“Everything that irritates us about others can lead to an understanding of ourselves.” -- Carl Jung
Have you noticed that when you get angry there’s something else under the anger?
Anger and Annoyance are always a defense against other emotions that we don’t want
to feel – usually hurt, fear, sadness, or disappointment (which is a form of grief).
What's behind your annoyance at your kid? Sure, she broke your favorite
dish, and he's picking on his sister again. You have a right to be annoyed.
But that doesn't mean acting out of your annoyance is the most effective approach
to eliminating such behavior in the future. She already feels terrible that she
broke your dish; what she needs is a way to make it up to you so she can redeem
herself. (As in, doing something nice for you, not punishment.) And there are lots
of ways to
heal sibling rivalry (click here), all more effective if you aren't annoyed.
(It's hard to convince him you love him just as much as you love her when you have
that edge in your voice.)
To be an inspired parent, you need a way past your annoyance. Want the magic
key? When you address the underlying feeling, the annoyance vanishes. That's true
any time you're angry.
Try noticing this weekend each and every time you feel irritated, annoyed, impatient,
frustrated or angry toward your child.
Now go a step deeper. What thought is under the anger? What emotion is that thought
- Are you hurt that your kids don’t appreciate all you do? Start
by taking responsibility for taking care of yourself. It isn’t your kid’s job to
do that. In fact, you owe them the best of yourself, not what's left of yourself. Now, make
some changes so you don’t feel taken advantage of. Can you
train your kids to do their own laundry? Make peace with their
rooms being a mess? Finally, notice that your hurt is almost
certainly older than your kids. Were you not fully appreciated
as a child? Grieve that, and you’ll find yourself empowered to address any hurt
in your parenting.
- Afraid that your kids will never change, that they’ll mess up their lives? Whatever
your kids are doing, at least half of it is immaturity, which by definition they’ll
grow out of. The other half, you can change by addressing the
underlying need that’s causing the misbehavior. Time with you? A
chance to vent his fears? More sleep? Some structure from you to learn a new habit,
like remembering her homework?
- Grieving because life, or maybe parenting, isn’t everything you hoped? Go
ahead and grieve. Life is full of loss. When
we don’t cry the tears we need to, we end up hopeless and bitter, ready to lash
out. Your kids don’t deserve your bitterness.
- Afraid that you’ve messed up your kids and there’s no
way to turn things around? Kids are resilient, and however they may act, they always
want to reconnect with you. They just need to see you making
steps in the right direction. It’s never too late to turn things
around. Start now.
Each time you feel even mild annoyance at your kid this weekend, stop and acknowledge
the thought and emotion behind it. You'll be amazed. Once you recognize
the trigger, you have a choice about how to respond. Best of all, your annoyance
will melt away. That's what I can win-win parenting.