Anger Management 101: Mums have meltdowns too but…

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…

Anger management

How do you cope with your emotions when they run high?

The end of tyrannosaurus twos

Vera is nearing the end of the tyrannosaurus twos, a.k.a. terrible twos.

There might be two questions running through your mind right now.

Why the T-rex? Well, Vera’s behavior over the past year or so resembled this prehistoric creature’s. The tantrums, the mood swings, and the permanent PMS. Like the T-rex, she was trouble on two legs.

So, why ‘the end’? Well, she’s been an absolute darling for the past month or so. She’s been helpful – ever eager to fetch her little brother’s diaper and clothes. She’s been generous – sharing her sweets and snacks with others like a little santa. She’s …*gasp* growing up!

I’m not saying zero tantrums or zilch difficult behavior – but it’s a far cry from whence we came. From the days of shrieking and yelling and banging and wailing. From the days when two letters ‘N’ and ‘O’ would lead to a meltdown. From the days when we needed our daily cane (a spatula).

Today, she is …

Little Miss Helpful

vera laundry

Little Miss Cheeky

Little Miss Drama Queen

Yes that is a crown made out of a Barney float. Long live Queen Barney.

vera barney hat

Little Miss Teacher

Maybe this is why she adores her baby brother. He’s the only one who will hang around long enough to listen to her telling stories.

reading to j

It could be that she’s learnt to negotiate for what she wants, and learnt to accept our reasoning as to why she can’t have everything she asks for. It could be that she’s better at delaying gratification at this age and stage. It could be that we have also been more obliging and more giving to her (rubbed off by her pleasantness).

Or it could just be God shining his face upon our little family. 🙂

No matter what brought about the demise of the T-rex, I’m one thankful mummy. (And I must say there’s no better feeling than seeing her so protective and loving towards her brother, and witnessing their sibling love take root.)

Baby…you’ve come a long way.

Linking up with Kiddothings!

Learning to tame the strong-willed child

My toddler has graduated from saying ‘NO!’ to more sophisticated forms of expression, mainly: ‘I want THIS!’ or ‘I don’t want this!’. (Note: ‘This’ can be replaced by the name of the object of affection/rejection, if known to her.)

I’m not sure if I’m particularly excited about this development. It sure makes for highly unpredictable days – we could go from ‘very good day’ to ‘very bad day’ in a matter of minutes. Although in all honesty, I think if we as parents were better prepared in handling the want-this-don’t-want-that-toddler, the swing would not be as great.

Some days, broccoli would be her worst enemy, other days, it would be carrot, or pumpkin, or some pea hidden in her rice somewhere. Some days, she would adore (and go nuts if she can’t find) her pink blanket, other days, she would crave her yellow one (oh, not the one with the baby motif). She used to love cold milk, now she turns whiny if it’s not served hot.

As one can tell, this dynamic toddler makes feeding and other everyday life matters as nerve-wrecking as navigating a minefield. It’s a battle of wits, and the parents are calling out for more strategic ammunition.

We’ve tried caning, which usually serves as a deterrent once the object is mentioned or sighted. But just yesterday, the two-and-a-quarter year old demanded for a tissue (to play with, not to use), and I said if you want to waste the tissue, you have to get one whack of the cane. She put my words to the test, and received one whack on the palm. After a few seconds, she asked for another whack. I granted her her wish, this time making sure the pain was felt. She kept silent.

This rather strange, one-off episode tells me she’s gearing up for a stronger challenge, as if she’s declaring: ‘I’m not afraid.’

She’s open to reasoning if she’s in an agreeable mood. It also helps if the bait or the promise is attractive, such as being able to do some painting, or have a tasty treat.

All in all, we’ve been trying to make her fussiness and tantrums as much as a non-event as possible, unless she really is in the mood for trouble. I remember some good advice I read awhile ago: Pick your battles.

I’ve started to read Dr. James Dobson’s The New Strong-willed Child afresh, hoping to gain some new insights and tips. (I’ve also just ordered his book The New Dare to Discipline by the way.)

Effective discipline requires a balance of love and control (or love with boundaries)

Effective discipline requires a balance of love and control (or love with boundaries)

Dobson advocates the establishing of parental authority from an early age, and drawing consistent boundaries of right/wrong, with appropriate levels of punishment meted out for each undesirable behaviour, the worst of which are outright acts of defiance.

I think it’s time to try out some of his suggested strategies and tactics for this age group, such as time-out. (Have tried a variation of this a couple of times, esp. at mealtimes when she fusses over her food and refuses to eat. I would just pick her up silently and set her on the sofa, and ignore her for awhile. Usually she would come round to asking for food by herself.)

Lest I’ve made my toddler out to be some kind of monster, I must add that on good days, she’s usually a cheerful, playful, fun-loving sweetheart. We love her to the max.

But because we do, we can’t let her wreak havoc with her wilful ways. As the good book says:”...the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” (Proverbs 13)

Patience is key to mama-hood

As Vera nears two, I’ve been looking out for signs of the terrible twos manifesting in her little ways. Thus far, it seems as if her having been initiated into childcare has helped to curb Neanderthal instincts somewhat. Except for the fact that she wants her favourite food/milk always NOW, she appears to accept reasoning and negotiation alot better than before. I’m sure it also helps that she’s able to express herself a whole lot better.

Still, of late, she’s been more prone to sudden outbursts and tantrums, particularly when she knows she’s made one of us angry. I don’t know for sure, but I think she is more sensitive to our feelings of anger these days.

Also, she’s been slightly less cooperative than before, wanting to play longer in her bathtub, longer at the playground, etc. Essentially, she’s only happy to comply only when the outcome is yummy or fun.

OR…when mummy starts to hyperventilate.

Sigh, which brings me back to the title of this post. Patience is key to parenthood, and keeping your sanity. I used to fight often with my feisty toddler, thinking that I had to win all the battles in order for her to learn to respect authority.

But recently, I’ve mellowed. I’ve come to see that sometimes avoiding head-on confrontation is better than reacting to the situation. Well, it does save a lot of tears and energy at the very least.

In the long run, I think Vera learns obedience better via a combination of soft love and hard knocks. And the basis of our teaching and discipline must always be love.

Kids need motivation to be good. A bit like adults, I suppose.

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