There are parts of parenting that I am better at that others. One thing I make an effort, and I think I do pretty well at, is not to lose my temper with my kids. I can probably count on one hand the times I’ve actually yelled at them. And my “them” I pretty much mean my oldest daughter. She can be a stubborn little shit (which she just might get from her old man) and there have been a few times when she pushes past the point of reason. I don’t think I have ever yelled at my younger daughter. She is dainty and delicate, and I am pretty sure if I ever yelled at her she would melt into a puddle of rainbow colored tears.
While I don’t verbalize my frustration with them, there are definitely times when my frustrations are communicated very clearly. I find an effective way to do this is to fire some laundry across the room.
A few days ago my daughter asked me to pick out her clothes in the morning, so I did. A dress, some pants to wear under it, a clean pair of undies, and a pair of socks – all laid out on her bed. Naturally, she took issue with my choice of pants. She didn’t want me to just pick for her, even thought that is explicitly what she askef for, she preferred I present her with options. Fine. I grabbed another pair of pants and laid that one out as well for her to pick from. Wrong again pops.
Apparently, what she really wanted was for me to hold them up for her, so she could pick between the two. Fine. I held them up. She picked. I turned to walk out of the room so I could help get the other two kids ready, and she snaps at with “No! What about socks?”
A dad can only be pushed so far.
“Oh, you mean these socks?” I asked as I held up the socks that I had already picked out. “I already got them for you, but if you’re going to talk to me like that you can get them yourself.” I replied in a very calm voice, as I chucked her socks out of her open bedroom door. They landed half way across the house. I haven’t played baseball in quite some time, but in the moment it was good to know I’ve still got it.
I calmly walked out of her room and went to get her little brother and sister dressed – who of course were eating it up. “I’m being a good girl Dad.” is often uttered by the younger sister when she senses the older one is in trouble. The yin and yang that keeps a multi-child house functioning.
As I was getting them dressed I could hear her sobbing and sniffling in her room. For a moment I felt bad. Was that a bad choice? Should I be setting a better example? I suppose I could have explained to her the right and wrong way to talk to me. I could have shown her that I was just trying to do my best to help her get dressed. Maybe just show that there were in fact socks there. Yes, each one was an option. But the satisfaction of chucking those socks was really quite something.
I mean, sure, even if a loss of temper isn’t vocalized, it still is a loss of control in the moment. But on the other hand, what’s the harm? It’s not even the first time I’ve thrown their socks. On more than one occasion I have thrown their socks in their faces when they were being too silly and not getting dressed.
“Don’t want my help getting your socks on? Ok, do it yourself,” As they catch a face full of cotton.
Thinking about it, I have used the same strategy with other things too. Stuffed animals have been thrown across the room. Shoes have been thrown down stairs. Pacifiers have been fired against a wall. But I’ve never yelled, and I’ve never hit. Only inanimate objects have born the brunt of my frustration. Though I am careful not to take it out on the good toys. I’m not about to send a replica Buzz Lightyear face first into a closet door, but a generic stuffed bear? Brace for impact pal.
Ok, the technique is questionable, but the results are real. After she pouted about it, my daughter went and trekked down her socks and put them on without a peep. She hasn’t had an issue getting dressed since. So is the value of a teaching method in the method, or in the result?
I’ll take the result.