Friday, July 9, 2010


Anger. It's an emotion we all have and feel. But how can we channel this energy into something positive?

My wife and I were raised with different parenting styles. My parents were more along the lines of the typical "cry-it-out" parent of that time and hers less so. My father had two emotions: "absent" and "angry". Not to get Freudian, but our parents' parenting styles have a major influence on our parenting styles. I have inherited/been taught to hold things in until its unbearable and then let it all out at once. This method has major limitations.

Imagine that you have a theoretical bucket, lets call it your brain bucket, and your brain bucket is where you keep all your emotions in liquid form. Each of us has a different carrying capacity in this bucket. When the bucket is full, the supports holding the bucket upright give away and it tips over spilling the emotions in a giant wave of energy. This method of dealing with stress/anger doesn't work for child rearing for several reasons. The first being that the first years of child-rearing are incredibly stressful and life altering. You are on-call 24/7. Your brain bucket is going to be nearly full for a long time, if you insist on filling it this way. Therefore any small additions will cause a torrent outflow.

A spilled glass of milk. A dog that destroys a shoe. A leaking pen in a shirt. You are about to leave the house and you realize the cell phone battery is dead. You are half way to work and realize that you forgot to put out the garbage, forgot your lunch, and are already 10 minutes behind schedule. None of these things on their own should cause anyone to 'tip their bucket' but when its running near full most of the time, its very easy. Having children puts you at your mental edge. You will get mad. You will get angry.

How do you keep yourself from breaking? I don't think there is any one answer, and I am still struggling through these issues myself. But what I can tell you is that there is a fine line between being a firm, fair parent and a strict, angry one. We need to provide our children with self-confidence and yelling or over-reacting is the quickest way NOT to achieve that.

One of the keys to positive parenting is to respect your children as much as you expect them to respect you. Imagine your emotions when your child yells or throws something in frustration or anger, you feel bad. You feel that your parenting to-date has been flawed in some way, that you did something wrong along the way. Turn the tables around and you can understand that a child who is subjected to an over-reacting, angry parent might feel that they are flawed beyond repair.

I'm working hard to reorganize my internal wiring so I don't short circuit and blow fuses. It's not easy. Especially with the pressures of being a husband, father, and physician bearing down on me. I don't think I'm hard wired, I think we all can change our behaviour patterns and I'm working towards that goal. Luckily my children provide me with lots of learning opportunities!

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