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Why are we so angry?

post #1 of 79
Thread Starter 
I keep reading here, and elsewhere, about so many of us that have issues with anger, and occasionally "losing it". I see anger on the faces of mums all over town. I too have some anger at times and right now - which is why I'm posting - I also have a very short fuse.

There seems to be an understanding that this is because of how we were parented as children.......are we really sure about that? Or could it just be because we are lacking in family/tribal support and that actually parenting in the near isolation that western civilisation often means - is in fact beyond the call of duty and too much for all but the strongest and most placid of women?

If it is caused by our childhoods - then how? What's the connection iykwim, what process has occured to produce anger in us?

I feel that if I could understand fully *why* I get angry then I would be better equipped to learn how not to. I know mums who *never* get angry - irritated yes but not angry. If you're one of those mums, what do you think is different about you? Why don't you get angry?

For me it's not just about learning techniques - yes they're useful in the short term and better than nothing, but the moment the anger rises a child is aware of it and alarmed by it - and even if we manage to not spank, not shout, not walk away or whatever, it doesn't take away that scary moment for the child.

I want to understand my anger so I can stop it even happening in the first place, and I'm sure I can't do that until I understand what brought it into my personality.

Obviously anger is a valid emotion at times, but I'm talking about the times it isn't but still rises.
post #2 of 79
Good question. I don't know if it is the way we were parented. My mom was a follower of Parent Effectiveness Training (mentioned as good by Alphie Kohn). She was pretty CL too. But my mom could take it to the extreme. My brother needed more structure at home, and since he was being "dysfunctional" my mom put him in therapy (at 12...) the therapist told her he needed more structure in his life, but my mother said "that just isn't my style," so for her, it was a cop-out. For me, it worked better, in that I self-regulated easier, but I have rage issues.

Some I know are excasserbated by diet. I've cut waaay down on caffeine and refined sugars/carbs - and that helps. But I tend to think, as you suggested, that not only are we not supported by our families/tribes - but in society as a whole. We're also a pretty pedigreed lot, with a lot of education and high expectations of our actions. We face a myriad of challenges. Also, for me, it is hard to have come from a place where I was "in charge" (my work life) and be in a family environment where I'm not.

I too have wondered about those moms who said, "oh, I could never hit my child." I don't hit, but I could easily do it - I'm just afraid it would become a downward spiral (like an alcoholic). I hear some moms who seems so calm and collected, even in the most stressful time, and wonder how they do it too.

edit: don't know how the frownie got there, must have hit it by mistake...
post #3 of 79
I think it's many factors. A huge one, at least for me, is the isolation thing. Especially being a SAHM. Most days, I do get together with my mom, who is a nanny for a toddler the same age as dd, and during those hours, I find it easier to get things done, be patient, and just have a positive outlook on things in general. Cleaning house doesn't seem so tedious when I am joking and talking with my mom. Cooking is actually fun when I dont have a whining tired, hungry kid at my feet- since she's off playing (or fighting!) with her buddy. Even if it's 2-3 hours, those hours are treasured to me every day. The rest of the day seems to drag on and on, and that's where I lose my patience. Also, dd being an only, she is used to me playing/reading to her alot. THat's fine, because I enjoy it, but I have to take a break every now and again, and of course, at just 2 years old, she doesn't get that. If she had siblings or cousins to run off with she might let me alone every now and again!
Societies expectations of women and children also affect how we parent and how we react. Society expects our children to be seen and not heard, in general people have a very low tolerance for normal childish behavior. So say if your kid is acting up at a restaurant, instead of the people at the table next to you turning and smiling or trying to help, they will quite often turn and give you a dirty look or whatever. This makes us feel like we must 'control' or teach our children to behave, when they ARE behaving just as a 2, 3, 4, or 5 ,year old should! Along with that comes the unnatural situations we put our kids in. Kids were not meant to sit in a carseat, strapped in, for 20-30 minutes at a time afew times a day. Kids were not meant to sit quietly for storytime at the library, or sit for 2+ hours at a restaurant and 'behave' like an adult. It's just not natural, and goes against what they can do developmentally. All this to say that because we are putting our children in situations that they will most likely fail, we are stressing our because of what others think or do, all this is contributing to anger and rage. On the days when I choose to do things simply, like take a meandering walk in the woods or swim with dd in the spring and go on a canoe ride, doing things at her pace ,where she is free to run and play without being inhibited or expected to sit still, I am virtually stress free. Things that bother me on a normal basis dont. After all, if we are outside and she spills her cup or water, who cares, right?
Many days, I wonder if, with all our modern day 'things', appliances, we really have it better or easier? Not true. Back in the day, families lived together for generations. Brothers, sisters, Aunts, Uncles, and grandparents shared housing. Everyone helped with the house chores. Cleaning was not like it is today. Dust was not taboo, and sanitation was not the goal. This day and age, I feel like I have to mop my floor everyday and dust 4 times a week and do laundry everyday just to keep our house decent. ANd *I* am the only one doing this! Plus cooking, going to the grocery, PO, and a million other errands. Plus I have to lug my not so cooperative toddler around, which makes me feel guilty, which wears on my emotions which makes me feel angry....
Anger is a secondary emotion, meaning is usually stem from something else, like fear. For me, I fear that "If dd does this, then she's going to grow up to be a spoiled brat and it will be MY fault because I wanted to do GD/AP methods instead of conventional methods of child rearing." alot. That runs through my head all the time. I feel like since I am the only one who really really wants this for dd, it lays on my shoulders to produce good children who turn into good adults, and any shortcomings are a sign of failur on my part. When I re read this I know it sounds silly, but there it is. To find the source of your anger, I would find the source of your fear. HTH
post #4 of 79
In my case, yes, I'm pretty darn certain that it has to do with how I was parented. Not that my parents are horrible people or anything. They raised us in a way that they believed was right. BUT that way was often very centered on the concept of adult *control* of children. Do what I say, when I say it, because I said it. When I feel angry with my children, it is almost always because they're doing something that I just plain don't like, and want them to stop, and I feel frustrated because I want them to do what *I* want them to do.

While my mood, available support, nutritional/sleep status, etc can all feed into that, at the base of it is the idea of an adult agenda. When I can let go of silly agendas, or find ways to cooperatively accomplish more important agendas, we're fine. When I stubbornly dig my heels in about an agenda because I'm the parent and I say so...doesn't go so well. Anger city.

So yeah, I think a large part of it has to do with what I was shown when I was a child. It's hard to parent according to a different model when I was told explicitly that philosophies like Alfie Kohn's are permissive and wrong, and that the adults should "be in charge".
post #5 of 79
I have thought about this a lot, since I get angry and have a short fuse.
I personally don't blame it on my childhood, there's not a lot of things I connect to that although my childhood involved neglect and divorce.
For me I know it's confusion and social pressure.
Confusion, because there's so many different ways to parent, so many people I know have different styles and I am simply overwhelmed by the choices. I always feel like I have to make a choice and need a "label" to parent a certain way. Then I can't stick to it 100% and feel like a failure. The best times in my mother-children relationship are when I am relaxed, haven't had time to think about the next step and just go with my guts. But a lot of times I consciously make an effort to copy someone's parenting style becuase of a certain situation I was impressed with - how they handle their kids tantrums, how do they teach their kids certain things, how happy are their kids....but what works for them doesn't necessarily work for my kids, so them and me get angry.
I haven't read any parenting books in years, I am just so fed up with all the different advice, everyone seems to know better than you and I need to concentrate on how my kids are as individuals and stop trying to put them in a drawer.
Second the social pressure which is somewhat connected to the confusion theory. I don't want to give in to it, but it's hard not to. I get angry out of jealousy for example. I see how easy it is for some of my friends, when they get their night out cause they have family to help watch the kids or can afford a sitter. They have houses with a yard and when their kids get crazy, they just let them outside, while me and dh get a night out once a year and I have to take my kids to the park when they wanna run.
I get angry when I see how much farther ahead my friend's daughter is, academically. While I don't believe in teaching them how to read and do math at age 5 it still tickles me when ds's friend can write her name and he is more interested in rolling on the floor being a goofball. When she knew at 14 months what L and R is and knows to keep her elbows off the tabel while eating while my ds is stuffing as much food in his mouth as possible There's plenty of things my ds does better than her and in the end it's not about a contest and I have always stayed away from the whole "look, what MY child can do" thing but whether you want it or not, at some point you're gonna get sucked into it and I get mad at my kids for not going with the flow sometimes.
More social pressure: my mom who expects all kids to sit still and color when adults are having a coversation. My pedi who reads me that ridiculous growthchart and tells me their heads are big. MDC members who put a "non-AP" or "AP" sticker on anyone who posts. I could count thousands more.

I get angry when I am not strong enough to trust my instincts and expect too much of me and my kids. Lack of sleep, money trouble and all those things agrevate it but I have had plenty of times where we could pay the bills comfortably and I had 8 hrs of sleep and still had the most impatient days.

We all have different reasons for getting mad and the most important thing to me is that I have come to realize: I admire moms who are striking starts of GD, who have never raised their voice to their kids. I will never reach that level and I will yell at them the next time they color the walls or tear up a book. In my eyes there's nothing wrong with anger at certain times as long as it's justified. It shouldn't harm anyone but it is also a perfectly natural response to when things go wrong. My kids need to learn that side of me too. Anything in moderation, right
post #6 of 79
for me, i don't have an anger issue with my friends or my husband, or my parents....or anyone else for that matter....i find myself feeling most angry and having really lost it only around my sweet children. like the pp said, i am also a full-time SAHM and i am with my kids 24/7. they are still pretty young (only 5 & 3).

at their age, i think they still can be very unreasonable ...and honestly, they do things that have just ticked me off sometimes (like making concoctions on the porch and adding dog poop for fun -in my good cooking pans!!....or drawing all over the walls with sharpie markers). i have found myself feeling most angry when it was a power struggle of some sort, or an act of what i felt was deliberate disobedience.

having said that though, i really don't scream at my kids anymore. i think the key for me is knowing what emotions come before me fully losing it. for me it is irritability. when i find my children are "getting on my nerves" (like yesterday-and for NO reason really). in the morning, when my daughter was asking very simple questions, i found my patience was very thin and i was irritable. it's not her fault or problem though, it's mine and i really try to recognize that. i told her i was in a grumpy mood and i was sorry. i asked her to give me some extra space, and she totally understood. to help with my anger, i also have given up a lot of battles that i used to think were important. i don't fight with my kids about clothes anymore--they can wear what they please (i put winter clothes in the attic in the summer and vice versa). i also try to give choices whenever possible, and i also don't leave them unsupervised as much....obviously they would not have added poop to my pots and pans or colored the walls with sharpies, had their mommy been more aware: lastly, i have lowered my expectations of my children. i think i used to have unrealistic expectations of how my children should *be* and i was constantly frustrated because my sweeties could never measure up. we would go to a restaurant and i'd feel angry that they misbehaved....but it was crazy to think they actually should have behaved at all. anyway, i think ALL mamas get angry, and all mamas lose it at one time or another. it's been posted so many times, and i think it's so true how important it is to take care of ourselve (eat right, get rest, get alone time when possible...ha ha, which i never get) and use a lot of the techniques mentioned here to help stay calm. i think you can be very angry and still stay calm. anger is a god-given emotion, so to never get angry is unrealistic.

other people may have deep rooted anger issues from something else, and i guess they may need more than this....but this is how i deal with it....but i know i still have a lot of growing to do.
post #7 of 79
My anger seems to be directly linked to spending too many hours alone with the kids at home. When I feel myself startng to lose it, I just put them in the car or stroller and head out. It usually helps. I really think a community would help.

I sort of feel that we are going against the system. The trial/family support is gone, but most people live in two income homes and the kids go to daycare. That is the new community: work and daycare.
post #8 of 79
My parents almost never hit us, but my father had an explosive temper. For me though... I'm Irish (dad's side) and I think a large part of it is genetics. Its not the temper that I think can be adjusted, just how we handle it, yk?
post #9 of 79
Wow-- lots of responses here that hit home for me.

A big part of my issue is how I was raised. I grew up in a home where rage and violence were the NORM. Screaming, screeching, breaking things, hitting, throwing things, calling each other and the kids names were the norm on a GOOD day. On a bad day, you can add punching, drunk parents, etc... So it is SOOOOOOO hard to fight that first instinct towards anger when my kids "misbehave," especially since years of abuse have completely warped what that natural instinct is.

Diet plays a big role for me, too. I drink WAY too much caffeine and need to cut down.

Also, I realize that my triggers are when the kids and I get into some sort of power struggle, or like a pp said when they do something that appears to be intentional defiance. Those are hard things for me to deal with, especially because of society's messages about kids should and should not do. I think I also get a little hurt by the intentional stuff, and am working on getting MY feelings out of the equation, at least long enough to discipline properly.

More social pressure: my mom who expects all kids to sit still and color when adults are having a coversation. My pedi who reads me that ridiculous growthchart and tells me their heads are big. MDC members who put a "non-AP" or "AP" sticker on anyone who posts. I could count thousands more.
Yep. And if you're like me, all the people out there aren't pushing the same philosophies on you, which makes it easier to doubt yourself and your parenting during those times when you feel a bit overwhelmed by discipline.
post #10 of 79
Such an interesting question. I have thought about this a lot.

I think that there is no one answer but I do think that environmental factors play a huge role. I find that when I am in a chaotic environment - loud, bright, polluted - I have a much shorter fuse. When I am in a calmer environment then I am able to be more mindful of what is going on within me.

Since I live in a big city I have found that I need to create that inner calm and mindfulness. Yoga has helped, as had bike riding and eating well. But by far the most helpful thing that I have ever done for myself is to mitigate stress instead of seek it out. I have learned to say "no" when I feel that something is going to be too much. I have learned to not care for material possessions so that I don't feel resentful if I don't have them. I make decisions carefully so that I don't take on more than I can handle. The other thing that I have done which has helped enormously is that I don't take things personally. This has been a challenging exercise but I do see that 99% of people's reactions to us have more to do with themselves than anything we are doing.

I also try to be understanding of people. If I'm driving and somebody cuts me off, I literally say to myself "they must be in a terrible rush - maybe they have to go pick their child up and they are late" or something along those lines. I try not to judge what others do with bad motives.
post #11 of 79
I don't have a problem with anger. I get angry on ocassion with my DH and my DC, but it's not often. But I think that anger is necessary and useful to a certain extent. The problem that I see with anger is how to manage it.

I got angry with my DD the other day because she did not want me to rinse the shampoo from her hair. I was almost done and she was screaming and resisting. I felt myself pushing against her to make her let me finish because I felt that she was being difficult for no reason. When I realized that I was pushing her, I let go and I felt ashamed. That is what my mother did to me. She used all sorts of control including pushing, dragging, and holding. It was all punishment for resisting. I was so frustrated that I yelled out my frustration "ARRRRRRGGGGHHHH!" Both my DC started crying. I had frightened them. I felt stupid.

Then the anger wasn't even important anymore. If I had channeled it instead of letting it get warped with guilt and hurt thinking about myself as a child, I might have thought of a song or some silly game to help us get through the hairwashing faster. So I sat down and took 20 sec to get it together and I was about to get them smiling and finish the hair in less than 5 mins. I apologized to them for losing my temper.
post #12 of 79
Lack of support.

I also find it much easier to deal with every day stresses when there's other people around, other children, other mothers, family, etc.

I do have anger issues I've been dealing with pretty darn well until the last month or so of this pregnancy, which I think were related to my childhood, but I'm learned to let go of a lot.
post #13 of 79
I find a piece of myself in everyone's post. This is a great discussion. I'm nak or I'd write more.
post #14 of 79
Originally Posted by WinterStar View Post
Or could it just be because we are lacking in family/tribal support and that actually parenting in the near isolation that western civilisation often means - is in fact beyond the call of duty and too much for all but the strongest and most placid of women?
I think that this is it exactly. I had a fabulous childhood, with attentive but not permissive parents. Yet as a parent the anger is SO present.
post #15 of 79
Originally Posted by SugarAndSun View Post

I sort of feel that we are going against the system. The trial/family support is gone, but most people live in two income homes and the kids go to daycare. That is the new community: work and daycare.
I feel like this is really true. A lot of what I am being told about how to parent, and how to feel about it, is really only true if I am away from my kids all day. Not to get into a SAHM/WOHM argument, but SAHMing is intense.
post #16 of 79
Originally Posted by WinterStar View Post
Or could it just be because we are lacking in family/tribal support and that actually parenting in the near isolation that western civilisation often means - is in fact beyond the call of duty and too much for all but the strongest and most placid of women?
I believe this is the reason I struggle sometimes. I don't think it has anything to do with the way I was raised. My mom had far more patience than I have. Of course, I've always been a person with a high need for sleep, peace and serenity and having children those tend to be in short supply. But I am pretty good at getting my needs met. The times when things get rough I do feel I am lacking the tribal support that seemed to be avaliable to my mom - even though she would say she lacked the support she needed as well. I think sometimes there is alot of pressure for a mom to ignore her own needs in order to cater to every whim of her children. I don't believe that is healthy - unmet needs don't just go away. Learning to prioritize is importnat.
post #17 of 79
Having support would certainly save me from getting to that point. On days that I get out of the house and maybe go to a playgroup or something, I notice that I'm less likely to get close to losing it.

There's a certain desperation in taking care of a kid and a house that for me personally can turn to anger. I have a *really* long fuse so that saves me a lot of the time but not always.

I tend to show anger more around those that I know best and my husband and my daughter are closest to me right now. That scares me and I try to remind myself often that she can't defend herself against me and that I need to not turn anything out on her. Reading this forum and several parenting books has helped me in identifying triggers and avoiding situations where I'm more likely to lose it.
post #18 of 79
I haven't read the other replies yet because it will probably change my mind about this. I'm too impressionable, LOL.

But what I wanted to say is that I think that anger is a natural human reaction to the situations we're in with children.

I mean really, they upset the whole applecart - things we used to be able to take for granted, we can't any more. Things we used to be able to do, we can't.

Added to that, children are always going to get the brunt because they are usually the most sensitive and vulnerable around in the crowd.

I do think our current lifestyles could add to that - if you've had children around you your whole life, and are already used to being responsible for/taking care of them, then you've already adjusted somewhat. But as much as extended family can be a huge help in that area, as we are all aware, they can also be a huge problem. The idea of the whole family being so much closer and able to help each other may sound better than it really would be, KWIM?

I think it is our inability to DEAL with our anger that is the problem. I think anger is a natural reaction to most of the situations and changes we are going through; but we've got to have a way of dealing with it that doesn't involve inflicting it on others. KWIM? Easier said than done, probably.

I think in the past, with a much closer-knit and extended family, children were much more vulnerable to a family member who was unable to control his/her temper, or molested, or what have you. We have a lot more control over that nowadays. So I'm not sure that's totally the answer.
post #19 of 79
Thank you so much for this thread. It is so nice to hear that I am not alone. The biggest problem I have with myself i how angry I can get with the boys. For little things, for big things.

I am so going to watch this thread and learn, learn, learn!

Thanks for the support!
post #20 of 79
For me, it was how I was raised, that and diet (I do have some hypoglycemia issues that contributes).
My mom is an alcoholic, she became an alcoholic when I was three. She used to smack me, and grab me and shake me so that my head would snap back and forth. Then she would apologize and tell me that she was sorry that she hurt me, but she couldn't help herself because I had made her so angry. She is currently sober and claims that she never yelled at me or hurt me as a child.
I have had to fight these urges to hurt my child the way my mother hurt me, and I was not even drunk at the time. I can get angry about stupid stuff, I mean, come on, DD is just a toddler! Luckily, I have a loving caring DH who is an excellent parent and steps in when he can see me getting irritated. And yeah, I have been in therapy for over a year now (actually just got a break from it because I have been doing so much better).
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