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HomeBlogMommy DazeLearning how to be angry with an angry child — Mommy Daze

Learning how to be angry with an angry child — Mommy Daze

AngryI always considered myself to be a very calm person. I rarely get angry. In fact, I try to ease hostile situations as much as I can. Apparently, God thought it would be appropriate to bless me with a red-headed, spirited son with anger issues. Hilarious, right?

Our oldest son, James, is an amazing guy. In his four years here, he has made me a better person. He has also made me an angry person. I don’t feel guilty saying that. It’s true. But I’ve learned that I get the most angry at him because I love him so incredibly much and want the best for him in life. The fact is, he’s a little tyrant sometimes who could probably have made Mother Theresa mad. Okay, that may be a stretch.

We started to see James’ spirited side when he was just 16 months old. We were in a play area, and he purposefully marched over to an innocent baby and bopped him on the head, saying as he did it, “Hit the baby.” Horrified, I swooped him up and apologetically retreated out the door. He was hysterical that we were leaving, and it stuck with him for weeks. He would frequently mention the “no hit a baby” phrase that I apparently chanted like a crazy person the whole drive home.

Unfortunately, his fear of hitting babies didn’t last forever. As with most children, we struggled through the terrible 2s and even worse 3s, when his baby brother came on the scene and took the brunt of a lot of James’ hostility. I cried a lot.

I threw myself into parenting magazines, articles, conferences and books (such as my favorite, “Raising Your Spirited Child” by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka) and found myself crying on the shoulders of close mom friends to find answers to what appeared to be a child with more challenging than normal behavior. Some days were better than others.

My husband was amazing during those tough days. He would go out of his way to be kind to me, voicing his appreciation and love loudly in front of the boys. He would tell me later that he wanted his sons to see firsthand how I’m supposed to be treated. We would talk late into the night about observations and parenting strategies.

On one particularly rough day, I was so upset and defeated from being screamed at, hit in the face, and kicked by James, that when my husband got home from work, I went into my bathroom, curled up on the floor, and cried myself to sleep. When my husband gently woke me up later that night, I shared my day and he said it sounded like I was in an abusive relationship.

I’ve seen some huge changes in James over this past year. It’s hard to say what brought them about, perhaps it was starting preschool, or sharing a room with his brother, or the relentless effort I’ve put into trying to yell less and praise more. Perhaps it was the decision to finally start family counseling with him, after two years of procrastinating.

The counseling has been eye-opening. I went into it assuming I had already tried everything and was quick to dismiss all the suggestions she gave since they hadn’t worked before. But we’ve stuck with it, and what I’ve noticed is that James now sees his anger not as something that’s wrong with him, but as something he can manage.

We work together on the strategies that his counselor gives us, and even though it can be mundane to remind him for the 20th time in a day to do his “belly breathing” or run away from his anger, it brings the focus onto the issue — not each other.

I’m learning, slowly, how to help him be angry, instead of trying to just stop anger. And in the process, I have learned so much about how I handle my own anger. Sometimes, all you need is to take a step back, get a new perspective, and punch a few pillows.

Click here to read more Mommy Daze.

Watts edited W

Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 4-year-old James and 2-year-old Luke.

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