Parenting Despair

Is it in the air? Spring, as well as flairs of anger and yelling at your children? Patience is low, we are stuck inside, moms and dads everywhere are not handling their children with grace and love and are feeling defeated. At least that's my view.

I have now spoken with 5 moms in the past 7 days, either they have come to me or I have shared with them and they have resonated, about feeling defeat in not parenting well. Feeling shame in angry thoughts, words and actions.

I am the biggest one.

After being discouraged with yelling at my son at least once a week lately, him recoiling, both of us sad, feeling defeated.....I was over it. I called out for help in my community. And I set up a time with a counselor and dear friend.

Sitting across the table with him, he told me something I had never heard before: Losing control is never an option.


Wow...I thought it was. And of course, it IS an option - but not a healthy one. Yelling does several unhealthy things to our children/spouses/any human - it freezes the part of the brain that learns. It does not open learning, it shuts it down. They are not being trained in the way they should go - they are frozen. They cannot think well. They are scrambled. Many men in prison grew up being yelled at. They cannot think well because of it.

Well, I felt a sense of shock and helplessness. That was a tool in my back pocket...but somehow I hated that I did yell. Now what? I will outline for you some main thoughts (fire hydrant drinking...ready?):

*I need a new strategy. More for me. Way more. Just like my Chair Cards in my previous post.

And if the strategy, after applied for 2-3 months, does not help me - then I need to sit down again and think through other options. It is an "I can not" vs "I will not".

*"I can not" says that I might need some other help along the way (possibly meds here?), a rigid exercise, sleep and eating regimen to keep myself at the healthiest possible in my emotional state if I implement some new strategies.... and I still flip a lid. Seems then that I can not stay in control.

"I will not" says that I have not trained myself self to stay under control, even when the heat rises. That I am capable of seeing losing control as not an option, and I choose otherwise. Walk away. Go into the bathroom. Remove myself. Count to 20. Whatever. At every cost, staying in control. We are gunna be late? So what. If I stay in control - that is winning. Forsaking the reputation of myself for staying in control and choosing kindness and calmness. That is success.

I need to get my butt in training. I train for races. I practice not eating an entire chocolate cake so that I stay fit. I need to train my self control in parenting. Practice and practice and practice.

Form a habit, and you form character. Form character and you form a life.

*So, with the great recommendation of a mother I respect - just like my chair cards - I need to use my fingers as an unemotional way to respond. I am using 1,2,3 Magic (see note at the end). I used to feel like the 1,2,3 method was slow obedience. But after asking my 5 year old (kindly) if he remembers what I just asked him to do and he truly doesn't - I see that he needs training to stop and think. He needs a grace moment to get back on task. He needs to stop and think. And given that chance. He needs training too. And when we get to 3 - I am surely going to give a consequence.

*Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in a way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." I was not training. I was telling. And children need a LOT of help. I realize I have not been taking the time, seeing it as MY JOB to train him. To take my time and help him learn. Not expect that he should remember until he is trained.

*It is my fault if we get to 18 times in asking him to do something. It's not 1....2.....2 and child is then the boss if he can stretch us like that.

*I need a "Pocket full of consequences" ready to go. I could only think of 3 off the top of my head. (Remove legos, take Squeak (fav stuffed animals) remove WildKrats (tv show as I cook)....I had to actually do the work to brainstorm 10 of them. I may need to use one after another.

*I took time and wrote down the most stressful, predictable trigger times for us. Getting ready for school. Getting ready to go anywhere, really. Dinner time and his chair...... And then get ready to use my other options. Offensive parenting.


Let me encourage you - I think so many of us are in the "I will not" category - and have not learned to actually control our temper. We let it fly, thinking they deserve it. We've seen it modeled and see it as normal. And just because it is normal, does not mean it is healthy.

But I have seen over the past 7 days, that I can, with the help of humbly coming before Rob and God for help and prayer, choose to not lose control. I have 3 fingers in my pocket - and we have only gotten to 3 and removed his lego starship once.....after counting to just 1 many times. Which shows me my very curious and amazing boy is thinking of other things. And for that - I am reminded he is small. And he is distracted and curious and delightful and needs some training. Ok, a lot.

Train up a momma in the way she should go.



1,2,3 Magic Note. This was an email from a friend and this has been working for us:

One of the recommendations at a parenting training I attended was to read the book, "1-2-3 Magic".
While I do not agree with everything in the book, the basic premise of counting does seem very valid to me.  It gives the child basically a reminder that we do not do or should do something ("1"), a chance to think through whether or not they want to comply, ("2") and a final chance to be obedient vs. doing their own thing ("3").
The books explains this all much better than I could write, but basically, you use this strategy EVERY time (at home, outside, errands, etc.).  You get to the point where you either say, "That's 1" or just put up one finger and say nothing (which is even better when you are beginning to feel frustrated or angry).  Then if they do not comply, you calmly say, "That's 2" or put up another finger.
If you get to "3", you say, "That's 3, go to timeout." or just put up three fingers and point to wherever you have designated the timeout be (preferably in their room or alone). Or tell them the consequence. "Go get me your lego ship...and we are going to put it in timeout until the morning...."
My child typically gets no farther than "That's 2" and he has lots of impulse control/anger issues.  I am actually quite shocked that it typically works for him!
The books has tons more role plays/scenarios.  But the basic premise is that the adult can calmly and unemotionally say or gesture 1-2 and then the child will either do/not do what they are told or spend a brief time in timeout.  If they argue while going to timeout or throw a tantrum, then timeout lasts longer (only like 30 seconds to begin with). (or I remove something else after asking if they want to calm down "If you cannot calm down while giving me your lego ship, I will then ask for Squeak....and on and on from my pocket full...."
It would be a good book to check-out or purchase.  Again, I don't agree with everything or some of the scenarios they pose, but the basic idea is a good one and works most of the time for us!