Thursday, February 28, 2008

Patience verses Anger

Kat chose Practicing Patience as the topic today for Parent's University. For me, to talk about patience in parenting, I must address the flip side of that coin- anger. I am not an endless font of patience (notice photo of red hair) and my response to my patience being tested is anger in a range from slight irritation to mad as a wet hen. What I know is that with any breach of patience with my children, I can see the hurt on their faces and eventually in their behavior. Patience builds trust. Impatience tears down relationship. And if my child's face no longer registers something when I show irritation, things are not as they should be.

Anger is not a pretty thing, but the consequences of leaving it unresolved in parents and children leads to devastation of families. The best source I've ever read on this has been Dr. Ross Campbell in his book
Relational Parenting.

It's tough stuff, but check out his anger ladder.
The Anger Ladder
Positive
1. pleasant~seeking resolution~focusing on source of anger~ holding to primary complaint~thinking logically
2. pleasant~focusing on source of anger~ holding to primary complaint~thinking logically

Positive and Negative
3. focusing on source of anger~ holding to primary complaint~thinking logically~unpleasant and loud
4. holding to primary complaint~thinking logically~unpleasant and loud~ displacing anger to other sources
5. focusing on source of anger~ holding to primary complaint~thinking logically~unpleasant and loud~ verbal abuse
6. thinking logically~unpleasant, loud, displacing anger to other sources~expressing unrelated complaints

Primarily Negative
7. unpleasant, loud, displacing anger to other sources~expressing unrelated complaints~emotionally destructive behavior
8. unpleasant, loud~ displacing anger to other sources~expressing unrelated complaints~emotionally destructive behavior~verbal abuse
9. unpleasant, loud ~cursing~ displacing anger to other sources~expressing unrelated complaints~emotionally destructive behavior~verbal abuse
10. focusing anger on source~unpleasant, loud ~cursing~expressing unrelated complaints~emotionally destructive behavior~
throwing objects
11. unpleasant, loud ~cursing~ displacing anger to other sources~expressing unrelated complaints~emotionally destructive behavior~verbal abuse~throwing objects

Negative
12. focusing anger on source~cursing~unpleasant, loud~emotionally destructive behavior~verbal abuse~destructive behavior
13. unpleasant, loud~ cursing ~displacing anger to other sources~ destroying property~ verbal abuse ~emotionally destructive behavior
14. unpleasant, loud~ cursing ~displacing anger to other sources~ destroying property~ verbal abuse ~emotionally destructive behavior~ physical abuse
15. passive aggressive behavior


This chart helps me keep number one as my goal for myself and my children in every test of patience. If I don't seek patience as a lifestyle, I'll one day be facing my growing children as they exhibit negative behavior I may have taught or left untrained, God forbid. I remember:

"Children have no defense against their parents' anger."
–Dr. Ross Campbell

There are only two ways to express anger- action or words. If anger cannot be expressed outwardly, then it turns inward. We've got to allow our children to fail and mature in expressing anger. If not, the results can be tragic.

The bottom rung on the ladder, passive aggression, is the best motivator of all for me to operate in patience as a parent. A passive aggression person is someone who found no means for learning to deal with anger. The child has so disconnected from relationship in self protection that they no longer understand their own actions. If I continue to be bothered by my own child and angry with my him, I could end up with a child who is depressed, sneaky mean, or self destructive yet unaware of the "why" behind it all.

Onto the pressing question of, "What if I blow it as a parent?". And I do. What if I speak to my children in an unpleasant or loud way? What if I get off focus? Or move off primary complaint into a litany of pet peeves? Here is where I apply the monastic principle of beginning again. You may have heard God's mercies are new every morning? Well, I say God's mercies are new every moment for a mom- we are simply to shake off the dust and begin again. I am to apologize and move on back up to the top of the ladder toward resolution as soon as possible. Being in the habit of self examination in the midst of conflict is not easy but worth everything.

The other key is to allow myself to be accountable. Last week, a gigantic conflict appeared between one of my sons and myself, and in fear, I did not handle things well at all. I had exercised no patience or understanding, but went straight to anger. I called Buck to warn him that we'd need to have a sitdown as soon as he got home from work. The three of us huddled in the living room, and I asked my son, "Want to explain our day, or shall I?" My boy requested me to tell Buck our broken situation with the stipulation that he could take notes on all the things to share after my turn, because he was quite certain I would leave out my negative behavior. I started from the beginning being sure to bring forward every loud, unpleasant, intimidating fault of mine. In the end, my son didn't write a single thing on his paper, and I could see his relief growing as I took responsibility for my anger and apologized to him in front of my husband. I'd have damaged my child's heart further if I'd have done it any other way.

Sleep, a peaceful family schedule, exercise, and healthy food remain essential to the patience equation also.

Be encouraged. I didn't grasp patience vs. anger in my home growing up. Instead, I've learned by failing and learning as a parent. It's never too late.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I really needed to read this. I fear as parents we have not practiced patience - or more over practice a lot more anger. It is an eye opener. And I know I am a work in progress - as is their father.

truevyne said...

Anon, aren't we all?

At A Hen's Pace said...

I've enjoyed Ross Campbell's other books--How to Really Love Your Child/Teenager--and am so glad to know about this one! Convicting--sounds very helpful.

--Jeanne

Diana said...

I think that is so wise to share your faults in front of your son. Wow- talk about humility. It reminds me of the verse in James about "confessing your sins to one another and you will be healed."
I do not have children now, but I do teach them and find myself constantly shying away from parents when I become angry with them (the children).
Thank you!

Lisa said...

This one is next on my book stack, if I ever finish the biography I'm working on now. Looking forward to it.

truevyne said...

Jeanne, I like those books as well.

Diana, conflict is difficult. I agree, but worth it.

Lisa, I have a stack of books a mile high too.

The Secret Life of Kat said...

"Well, I say God's mercies are new every moment for a mom- we are simply to shake off the dust and begin again. I am to apologize and move on back up to the top of the ladder toward resolution as soon as possible. "

What a great word-picture. I always have a hard time "breaking out" of my funk once I get impatient. I think the idea of shaking off the dust and climbing back to the top of the ladder will really help.

As always - amazing advice, Truevyne.