In which my children start to implode and I don’t know what to do.

This weekend has seen the culmination of a progressively worsening state of meltdown for my 9 year old. For once, even I feel that a detailed summary here is beyond my remit; suffice to say it has involved lots of angry outbursts and out-of-character meanness from said 9 year old, which ultimately left me at a loss for a solution.
On the one hand, I felt like there must be an underlying trigger for all this anger and that my job as a parent was to take a gentle approach in order to discover the root cause.
On the other hand, the mean, aggressive treatment of all around her was just not acceptable behaviour from a 9 year old and I felt like there needed to be some consequences for that.
For the umpteenth time in my parenting life, I really did not know what the right thing to do was. When we think about parenting from the bigger picture perspective, we can all agree that we just have to do our best by our kids; be a ‘good enough’ parent; and hope that will carry them through, but on the ground, in the every day, these decisions and choices are really tough. How DO I know what to do? What do I draw on to help me when I really can’t see what the right approach can be?
Added to my sense of bewilderment, came a sense of guilt. I know the ‘Mother Inferior’ title of my blog is meant mostly as a tongue in cheek comment on our tendency as parents to think that everyone else is doing a great job whilst we are floundering, but moments like this do make me think I must be doing something wrong. A better parent, I think to myself, would have a strategy for things like this or would at least recognise which might be the best strategy from a range of options!
I finally decided on a combined strategy mixing consequences (a week’s TV and ipad ban) and a concerted effort to try and uncover the mysterious underlying cause…although I am starting to feel like it may not be a simple as that. The idea of one, specific worry that will explain our children’s emotional outbursts is appealing in some way as it suggests a clear, identifiable problem that we can work to solve. Our efforts can be directed at ‘fixing’ this one thing and then ‘hey presto’ everything will fall back into place.
But maybe life is not as simple as that. All of us have our own emotional outbursts (goodness knows I definitely do!) but if someone were to ask us what the underlying cause was, then we would probably be as stumped as Ana was to explain the complex mix of emotions swirling under the surface.
So she doesn’t know, I don’t know. Please – if YOU know – help us out! But in the interim, we will have to muddle along and I will have to settle for being the best parent I can manage to be in the circumstances. It may often feel like that is an ‘inferior’ one, but maybe it is just about ‘good enough’.

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3 thoughts on “In which my children start to implode and I don’t know what to do.

  1. Rebecca Horner

    This is a conundrum!

    Sometimes, it can be really hard to answer ‘why’ questions. Like ‘why did you do that’ or ‘why did you shout at me’. Try finding out what the desired outcome was, which might help uncover the underlying issue. For example ask:
    “When you shouted at me, what did you want to happen?”
    This might uncover a “I wanted you to leave me alone”, “I wanted everyone to be quiet”, “I wanted to get _____ toy/plaything/tv programme”, “I was really angry and needed to get it out”.

    (If the last one, go for “WHAT made you angry” as a follow up question rather than “why were you angry”).

    Good luck with this – I’m sure it will be something simple like a fight with a friend at school, anxiety about a missing homework or a telling-off at school that she hasn’t told you about or something. At least she knows that you are there for her no matter what her behaviour is. That’s exactly what good parenting is in my mind.

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  2. jan

    I think we all have times that we get out of bed on the wrong side – sometimes for a week! Growing up is tough – I wouldn’t want to do it again!

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    1. helena6383 Post author

      It’s definitely tough. There are many times when I simultaneously empathise with my children and also want to scream at them! I need to do more of the former and resist doing the latter!

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