Frustration and Communication in Parenting

My two male children are now in their late- and mid-20’s and on their own. I am very proud of them both and have enjoyed my whole parenting experience. It is a good time of life in our relationship. And now when it is calm, my wife and I, who recently went through the loss of our dog, decided 8 weeks later to get a puppy. Now, dogs aren’t kids, but raising them can be very similar. Like most kids, puppies have wonderful curiosity, are easily distracted and would far rather do exactly what they want to do when they want to do it.  Once again, I have a little being that does not listen at all to anything I say!

Can parenting be like training a puppy?

Communicating with children or puppies can be similarly frustrating.

So, here I am, angry that I have to get things done in my life and this puppy is walking to the other side of the yard, not listening to what I need her to do. I have to make her understand that she cannot do that. Yet, she has no idea what I am thinking or why I am even addressing her since she has her own agenda!  Parenting angst again!

We have been discussing the issue of anger, shame and violence and their interconnectedness. In practical terms, it boils down to how we communicate, particularly when we are angry or frustrated with our children, such as when we are feeling helpless or believe that what is happening is unfair. In our attempts to regain our parental power, we can speak more out of our own underlying feelings rather than what is the most healthy and effective way to communicate for the situation in which we find ourselves.

So, when you are angry and having thoughts that things aren’t fair or right, you may think and say one or more of the following:

Blaming“It’s this child’s fault that I am not able to…think/get my work done/enjoy my home.”

Catastrophizing/magnifying: “This kid is going to ruin everything that is important to me!” “This child is the worst . . .” “He will never be a responsible adult.”

Misattributions (motive ascriptions): “She is doing that to get my goat.” “He knows exactly how to push my buttons.” “She is out to get me.”

Overgeneralizations: “Children are always a pain in the neck.” “Kids always know how to ruin…a vacation/a meal/a movie.” “She never gets anything right.”

Demanding/commanding (Should-ing): “He should know better than that!” “Children should be seen and not heard.”

Irritation fixation: “Here we go again. Every day/every time we come here this kid has to make sure to… “

Assuming (via mind-reading and fortune-telling): “He’s going to persist all day long with that whining just to see how far he can go before I cave in.” “She knows exactly what is doing that drives me crazy.”

Feelings passed on as facts: “There is no excuse for this!” “Children are always out to get you.”

Abusive labeling: “What a brat!” “He’s a pig!” “She’s lazy.”

Personalizing: “He’s doing that on purpose just to get to me!” “She is just asking for it.” “He only behaves like that around me.”

Unfavorable comparisons: “Why are my kids always the ones…who forget their stuff when there is a school trip?”

Regrets: “If only I hadn’t…then this never would have happened. The child will never recover, but then it should never have happened in the first place.”

Do any of those statements sound familiar?

I would think all of us have heard or even said some of these statements at some point in our lives. Yet, much of what we are feeling when we say things types of statements make saying them seem appropriate for the moment.

However, these types of statements can often leave a child feeling helpless, labeled and not knowing what to do next.

Like a puppy, the child will look at us parents with a sense of questioning and helplessness.

They do not know what to do about what we are saying and simply retreat.

An answer lies in how can we reframe these types of statements to be more effective. We need to communicate so that we are not sending vague, blaming, shaming and confusing messages.

In my next post we will offer some replacement thoughts that will help you become more in control of your responses and a more effective communicator.

Gerry Vassar, President and CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

Information taken from Preventing Violence through Anger Management, 2006, Diane Wagenhals. Licensed Materials. All rights reserved.

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