I have received another book by John Holt, Teach Your Own. It is a wonderfully refreshing look at children and how they can fit into our lives. He makes many points that I can identify with in how we communicate with children. One in particular were his comments on saying no.
I have been struggling with this. There are times that I have to say no. DS sometimes wants to do things that he can’t or that I would prefer he doesn’t do (like cut his own mango, draw on the floor with wax crayons, or empty the bath onto the bathroom floor cup by cup). I have found that when he is doing something that makes a whole lot of extra work for me, I get really irritated and manage to grit my teeth and keep my voice down while I say No, and Please don’t do that. But boy, am I irritated and having to work hard to control my urge to shout. Sometimes I do shout, and then feel awful. Like when DS put his glass of ‘cold coffee’ (coffee substitute with ice cubes) right on the edge of the table and it fell and spilt all over the floor. I have been repeatedly reminding DS that he needs to put his glass/cup *on* the table, not on the *edge* of the table.
Anyway, in these details, I have been aware of my experience being one where I resent my child for making a mess, and on some level blame him, as if he could have avoided it. I expect him to be able to predict the consequences of his actions with more accuracy than he can. And this attitude is not making for a happy home.
I have been working on reminding myself that he is still learning, and he is not deliberately trying to annoy me. It is my job to support him in his learning, not scare him into behaving how I need him to behave.
So, by moving away from the idea that he is deliberately annoying me, I have decided to see it as a learning opportunity. I can still say no, without shouting or feeling intense anger. He can understand the word no, without it being muttered, forced out through pursed lips or shouted. It is perfectly possible to say no in a supportive way. And it works. (So far)
I have had a rather intense way of ‘testing’ this theory. I have had to cut down on breastfeeding as it is physically unbelievably uncomfortable. I was feeling so guilty, that I would often tell DS in a very firm (but angry as I felt so guilty) way that it was enough now. He would react with crying and being really upset. As soon as I said that num nums are resting now (without feeling guilty, without resenting him for making demands on me that I cannot meet), and was still there to rub his back, snuggle etc he is much more accepting of this change. He doesn’t always like it, and DH is very much involved in supporting DS at the times where he is frustrated and angry and does not accept that the num nums are resting. However, for the most part, a key to us getting through this time, is me staying centered and not ‘loosing it’ inside as I rant in my head about how I just can’t do this anymore.
Having said all of this, I do not think it is necessary to never be angry. And I do not think it is dangerous for my child to see me get angry and then also get over it and life continues. I just do not want it to be every day that my son sees me getting angry or working really hard not to be angry.
I will no doubt post more on this, but anger is a BIG deal for me. Coming from a home where anger was not expressed, (I have seen my father angry maybe 5-10 times in my life) or it exploded, I have had to find my own way of understanding what it means in my life, as it does not work for me to pretend I am not angry when I am. It just makes it worse.