Paige Schilt

Meditations on Parenting and Anger, Part II

Filed By Paige Schilt | August 05, 2008 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: parenting

Editor's Note: This is part one of a four part series from Bilerico Contributor Paige Schilt about parenting, anger, and attachment. Read part one and be sure to come back all week for the rest of the series!

In Which the Unsuspecting Heroine Encounters Raw Aggression (Size 4T) and is Unsettled by Her Own Reaction

Lately I've been writing about Waylon's precocious, insightful moments. I knew it was time for a reality check when my friend Seth sent me a note saying "That child of yours is too sophisticated--does he want to meet me for happy hour?"

A few weeks ago, Waylon was in "time out" for hitting. At the end of time out, Katy or I usually sit down with him and talk about why he got punished. On this particular day, as I settled down on the floor for a little chat, Waylon flung himself on my head and started pummeling me, crushing my glasses in the process.

To understand how this affected me, you must know that I have been nearsighted since childhood. My glasses are like a cyborg extension of my head, and messing with them is something akin to pricking a bull in a bullfight.

I was mad, and I couldn't conceal it even if I had wanted to. When I finally pulled him off me, I tried to express myself in the words I have learned from Waylon's preschool teachers: "I don't like it when you do that. It hurts me and it makes me angry."

"I don't like it when you do that. It hurts me and it makes me angry," he repeated, in his most sing-songy and obnoxious voice.

He was mocking me. I felt like one of those old-timey cartoon characters whose body suddenly morphs into a thermometer with the mercury rushing to the red bulb-y top like it's going to explode.


Young man? What primitive recess of my brain did that come from? As if I wasn't already channeling my mother, I suddenly become enraged that Waylon wasn't looking at me.


Then, the piece de résistance, the moment that reveals just how emotionally sophisticated a tantrum can be: still looking away, Waylon opened his lips and let a stream of drool spill from his mouth and just hang there. For a non-verbal gesture, it pushed me over the edge with amazing precision. At this point, I was standing up--no more pretense of being on the same level, no more empathy--and really yelling: "I AM SO ANGRY WITH YOU!"

I sentenced him to 4 more minutes of time out and retreated to my bedroom, where I proceeded to writhe on the bed with guilt. I know that Waylon needs to understand how his behavior affects other people, but my anger had gotten the best of me, and I felt like the least effective parent in the world. I just kept thinking about how he's small and I'm big and my anger feels so intense.

And while I was worrying that my anger felt scary and overwhelming to Waylon, I realized that it definitely felt scary and overwhelming to me.

(To be continued. Tomorrow: one mom explores her family legacy of discomfort with anger.)

For great resources on keeping your cool during a tantrum, check out Parenting with the Brain in Mind.

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And yet I notice you're not wearing glasses in your icon on the blog. :)

"my anger had gotten the best of me"

I don't think so. If you're aware that you're angry, you haven't lost the battle yet.

"I am so angry at you!" -- instead of "You are a bad kid!" -- seems like a clear and positive statement.

I have also noticed those parental catchphrases coming out of my mouth. Some of them don't even come from my parents!

Thanks for writing about this -- I'm just starting out in the world of disciplining young children (I have an 11-month-old).

Thanks, TCS. It's true--my anger wasn't out of control, but it was still keeping me from responding effectively to the situation. But part of what I'm exploring is how uncomfortable I am with my own anger and aggression. It feels like it's over-the-top, even when it's relatively mild. That's what I'll tackle in Wednesday's installment.

avid reader | August 6, 2008 6:12 PM

It sounds like you did everything right. Lowered yourself to his level and explain why he was placed in time out. Sounds like you were clear with your words even when you were angry.

What I don't understand or what concerns me the most is while you were at his level, he took that as an opportunity to pounce on you.

It sounds like you are somewhere rooted in his anger and something a simple time out won't resolve.

Other then giving him time outs, are there other forms of discipline he receives when behaving so badly? I was thinking of something opposite the reward system, like loosing access to a game or something he favors...

Paige, I'm not a parent, but I've been parented (and wish I'd been parented differently, i.e., not Dobson-style) and I love reading your thoughts. I appreciate how open you're being about your family, too. Thank you.

I wouldn't say that this anger was over the top, but then again I come from a different perspective and I'm not a parent.

Of course, my parents knew how to throw better temper tantrums than I did....

You're right, Alex. It wasn't over the top. But it still made me squirm, because I'm not that comfortable with my own anger. My therapist wife says that kids are here to make us confront whatever it is that we're not comfortable with, and that's the challenge we have to rise to as parents. For me, it's having to be open and direct with anger, which--as I discuss in the next section--is something I've tried to avoid most of my life.