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Dustin LindenSmith

father | musician | writer


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on the many forms of violence in the home

My childhood featured a certain amount of physical and emotional violence. By the time I reached my early teens, I started to make resolutions to myself about the kind of parent I would be when I had kids. I'd never hit my kids. I'd never strike at them in anger. I wouldn't ever mete out punishment for their behaviour in the form of physical pain. I'd always watch my children and listen carefully to what they had to say. I'd always want them to feel that they were important, that their thoughts and dreams were worthwhile, and that they'd have my unflagging support for as long as I lived.

But despite these high ideals, I can't admit to giving my children a completely non-violent upbringing so far. I've lost my temper lots of times, especially with our first one. I've never hit them in anger or otherwise, but I have blown up, sometimes at them directly, with a lot of yelling and maybe a smacking of the nearest table or doorjamb or something. I've vented more than my share of hot air in this way, and I'm sure that it's terribly unpleasant for little ones at the time.

I've also given my wife criticism for inconsequential things around the house: for the type of wooden spoon she uses to cook her morning eggs; for her timing of when she starts the laundry; for her lack of restraining Max from emptying the contents of the Tupperware drawer onto the floor for the 900th time. None of these things is important, but I find myself drawn to correct her about them a lot. For some reason, I think I'm the perfect judge.

Just for a sense of context, I'll soon be interviewing someone for the Nonduality Highlights Podcast who lost her daughter to cancer at the age of 7 and recently lost her husband to it also. She and her husband barely got a chance to try out their parenting with that poor little girl. It's a testament to their strength of character that they even stayed together after that.

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dizziedumb January 18th, 2008
i don't think it's outlandish that a parent loses his temper while dealing with the ridiculous bullshit of childrearing. while i may not be a mom, i do feel in many ways akin to that role because of my job as a peds nurse. sometimes or, let's be honest (for my situation at least), often children have to test their boundaries. it's how they learn how to handle social situations, how to move throughout life, and how to conduct themselves. while it is a normal phenomenon, this tends to lead the caretaker in the general direction of insanity. i'm with my kids for 4-8 hours a day; i can only imagine having to live with them. losing one's temper may not be zen, but it's an understandable and not outrageous reaction to the incredibly annoying behaviors kids challenge us with every damn day of our lives. the important things, i think, are #1 not to let yourself work up to a catastrophic reaction of assault, and #2 to quickly after the incident or, ideally, during it, realize the stress reaction you are exhibiting and call to mind a mantra or a place of peace and simply ease back into a calm state.

all seven of the children i work with come with their own sets of neuroses and emotional issues. i counter this with various tactics which are based upon neutral, non-violent punishments (being placed into a cold shower during a tantrum) and measures of intimidation (picking one up by the collar when speaking to, holding tightly onto an ear until behavior stops). i don't consider blowing up to be a terrible thing, as long as it isn't a reaction to every incident regardless of importance. sometimes we all bitch a little too much, a little too loud about toys on the floor. but when the shit hits the fan, i think it's natural for us to react in a way that stresses the importance of the subject. after all, it's how kids learn.

hopefully i don't sound like a mean and terrible ogre. but when something is inacceptable, it's inacceptable. end of story.

healingdrysuits January 18th, 2008
Your ability to post this without having an inner censor say something like "Jesus WTF am I doing...intimidation...picking one up by the collar...holding onto ears?" If that isn't going through your head and you are not even attempting to alter these methods then please remember this: kids do not drive people crazy-our need to control our environment and inability to do so is what drives us crazy. For the sake of your own self respect and diginity, and for the innocent spirits you are intimidating-remember that your behavior is the unacceptable variable in this equation. In that I mean, that by doing what you are doing with these kids, they will end up just like you...unable to handle it when they have no control...like when someone gets pissed off and grabs them. Thinking that a small child is the cause of your anger is reasonable in our culture, but once you wake up to what you are doing, it will be unacceptable.

This all being said, until I had kids of my own, I may have agreed with you. Having kids changed it all. I worked hard to overcome the training I had that told me it was the kids that caused my anger and their fault when they pushed me too far. Good luck with it, it'll be worth it if you start looking.

iamom January 18th, 2008
Thanks for validating my occasional anger. :)

Now, as to Mr. healingdrysuits's concerns with your techniques, I can only say that I don't know enough about your exact personal circumstances at work to comment, such as he has. Sometimes, reactions are visceral.

healingdrysuits January 18th, 2008
Dustin,
This is a subject that is so enmeshed with my process from all sides. My story growing up sounds similar to yours and we surely agree on trying to be the most open hearted, least explosive parents we possibly can be. I have had a lot of shifting with that last bit in the recent 3 years, like that's what the whole focus has been on---the source of the anger, handling it in a way that I can feel good about etc. It's been really great. But for me, blowing up at the kids used to be a daily occurrence. Anyway, um....the other part, kids dying from cancer. That too fits right in, like crazy. My family and I moved in with another family when their child got cancer, he was 6 at the time. The short version is that he somehow survived but there were some really rough times and we were right in the middle of it. Few things tear people apart more efficiently than having their child go through cancer. The other thing is that right now most of my clients are people that have cancer or some other terminal looking illness. It's not something that I thought I would get into, but there it is. It's quite a trip to see people who most likely will die soon and spend a lot of quality time with them. The coolest part though is that these folks have the sense that the healing work we are doing may not save their lives, yet they still work their process really hard with all their heart as if they will be around forever. Anyway, thanks for sharing this info and I for one am looking forward to hearing the podcast.

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