April 12th, 2021
I have had time to think about all your concerns and stresses and I want to address what I see as the bigger picture here, from my perception. It seems most of you have set extremely high standards for yourselves as parents. Standards that I would find unattainable, for the most part. I feel this constant pressure you have put on yourselves to be perfectly responsive all the time is contributing to your irritability. I think we all need to recognize and acknowledge that anger is a big enough issue, that you all decided to pay to get help with it. This tells me it is a pretty major issue. I need to be frank about this because I think you all need to hear it but it might hurt: an angry parent causes far more damage than any amount of screen time, playing alone, eating junk food or even crying for a few minutes. Parent anger is traumatizing. The other things that you are prioritizing over your parent anger are not traumatizing.
I believe you need to recognize the importance of this issue so you can prioritize it above the other things you think are necessary. It’s like you’re trying to carry a load of laundry and people keep adding more clothes to it, eventually you will drop a sock or two, since you are not willing to drop anything else, your patience is the dropped sock. Because we can’t control our patience… it’s not a frontal lobe thing. It’s a reaction to being overwhelmed. What we can do is recognize those feelings of irritability in advance, and prioritize leaning into those feelings until they are fully processed. You may not be able to do that safely around your child so it is crucial to have a Survival Mode Plan. You need to offer yourselves grace and learn how to prioritize your child’s needs so you can find a way to be more flexible in your demands on yourself.
Attachment parenting is not supported, in large, by the Child Development field for exactly this reason. Setting such high standards for your parenting actually tends to lead to resistant attachment quality, especially when mixed with bouts of rage and emotional instability. I, however, believe attachment parenting has a lot of great things to offer. I was a moderator for a large Attachment Parenting Facebook Group and we would have given you the same advice there; your parent anger needs to be a priority.
The biggest concern with Parent Anger is the potential damage to the children. So we need to develop a plan to minimize the damage. This is the goal behind a Survival Mode Plan. This is the first step because it is the most important. If you can find an effective survival mode plan that you can do around your children, that’s great! But most parents tend to need a moment to themselves, even if it’s just to swear and growl for a second before you try a stretch, an exercise, breathing technique or quick meditation. EFT tapping can also be helpful. The next step would be to begin to reflect on the source of your irritability, the trigger and why that trigger is so strong for you. We did not get to that part… we were still trying to discuss Survival Mode Plans since that is the most important thing to mitigate the trauma for the child.
I worry about being so blunt, that you all might fall into a shame spiral… please do not 🙏 … I know all this because I’ve been there. I have spent tons of time trying to be perfect, only to just feel more and more like a failure. Prioritizing my emotional needs, supports my children’s long term mental health. I try very hard not to feel guilty about the mistakes I’ve made and I urge you to try not to feel guilt either. Reflection is a very necessary part of the Responsive Parenting Journey. We have to work hard to keep guilt out of our reflections. That can feel next to impossible in such a shame driven society.
What if I can’t leave my child?
Parent anger is far more traumatizing than a child being alone for a few minutes so unless there is immediate danger, you need to prioritize the processing of your anger. One situation I can think of may be at the playground. So I would have a Survival Mode Plan for that too.
- Have a calming strategy that involves moving to a calmer area and a discreet breathing technique or meditation
- Validate your feelings
- Then honour them by saying to yourself “ok, I can see the signs that I am becoming overwhelmed. I need to plan and act now to prevent further escalation.”
- Then start coming up with an exit plan. Maybe the exit plan is to go home, maybe it’s just to change settings or activity such as go for an exploration walk or have a snack.
- Take some time later to reflect and congratulate yourself for making it through the tough situation, even if you did lose your patience.
Also, if you find the playground in particular seems to be a regular trigger for your anger, maybe don’t go unless someone is with you so you can take a quick break, if need be.