Parenting Help: Balance Authority With Peace Instead of Anger

steel balancing scale

I grew up being afraid of authority figures. No, I wasn’t abused or anything like that; I was just naturally afraid of doing anything to offend the people in charge of me. Being an overachiever, I took that to extremes.

When I was 10, I got my first horse. He was nearly impossible to control and both my parents and I struggled with him for nearly a year before admitting defeat. He was too dangerous, we couldn’t get him to cooperate with even the simplest commands, and we were completely mystified as to how his former owner could come out and ask him for anything and he’d comply.

We were afraid of him.

Once the decision was made to sell, I marched on out to the barn with a pretty big chip on my shoulder. Stupid horse. We were going to teach HIM a lesson. Not gonna behave for me? Then he’s OUTTA here. Good riddance.

Would you believe it? That horse started behaving PERFECTLY for me. Once I wasn’t afraid (because I was mad) he knew I was boss. Instead of selling, we kept him for years and rarely had any trouble with him again. If he did act up, I knew how to get him back in line.

That lesson stayed with me, all throughout my years with horses, then into my teaching career, and on into parenting. It was a good lesson: I am the authority and you have to cooperate with me. My own self-confidence has grown, and I am so much more comfortable in my own skin. Unfortunately, the “mad” part got hooked into it, and I have found myself frustrated and angry with the boys too much.

This is not their fault, it is mine. It’s also my responsibility to fix. But how? How does one undo years (decades!) of habit? It’s something I’ve been struggling with for years now. There are times when I get the balance back, when I’m not constantly frustrated, and then there are times when…I’m frustrated.

For a long time, the pattern was tied to the school year. By May we’d all be sick to death of each other, but the break from lessons over the summer was enough to repair the family relationships, and we’d start fresh in the fall. This year by August things were not really better. TechnoBoy going to school and some sizable changes to the lesson schedule helped make our lessons a lot better. (Not that TechnoBoy was the source of any problems…I think it’s just having one less kid in the mix. Any one of them could have gone off to public school and I think we’d have seen the difference.)

Even with the school improvements I still ended up angry a lot. Dealing with teens is hard! I would get up feeling peaceful every day and be angry by dinner. I think a lot of the anger is related to feelings of helplessness in the face of foolish behavior.

Anyways. Two Sundays ago, we had a family reset moment. The boys heard Hubby and I being angry at the same time and for whatever reason this motivated them to be super sweet and cooperative all day. I don’t know that we’ve both been angry very often in their lives. Usually we end up with a Good Cop/Bad Cop scenario. It isn’t planned, it’s just how we’ve rolled so far.

The reset allowed me the chance to be sweet in return, and now for the past ten days I’ve been able to stay peaceful. All day long! No anger!!! It’s great.

The honeymoon was bound to end, and I’ve noticed additional challenges from the boys. So far though, I’ve avoided getting mad. I did have to put my foot down a few times with them, but it turns out that I can do that calmly by just remembering some facts:

  • I’m the Mom
  • I am the boss of my children until they’re 18
  • It’s my Biblical responsibility to be in charge
  • It’s my legal responsibility to be in charge
  • I owe it to the boys to teach them properly how to behave so they manage themselves successfully in the real world.

Parenting without anger does mean that difficulties get resolved more slowly, but I’d rather practice my patience and sweetness than lose my temper and ultimately…my family.

Am I going to get angry at times? Oh yea. I know how flawed an individual I am. But I’m going to hang on to this feeling as tightly as I can, and try to stay here so that I can be the Mom I want to be. If I fall off balance, I’ll climb back up. With prayer, practice, and a lot of concentration on the goal, I think I can get to this point.

And maybe even stay here.

Image courtesy of Sepehr Ehsani via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

The editor-in-chief of Earnest Parenting, Amy is the mother of two sets of twin boys. Yes, they drive her crazy, but they also make her laugh occasionally. Amy enjoys writing, quilting, reading, and working on her burgeoning cyber empire.

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  • Mary December 30, 2011, 8:28 am

    Boy do I remember those days…..I used to have nightmares about getting angry (scarey stuff!) My kids laughed when they saw a book I got about anger management for moms…I think it had something about a volcano errupting and a picture of a mom all red in the face on the cover. I’m actually glad to hear that it’s not just me! A lot of it was frustration on my part….partly because they wouldn’t do what was asked unless we got mad. We tried to count to three…..interesting how they always wait until three. What is that magically word that would make them do what they are asked as soon as they are asked? I find threats work great….LOL you know, not I’ll kill you but I’ll kill your playstation, xbox etc……it’s like taking away their best friend! Really though, the best thing that has worked for me is consistancy (some thing I’ve always struggled with!). If I’m consistant, they’re consistant. If I’m cranky, they’re cranky and so on. Sometimes just knowing that is overwhelming. The “fear” of failing my kids in homeschooling is actually a major source of anxiety and thus frustration, crankiness and yes even anger. I think it all comes back to just leaning on God and taking it one day at a time (that and hiring a tutor for subjects that have us both baffled at the high school level!)…the part about me being consistant with deadlines and consequences is still being worked on!

    Reply
  • Beat Schindler December 31, 2011, 11:35 am

    Even though I get it about anger, the reality of it, the rationalizations and justifications, I find it hard to connect the dots when it comes to being angry with one’s own kids. We want them. We create them. They truly are our creation. What has anger got to do with it? I realize, it’s just me. With my two sons in particular, I resolved to not make decisions when angry. Never having learned how to ask (rather, I was punished for it), yet nevertheless inspired by the repeated recommendation to “Ask, ask, ask”, “Ask, and it is given” and “Ask, and you shall receive”, after a while of practicing, if I was tempted to respond to one of my kids’ situation with anger and a directive statement, I made it a habit to ask. Like you with your horse, I obtained surprising, mind-bending, results.
    With best wishes for a Happy and Successful New Year to You and Your Family.
    – Beat

    Reply
    • Amy LeForge December 31, 2011, 1:06 pm

      Beat, tell me more! What do you ask? I want to learn!

      As for the anger, I think some of it is frustration when there’s dissonance between my aspirations for the boys and the actual reality on the ground. I want so much of the best for them and sometimes foolish thinking gets in the way. I just commented last night that they’re going to regret some of the choices they’re making, and I’m powerless to change that. Scratch that: maybe it’s the powerlessness that frustrates. I have the benefit of experience, and can see that they’re passing up something great. They just think I’m being a pushy mom and don’t get whey I want them to go on x trip or participate in x activity. Ugh. Frustrating!

      The other reason I get angry is when they treat me with anger. Kind of a reaction thing. For many many months of this year in particular, I’d get up every day feeling completely peaceful and ready to have a fresh start, only to have them hit me with a repeat of a battle, or super grumpiness. Then I’d get angry again. Not their fault…it was and is MY responsibility. I absolutely used that as an excuse and let the frustration build to where I was the one who woke up on edge every day. I’ve had some success at reacting with only calmness so far.

      Third, there’s a different dynamic between mother and son than father and son. They’re wired to dominate…aren’t all boys? It may have something to do with the amount of time we spend together, and the fact that I’m teacher in addition to Mom, but there’s a constant…pushing from them. Constant testing maybe? It’s tiring, that’s for sure. As Mary pointed out, being a homeschooler may be a factor as well, because there’s always that concern you’re going to mess them up for life. I can’t blame it on the schools. So maybe that underlying fear is a cause too.

      Then there’s just my imperfections in general. 🙂 It all ties in.

      Reply
  • Corinne Edwards December 31, 2011, 2:40 pm

    Dear Amy –

    Over Christmas, all my boys were together and I took the opportunity to apologize for all the mistakes I made with them.

    They could not remember ONE. They said that their friends all said that they wished they had a mom like me. My youngest son said most mothers he knew were so boring. No wonder they don’t enjoy coming home for the holidays.

    They went on to agree since they are all in sales, that they learned everything they knew from me.
    (They all worked in the travel agency I had for 20 years after school and vacations)

    Alex, my youngest sold a $6000. cruise to a last minute booking woman when he was 10. I was tied up on the phone.

    So, you can’t leave. You have to wait for the good stuff. They won’t remember the bad.
    Corinne Edwards´s last blog post ..LET THERE BE PEACE ON EARTH

    Reply
    • Amy LeForge January 2, 2012, 1:41 pm

      Corinne,

      Thank you for the encouragement. I’ve known for a long time that “wait for it” needs to be my mantra.

      Sigh. I just got angry with TechnoBoy and scolded him. So for the record, ungratefulness makes me angry. I get so frustrated when a child who is amazingly blessed won’t extend himself to cooperate with me. And it hurts. Why is there no desire to please one’s parents? I understand with my head that not everyone is wired as I was; I did my very best to please my parents at all times, at great personal cost. I don’t understand it with my heart. It hurts.

      This will pass, I’ll regain balance, and we’ll move on from here.

      I really am looking forward to when the “wait for it” is over.

      Reply
      • Corinne Edwards January 3, 2012, 7:36 pm

        Just A PS,,Amy

        Don’t try to compare yourself and your experience with trying to please with your desire your sons will want to please you. At some level. they do.

        Sorry to remind you but it is true.

        YOU ARE DEALING WITH BOYS HERE.
        Corinne Edwards´s last blog post ..WRITE YOUR BOOK – PUBLISH YOUR BOOK – PROMOTE YOUR BOOK

        Reply
        • Amy LeForge January 3, 2012, 10:17 pm

          Corinne,

          You’re right. Boys are completely incomprehensible. Predictable yes. But I have no idea why they do what they do in most cases. Do you understand your sons any better now that they’re grown up? Or is this a permanent mystery?

          Reply
  • Raymond Chua @ Cure Stress Naturally December 31, 2011, 3:44 pm

    Hi Amy,

    I don’t have any child yet. Being a teacher, I admit that kids are hard to deal with (sometimes). However. focusing on the sweet part of them can release much tension at the same time. 🙂

    Happy New Year to you and may you have more great years with your children.
    Raymond Chua @ Cure Stress Naturally´s last blog post ..Quote

    Reply
    • Amy LeForge January 2, 2012, 1:42 pm

      Raymond, that’s very good advice. Sometimes they’re not terribly sweet, so that makes it hard. I will endeavor to hang on to that one though.

      Reply
  • Debbie @ Happy Maker January 2, 2012, 5:44 pm

    Hi Amy,

    Stop beating yourself up. I have never come across a perfect parent. You are doing just fine. When it comes to the anger part all parents get frustrated and anger with there children.

    When raising my 3 girls I found first before I got angry to see if what I was about to get angry was really worth it and would really matter in a day, week or 6 weeks. If it wouldn’t matter any more later I decided I should not get that upset.

    Also I always kept in mind that they were really God’s children, he just put me in charge of them. So when in doubt I would ask him what I should do about a situation. It was really amazing the answers that would just pop into my head.

    When those times hit that I could feel the anger i would walk away and give myself time to think about the situation or pray about it.

    As Corinne states there are many things your boys are not going to remember when it comes to the anger part. They will remember the good things.

    As for children now days not having that respect that we had for the adult in charge of us. I believe they are learning this from other children that are not being taught respect and also from TV and advertisements.

    There is a fine line between being anger and using it in the wrong way. Kids to have to be taught a little fear. What I mean is that if there is no fear in our actions, it would not matter what we did or do. If you commit a crime,.we fear going to jail. (Unless you can afford a nasty thinking attorney) LOL.

    So when it comes to children there has to be a little fear, when it comes to some of there actions.
    That is my short take for now when it comes to being a parent.

    Just remember Amy you are doing a great job, Just keep loving them and guiding them the best way you know how and they will be great adult some day.

    Reply
    • Amy LeForge January 3, 2012, 10:15 pm

      Thank you Debbie. I try not to beat myself up, but that’s very difficult.

      I think I’m fairly successful at only getting mad about the important stuff. I’m getting better at this though, and Lord willing I’ll have this whole parenting thing figured out in say 9 or 10 years. Just in time for the younger ones to go to college.

      Reply
  • Cheryl from thatgirlisfunny January 2, 2012, 8:02 pm

    Hi Amy,
    Just the fact that you’re able to distinguish between being angry and not being angry is important. Some parents get angry as soon as their kids turn up because they just know things are about to go wrong. Your advice is good — even for people who don’t have kids to get angry with.

    Reply
    • Amy LeForge January 3, 2012, 10:16 pm

      Good point, Cheryl. I hadn’t thought about that. Thanks!

      Reply
  • Tyrone January 10, 2012, 5:21 am

    Hey Amy,

    I hope you had a blast with celebrating the New Year.

    I agree with what Cheryl said. This post is really important as emotions especially being angry can easily take over ourselves with what we speak and act that may unintentionally offend others (even not our children) because we’re not aware if we’re actually angry or not or just angry with the things we expect to happen. Whew I’m happy to learn more from you when we start having children. 🙂 Thanks!
    Tyrone´s last blog post ..Outsourcing Live Annual Report For 2011 & How To Get Your Videos Noticed On Youtube

    Reply
    • Amy LeForge January 11, 2012, 7:45 am

      Tyrone, I don’t know if it’s nature or nurture but I have found it so easy to get upset with my boys. Not as much when they were little. And generally I don’t get terribly upset if it’s something that’s expected for their age (although some of this teen angst is throwing me for a loop). If it’s a situation where I know they can control themselves, or they know better and go ahead and do wrong anyway, then I get peeved. I’ve never asked them for perfection…if they at least made it look like they were trying to win Hubby’s and my approval I’d be thrilled.

      But hey. This journey is as much about my growth as theirs, right?

      Reply
  • Joel January 16, 2012, 7:44 pm

    It’s great that you write about such things. As the father of a 9 month old boy I know there are challenges ahead. When I returned “home” over Christmas there was a lot of reflection on my childhood and growing up. I couldn’t remember one argument with my parents, and they couldn’t either. We all know there were many, but they were all so unimportant they’ve been forgotten.
    All the best to you and your family in 2012!
    Joel´s last blog post ..Choosing Ideal Web Hosting

    Reply
    • Amy LeForge January 17, 2012, 11:27 pm

      Joel, I can’t tell you how comforting that is to hear! You’ll need to keep it in mind yourself in about 12 years. 🙂

      Reply