Why are these thoughts dangerous?
These thoughts, when we allow ourselves to think this way, are ones that fuel our fear and anger. Instead of empowering ourselves, we increase our own feelings of helplessness and pain, making it more likely that we will react poorly to whatever situation we face.
I am worried about writing a post asking you to stop thinking – that’s not what I’m after. I am asking you to be conscious of your thinking. When you feel yourself filling with rage at your child – this is not the time to increase that rage by falling into any of the thought patterns below. Later you can take time to analyze what triggered you to make you so angry, but in the moment when you are struggling to find calm, don’t add fuel to the fire.
We have a choice to put a stop to these thoughts when they occur. If the thought is very overwhelming you need to find what works for you; for some people that is counting, prayer or singing a song – anything to short circuit the feelings of helplessness, fear or rage – you don’t always have to know the answer to the situation to stop the cascade of negative thought.
In fact, I don’t know the exact right thing to think instead of any of these thoughts, but I know these are these thoughts send me on a road of reacting without thinking usually with yelling, slamming doors or other angry and unhelpful behavior.
If we can get in the habit of stopping these dangerous thoughts we give ourselves a chance to choose positive interactions instead of reacting with anger or threats.
A note: As I’ve worked on this post it has brought up sadness, fear and pain in myself. Please understand that I am writing from a place of personal experience with each one of these thoughts and I would love to learn from you ways you have found to deal with them – what I write is what I have learned and am still learning.
We are exploring parenting anger on Thursdays though November 15th. To be sure to catch these posts, please subscribe to the Creative With Kids Newsletter.
10 Dangerous Thoughts:
1. “Here we go again…”
You set dinner on the table and your son makes a face. In your mind you see it all – how you’ll tell him to stop, how he’ll make a rude remark back, how angry you’ll feel. Dinner’s ruined before it’s even begun.
When you predict the future of the argument it helps set your brain onto that path. It gives your mind a practice run for how things will go. Do we really want to practice ugly arguments?
Possibility: When you hear yourself think “Oh, great, now we’re going to have a screaming fit about diner again,” ask yourself if this is a chance to try something different, or at least allow for a different possible ending.
2. “NO! This is NOT how this was supposed to happen!“
You thought you’d get up early and have an hour to yourself; you are imagining how nice that quiet cup of coffee will be when you hear your toddlers chatty little voice – NOOOooooo!!!
Children have a knack for changing our plans and sometimes it’s very hard to readjust our expectations.
Possiblity: Before you bark at her to go BACK to bed, flash forward to what this morning will be like if you set it up for anger. You can yell and cause drama when events don’t unfold the way you want, or you can take a breath, face reality (I know, it’s not fun, but you have the choice to do this.) What choice can you make now? If you are disappointed will it help to add a crying child to the mix?
3. “I suck. I’m such a bad mom. I should have…”
I don’t need to tell you a scenario when guilt shows up. Many of us battle guilt on a daily basis.
The more you dwell on your guilt the more you feel injured by your own self loathing, and the more likely you are to lash out at your child because of it.
Possibility: Remember that we all make mistakes, we are human. Mistakes are a chance to learn and grow. Stop beating yourself up and instead look for what new tool you need.
4. “He’s going to fail. He’ll wind up addicted to drugs. He’ll ruin his life.….”
Your five year old hits his brother and grins. Suddenly you’re seeing a psychopath in the making and your temper flares.
Fear – we see a behavior right now and blow it up into all of the terrible things that might be later. This fuels more fear causing us to feel panicky and out of control – and then we are more likely to lash out in anger.
Possibility: Can we put aside our fears until a later calm time? What can we do later to prevent our fears from overwhelming us? Will making some plans help?
5. “What is WRONG with him??”
Your child seems to always be the kid who can’t handle changes. All the other kids seem fine, but you’re dealing with a melt down.
Thinking this leads to wondering if your child is inherently flawed. That is frightening and painful.
Possibility: Stop inflicting this pain on yourself. Two things: first, there may actually be something physically wrong with your child. In which case you can search for answers and help them heal. Secondly, your child makes mistakes just like anyone else. When we teach our children that mistakes are something we can learn from instead of something to be avoided at all costs, it becomes easier to handle it when they slip up.
6. “Why does she do this to me?!“
You daughter is melting down AGAIN about getting ready for school. She does this every morning while the other kids are quiet. You begin thinking what a brat she is – how she always ruins things with her screaming fits. Why does she do this to you? She knows you hate screaming!
When we take our kids anger personally we wind up acting from a place of injury and resentment.
Possibility: You are the grown up, sometimes the easiest way to remember this is to think, “What are you, a two (three, four…) year old?!” and likely that will cue you in, that, yes, they are a child, they will have many times of being difficult as they learn to navigate the world. Also, when I feel resentful I take it as a reminder that it’s time for me to find a way to get a break – call a babysitter or plan a play date in the near future.
7. “This is always going to be like this. What have I done with my life? “
You remember that feeling when you were getting woken up every night by your crying baby?
Sometimes we start to think that a certain phase is permanent, it’s just how it is and that kind of thinking leads us to feel depressed, hopeless and stuck.
Possibility: Focus on the thought that, “Everything is a phase.” One thing I know to be true about parenting – it’s always changing and evolving. You have a chance every day to make little shifts as to how things will change, but if you have no idea what the right thing to do is, at least know that if you wait long enough you will have something different to deal with.
8. “Ooh! I could just SMACK that kid!!”
You’re so angry that you picture hitting your child or other acts of aggression.
This thought puts a picture of violence in your head and if you actually formulate it this way by saying “that kid” it disconnects you a little from your child. He becomes, “that kid” in your mind instead of, “my son.”
Possibility: Short circuit this thought by picturing something completely different (I mention using visualization in this post about dealing with parenting rage), or if you can, bringing up a picture of your child as a perfect infant trusting and in need of your love.
9. “I can’t give in!”
You said something like, “You need to brush your teeth,” and your child is digging in their heals, saying NO and you’re NOT going to let them win.
I hate these situations when I want to be the consistent calm parent, but instead I feel cornered and wind up in a huge power struggle with my child.
Possibility: Would asking your child if they need a hug work? Is this something you can let go of now and come back to? The answer of how to end the power struggle varies greatly with each situation, but noticing you’re in one and stepping back from it, leaving the room, or stopping talking can help.
10. “They’ll think I’m a terrible mom.”
You’re in the grocery store and your child is screeching and hitting you. Wow, you feel lame.
When we focus on what every one else is thinking we begin to feel ashamed and desperate and our child takes the heat of our embarrassment.
Possibility: Is there any way to move to a quiet corner or leave the store? Also, in these situations I feel best when I have some tools I’ve thought about ahead of time so that I know what I will say to my child and how I will act.
What is your possibility?
Do you struggle with any of these thoughts (or many of them at the same time, like I do?) Do you have ways you’ve learned to stop yourself from spiraling out of control?