If You Can’t Say Anything Nice, Sing

Confession: Sometimes I struggle with managing my anger at my kids. For example:

When my daughter throws herself on the ground because she wants a cough drop.

When my son wants to wear a tutu, but a pink one and not a blue one and tells me, “You are a bad mom,” then furrows his brow and hits me in the face.

When I arrive to pick up my kids from child care and they scream, “Not you. We were in the middle of playing fairy-meets-unicorn-in-a-forest-and-then-loses-its- sparkle-necklace-in-a-well. Go home Mommy and come back in two hours. “

When my son yells, “I do it myself,” and then proceeds to take 20 minutes to buckle up his seatbelt and I’m late for work.

When I spent an hour cooking a delicious meal and show them my creation, they throw their bodies to the tile floor and start fake throwing up.

I just lose my temper. Sometimes I say awful things. To my daughter I might tell her to stop acting like a three-year-old. I threaten randomly without any follow through.

“That’s it,” I yell, “You are never getting any candy for the rest of your lives. Never ever again will you ever get to go to the park. That was your last time on the monkey bars forever. It will only exist in your dreams.”

I shame them for their needs and their overly emotional presentation of their needs and in my worst moments I hide from them. Once, I hid under the bed. I heard them coming and I stayed quiet.

It takes me about 30 seconds to recognize my error.

But I figured out a new way to deal with my anger. Are you ready for this? It’s sort of a miracle solution.

I sing.

I sing my directives. You need to stop talking about the cough drop for you will not receive the cough drop today.

Suddenly, I am a Zen Master on the inside. It is impossible to sing melodically and rage at the same exact time. Impossible. I am back in control of what words exit my mouth.   I am not going to verbally hurt my kids when I am singing. I can’t.

This method worked so brilliantly that I decided to try it with my husband.

Dear husband, do not criticize me when I am on my way out the door to work because it hurts my feelings and makes me feel defensive.

I can’t remember exactly what he said in response, but it sort of sounded like a growl.

“Play along,” I said.

Double grrrr.

So let this be a warning: Do not try this method with spouses. They do not respond, as well.

Jennifer Olden, LMFT and Mom

The Attach Place  Center for Strengthening Relationships

The Attach Place
Center for Strengthening Relationships

 

Comments

  1. I’ve been trying this more lately. Also, turning what just happened into a narrative and working it through with them via story. “Once upon a time there was a little girl named Eliza, and she wanted to put her shirt on all by herself…” Got that one from you, and it’s so magic.

    I also love that I can see all of the things you describe happening and that when I witness you parenting in real time, the sense of humor I see in your writing is consistently on display and is so refreshing and disarming. I tend to go to a much darker place when spat upon (etc), so song and story are good interrupters.

    In short, WWJD: “What would Jen do?”

  2. I’ve been trying this more lately. Also, turning what just happened into a narrative and working it through with them via story. “Once upon a time there was a little girl named Eliza, and she wanted to put her shirt on all by herself…” Got that one from you, and it’s so magic.

    I also love that I can see all of the things you describe happening and that when I witness you parenting in real time, the sense of humor I see in your writing is consistently on display and is so refreshing and disarming. I tend to go to a much darker place when spat upon (etc), so song and story are good interrupters.

    In short, WWJD: “What would Jen do?”

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