Parenting skills are passed from one generation to the next – unless the template is deliberately changed.
My parenting life was spent anxiously trying to stay calm and not get angry. When I was mad I tried to prevent it from going into a full blown rage, sometimes over the most trivial things.
Back in the ‘70s there was a character on television that I identified with in the worst way. Bill Bixby played David Banner, a handsome young scientist who was transformed when a lab accident went horribly wrong. When Banner became angry he turned into a big green hunk of muscle known as the Incredible Hulk, played by Lou Ferrigno. Like Banner, once I turned into the angry Hulk, it was difficult to stop. I needed self-control, not a cage.
When the children were toddlers, it was easier to stay calm because they were little – they were innocent. After about age five it became much harder for me to stay calm because I had no developmental chronology to go by; I was not educated on development and had very little experience with young children. The one time I lost control with my first two children when they were six and seven, I paid dearly for that and I was not about to let the Hulk in me get out again.
When Chelsey and Katie were young, I dreamed up many tricks to manage the anger and rage. Everything I thought up had to be quick and available; I had no time to think about it in the moment. Some of the more common tactics to stay calm were counting, going into the bathroom or bedroom, taking a walk, calling a friend on the phone, using headphones to block loud or annoying sounds, distracting myself – those would not work when I was angry.
No matter how silly, I tried whatever I thought would work:
One way was to pretend there was another adult person in the room. That helped me stay much calmer because I would be embarrassed to have another adult witness what might happen.
Another method was to remember that however I treated my girls, whether it was hitting or yelling, would be the way they parented their children if they chose to have any. Can you imagine me watching my grandchildren being grabbed and hit or screamed at – and then realizing that I was the reason?
Parents have one chance to create a single, flawless diamond out of a child and we do not want to slip up now.
You can do this. If the Incredible Mom-Hulk can – anyone can.