In my last post, we discussed some categories of angry responses to children (with accompanying phrases) when a parent is frustrated with their behavior. We also discussed how these phrases promoted blame, shame and negative messages in our children because of the absolute and extreme nature of these types of comments.
Anger starts with thoughts
We must realize that anger really starts with our thoughts. We tend to think that we are angry because of the behavior of our children but in reality, it is more how we think about their behavior. If we as parents could substitute better coping thoughts, we may easily be more accurate in our communication and less angry at the behavior of our children.
Reframing our thoughts
Let’s take some of the phrases that illustrate shaming and see how we might rewrite the same thoughts to be more accurate and healthier.
Instead of blaming thoughts: “It’s all your fault!”
Replacement, coping thoughts: “Maybe you didn’t realize…” or “You probably have some reasons I don’t understand yet.”
Instead of catastrophizing/magnifying: “Now, I’ll never be able to…”
Replacement, coping thoughts: “While this may be a bit challenging to handle, in the big picture it is not a big deal” or “There are things I can do if I just take a few minutes to think about them…”
Instead of irritation fixation: “You really screwed up doing this project!”
Replacement, coping thoughts: “There are one or two things that need to be changed, but a lot is right with this project.”
Instead of inflammatory global labeling: “He’s a complete loser!” “She is such a total jerk and deserves no mercy from me!”
Replacement, coping thoughts: “There is something about what he did that is bothering me…” or “I wish she had not…”
Instead of overgeneralizations: “She’s always doing dumb stuff like that!” “He never puts my needs first.”
Replacement, coping thoughts: “Today what she did is…” or “Right now he seems to be only thinking of himself.”
Instead of all or nothing thinking: “If I don’t get my way, I won’t be able to do anything.” “If I make a mistake I will never be able to fix it.”
Replacement, coping thoughts: “Maybe I will not be able to do this part the way I would like, but there are other parts that I might be able to do my way.” “There probably will be ways to fix mistakes.”
Instead of misattributing, assuming: “He’s doing that just to make me look bad.” “She wants to see how far she can push me.”
Replacement, coping thoughts: “I don’t know why he did that…maybe he has a reason that makes sense to him.” or “ She may be very focused and is not aware of how that is making it harder for me to…”
Instead of demanding/commanding/shoulding: “He should do it my way!” or “She isn’t being fair. I know better ways than that.”
Replacement, coping thoughts: “I wish he would do it my way, but maybe he has something else in mind.” or “While I don’t like what she is doing, I can appreciate that she has her right to her opinion.”
Instead of feelings as facts: “There is no other way to see this!” or “It’s not right to…”
Replacement, coping thoughts: “There may be other ways to do this.” or “In my opinion it is not right to . . .”
Do you say these kinds of things?
So, now that you have seen these types of comments, can you identify some statements that you typically say to others that fit one of these categories?
Take a few moments to write them doen and put in your own coping and replacement thoughts. In so doing, you will be better able to address frustration, stress and anger in your communication.
When you begin to speak coping thoughts on a consistent basis, it will be possible to make your point and communicate more effectively. It will also prevent the possibility of blaming, shaming or sending messages that could be destructive to your children or those around you…and that’s a good thing!
Gerry Vassar, President and CEO, Lakeside Educational Network
Information taken from Preventing Violence through Anger Management, 2006, Diane Wagenhals. Licensed Materials. All rights reserved.