We all want to be good parents. How can we remain loving and patient?
Everyone wants to be a good parent — loving and patient, never unfair or hurting our kids. But we are far from perfect. When challenged by our kids, whom we love more than life itself, we’re sometimes overtaken by anger and harsh words. Why do we lose control of ourselves?
Fear and fatigue can add up
Often our anger is caused by fatigue. How many parents get angry with their kids and start yelling because they are tired? Recognizing your limitations and saying “I can’t” is not lacking faith or courage. Instead of clenching our teeth, or making resolutions we can’t keep, it’s better to face the problem and try to fix it: get more rest, more help, ask friends and family to babysit from time to time, etc.
But fear can also make us unfair. Marion is in seventh grade, and until recently her grades left a lot to be desired. Since the start of the school year, her dad was pestering her in every possible way, proliferating threats and criticism. He knew that he was going too far, that he was being unfair, that Marion was petrified at the thought of failing her tests (and, of course, she did). Then one day he realized that his aggression stemmed from being held back in seventh grade 30 years ago. He was afraid that Marion will know the same fate and wanted to protect her. As soon as he accepted this and stopped tormenting his daughter, the tensions ceases. Now, instead of blaming Marion, he’s encouraging her and her grades are going up.
Fear and fatigue can add up. It’s the case when a child is particularly challenging and we don’t know where to start! It may be helpful to entrust them to the care of grandparents, a godmother or friends and take a breather from time to time.
Beware of the vicious cycle of rage and violence
Our refusal to forgive ourselves may result in disguised forms of “self-punishment.” As a rule, the flaws we loathe the most in our kids are the ones we also have. To be kind to others, we must start by being kind and forgiving with ourselves. More often than not we do exactly the opposite: the more aggressive we are, the more we blame and despise ourselves, the more we feed the source of this violence inside us. Forgiving ourselves is not the same as saying we’re right, nor is it the cause for self-content. On the contrary, it’s to accept ourselves as a miracle of God, someone infinitely more than our apparent flaws and failings.
Our refusal to forgive others creates a vicious circle. Jerome can’t say anything to his boss, who treats him unfairly. He gets home, filled with resentment and rage. Jerome screams at his wife over nothing. Hurt, she swallows her tears but yells at their son because of his table manners. Disgusted, the child kicks the family dog, the last of the scapegoats in this chain of violence. This contagious aggression is common in family relations.
The only way to break this infernal cycle is to acknowledge and to forgive. If we dare put a name on it and expose it to the loving mercy of the Lord, He will transform it into kindness.