Over the last six weeks James and I have been participating in a parenting class on Sunday nights at our church. We have learned so much, both from the psychologist-bent teaching and workbook, but also from the four other couples in the class. We have the youngest children in the group; everyone else's youngest is at least six years of age, and all of them have teenagers.
More than anything, I feel like I have conquered much of my anger in my parenting. I'm not an angry person, and I don't yell often, but I realized that those times when I do lose it don't accomplish anything. Not one little thing. Even though I yell as a last resort, out of frustration from non-compliance or disobedience, yelling rarely gets the result I want. Usually the child in question is too far gone already for yelling to be effective.
I realized that a yelling match takes two. If I am a calm wall, then the child can yell and yell and never gets any fuel in their fire, which eventually dies out. I have been amazed that I don't need to match their tone/voice/volume in order to communicate. In fact, it's pretty pointless to try and communicate at all when that kind of emotion is running so high.
Apparently 97/100 times if you calmly and clearly articulate the expectation, the child will comply by the third time. The trouble is that usually by the third time saying something, I have a bit of a tone change, to exasperation, frustration or anger. With my two oldest children (ages 6 and 8) this has worked beautifully. With Juliette, it takes a little longer for her to calm down from a tantrum, but we are eventually yielding results. With Benjamin it's a bit more of a wild card. I guess he is one of the 3/100 for whom this technique isn't always effective.
James has expressed his frustration that Benjamin "seems to enjoy taunting others, making them angry." I think it's a little different than that. I don't think he "enjoys it" in that he wants to see others hurt. I think instead he wants interaction with others and isn't always sure how to do that appropriately. And mostly I think he is just thinking of himself and the fun, or pleasure, centre of the brain. If he is enjoying what he is doing (like bumping into Juliette's bike, or running around with Colin's lego toy, or running free outdoors, even in a parking lot) he just gets so focused on that enjoyment that he doesn't listen or heed our council and warnings. Rather than being malicious, he is simply being selfish. Regardless, I have come to realize that, even with Benjamin, there is no percentage in getting angry. Anger still accomplishes nothing. It might take a bigger basket of skill sets to parent him, but hey, that's why we signed up for this in the first place.