Have you ever had a meltdown?
After Vera popped into our lives, I found myself being angry more often than I should. Joyful, yes, but angry too. I lost it when there was incessant crying, night wakings, and basically when tiredness and stress overwhelmed me.
Things got better after I got the hang of motherhood, but then the toddler threw it out of whack when she decided to exert her independence and showcase her intolerance for anything other than what ‘I WANT’.
At times, I would lose control and spank her harder than I should, while yelling “why are you acting so naughty?!” or “why can’t you listen to mummy?!” I even spanked with my bare hands — something I’ve told myself not to do because we have decided to use a small wooden spatula for disciplining, and we wanted very much to reserve our hands for loving.
Well, we also told ourselves that we would not try to discipline her when we were angry, as it’s easy to get out of control when wild emotions are ravaging your body. So I guess we failed in the very things we told ourselves not to do.
Looking back, I probably went through some of my darkest moments then — the guilt was over-powering. I became aware of the fact that I came from a family where yelling was a usual occurrence, and I had started to reproduce that same pattern of behaviour in my own household.
Yet, by some grace larger than our own, the hubby and I committed to learning through our mistakes; we worked together and tried to find solutions to each ‘new’ issue. And we set new boundaries for ourselves and our daughter, after learning each time what went right and what went wrong.
We re-strategised our disciplinary plan through each developmental stage that she went through. (Vera kept throwing us new curve balls after we thought we had her ‘figured out’.) I guess through that, we also learnt about our own flaws, and how to work better as a couple. (You simply have to work together. There is no other way. Inconsistent messages will just make things more confusing for your child.)
Today, I found out that yelling (including blame, name-calling, or belittling) can be as emotionally damaging as physically hitting a child. This came through a workshop on anger management held by the NUH Women’s Emotional Health Service. I also re-learnt the reasons why we should try not to let anger get the better of us:
- Children who are spanked become more aggressive themselves
- The more corporal punishment is used, the greater the risk of escalation into child abuse
- If you are constantly angry, you minimize the opportunities to bond with your child
- Children of angry parents are less empathic, and have poorer overall adjustment later in life
- Punishment may not be as effective in helping children internalize the value of good behaviour as compared to positive reinforcement and explaining
- The long-term impact on your child could include low self-esteem, higher chance of depression, eating disorders in females, etc.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating no-spanking, period. But if spanking is a form of letting out your anger on your child, then I believe there can be a better way.
Here’s the good news: While we may be born with the potential to be aggressive, we CAN learn to channel our emotions into more constructive forms.
Here are some ideas that can help:
- Do not react immediately (if you know that you are angry)
- Step back, analyse the situation
- Find out the cause for the action
- Discuss and find solutions, rather than act on emotion
- Develop a forgiving mindset (for yourself and for your loved ones)
Personally, I find that walking away from the ‘scene’ for a few minutes and just taking deep breaths as I walk does wonders.
Of course, humour works wonders too…
How do you cope with your emotions when they run high?