoga practice is to yell at my children with far greater precision. What I meant is that I've become better at catching myself on the verge of an explosion, and deciding how to engage. Recently, I've used a trick I learned from Elena Brower, of lowering my chin to my chest, which changes the pattern of your heartbeat, and I've found it really works. As a result, when I do yell, I am more likely to be in control my anger rather than allowing it to control me.

In my lesser moments though, I've resorted to stomping, gritting my teeth, growling, and wrist squeezing. Once, when Sarah was small, I took a page from my cat, and hissed at her. It was not my proudest moment, but it got her attention.

I learned a good trick for anger management from Sarah. She was about three, and we were beginning to teach her to identify her emotions, and express anger verbally rather than physically. In true sanctimonious parent fashion, "Use your words," was a constant refrain. One day when she was angry about something, she clenched her fists and scrunched her face, and shouted, "I WANT TO HIT!"

We were so proud.

So sometimes when I'm close to losing it, I'll say, "I am really angry right now, so angry that I want to spank you."

What do you do to manage your temper?

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