Monday, December 19, 2005

More proof just in: I’m a rotten parent

I am informed of this little gem of parental wisdom this morning:

“Validate your child's emotions.
Instead of saying, "There's no reason to get so upset," if your child gets mad and throws a tantrum because he's unable to put together a puzzle, acknowledge how natural his reaction is. Say, "It's really frustrating when you can't finish a puzzle, isn't it?" Telling him his reactions are inappropriate or excessive will make him feel as if he should muzzle them.”

Oops. I had this wild idea that muzzling inappropriate or excessive reactions was a very valuable social skill.

So, the next time I’m in WalMart and some jackass parks his cart sideways across the aisle, I will demand validation of my emotions instead of condemnation when I accelerate to ramming speed and take his self-absorbed butt out. That is precisely what I would do if I didn’t muzzle my reactions a bit. But my mother, being a rotten parent as well, taught me to temper my natural anger and normal violence, and to respond with a wholly unnatural politeness: “Pardon me, can I just squeeze past?”

OK, OK, I’m only half serious. There is a big difference between a two year old throwing a tizzy fit and, say, a six year old doing so. A two year old doesn’t understand his own problem, half the time.

I’ve seen my toddler-aged kids go from bumbling happily around the room playing with blocks to lying on the floor shrieking and kicking in a matter of seconds, and for no apparent reason. With their language skills so limited, they have no way of articulating what’s bugging them so; more than half the time, I suspect that even if they had the vocabulary, they still couldn’t really say what just happened to them, emotionally.

More than half the time, I can’t either. I can’t explain why I feel such tremendous bursts of rage sometimes over what really are very minor little things. Getting cut off while driving, dropping a stitch while knitting, having apple juice splash all over the floor, or starting to pull into a parking spot only to discover that some inconsiderate jackass has left their cart in the middle of it.

It’s so…nothing. So minor. So…not worth the bother. And yet, sometimes, I feel such a surge of fury over such things that I’m shaking with the desire to beat the holy crap out of someone over it. I’ll often have to walk away from the situation for a minute to put a muzzle on my reaction before returning to the problem at hand, lest I do something stupid and/or violent.

So I can readily understand my toddler getting screaming-and-kicking angry over, say, the red block not being blue, or the wrong song singing forth from the little plastic phone, or not being able to recreate The Thinker out of tinker toys due to manual dexterity issues.

But I still personally think that part of our job is to teach our children how to control themselves. And sometimes, damn it, your reaction is inappropriate and/or excessive. It’s part of my job to point this out, and to help you find a better way to deal with the things that irk you.

Because honestly – ramming the bastard in WalMart may be gratifying in the very short-term, but in the long run? Assault and battery charges, jail time, community service…it just ain’t worth it, kid.

Trust me on this one.


Myownigloo said...

I understand that children neeed to be taught when to exhibit what behavior. There are ways of doing that without invalidating the child.

However, I also hate it when someone tells me there's no reason to be upset. I mean, if I'm upset then I'm upset and I have a reason!

I'm with the article on this one.

21st Century Mom said...

Our major job as parents - the very most important one - is to teach our children to be good citizens of the world. That includes modulating our emotional outbursts as we mature. That is a whole lot different then having someone invalidate my adult feelings because he or she can't deal with my emotions.

I'm with your on this one Tama. Teaching reasonable behavior sometimes means saying "I know you are upset but it isn't okay to kick over the coffee table. Go to your room - NOW! before I beat you to within an inch of your miserable littl...." Ooops - maybe you could modulate your emotions before you get quite that far :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm not a parent but it seems to me that there's a difference between invalidating feelings and teaching appropriate responses to feelings.

"I know you are upset but that's no reason to kick over the coffee table" is different from "You have no reason to be upset."


Mother of Chaos said...

Yeah, I hate it when people say things like, "There's no reason to be all upset about it!" I try not to say that kind of stuff, either. It's so...demeaning.

It isn't what they are feeling I go after - it's the way they express it. Like, it's OK to be sad or angry that your milk is {gasp} Just Plain White instead of Funky Cool Orange.

It is NOT, however, OK to fling the cup of milk onto the floor, followed by your plate, silverware, and self, and to then lie on the floor screaming and kicking that YOU WANTED ORANGE MILK!!!!!!!!!

That part is WAY not OK. You do that at school, or at work, and there will be social and/or economic consequences. "HAHAHAHAHAHA! WHAT A LOSER! Oh, and, BTW, you're FIRED!"

Myownigloo said...

I think we're all basically in agreement here.