Some of our kids are angry. Especially after the COVID19 period. There is a lot of suppressed energy. Nobody can handle effectively so many changes during one year. But angry children are nothing new. They have always been around. And in theory, we should know how to handle them effectively. More reading here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
We are busy bees
In many places, for example in Israel, both parents work full time. Both Anna and I have about 70 hours of work per week distributed between several activities. This is pretty insane.
Fortunately, about 40% of our work is done from home. So the kids are not alone. Working from home is one way of making kids feel that the parents are there for them.
My grandfather and grandmother worked different shifts, so they always were there for their kids. This is an interesting possibility for example for doctors.
Another way to be present in the kid’s life is being there for the moments that actually matter. For example, have a deep honest 1:1 discussion for at least one hour per week per kid. It is really simple. Allow the kid to ask ANYTHING and provide a full and honest answer adapted to the age.
When parents work hard, the kids feel abandoned
What happens if the parents are self-absorbed, or simply do not generate deep and honest conversations?
- The kids experience anxiety every time you need to leave. They are not fully sure when they will meet you again. This is especially harmful to young kids.
- There is no one to share deep fears and troubling questions with. This leads to loneliness and depression. Especially with adolescents.
- The kids feel they do not answer to anyone and try crazy acts. Quite often they simply follow the lead of more charismatic peers.
- The feeling of intimacy is misplaced, causing romantic issues. Some romantic couples are too codependent, others are too independent for functional family.
- There is no good parental model. Your grandkids will also get absentee parents.
Parents are one of the resources kids use for grounding. Having fewer resources kids feel confused and angry… Adolescents can get angry quickly, and then they can break things…
Slowing down helps to look for the anxiety underneath. Start by simply asking “I’m getting angry; what am I worried about, afraid of?” This question over time will help to recognize the underlying emotions.
At least this is the theory. Maybe your personal experience is somewhat different. People are different.
Father is important not just as a walking wallet
The traditional roles of a male is protector and provider. While these roles are still important, the father has many additional roles which should not be forgotten.
- The traditional role of the mother is to adapt the environment for the child’s benefit. The father traditionally changes the child to adapt to the environment.
- In the “marshmallow test” kids in families with fathers show more self-discipline and resilience. They are much more likely to wait patiently for a larger reward.
- Father is a role model for his sons. They want to be like their father and they are likely to acquire the relationship model of their parents.
I met several families which were made of generations of women. Each generation could not cope with the man in their life and preferred to return to the mother’s home. So there were at least three generations in one home. Ladies only. This is suboptimal.
Protection important not just for human
In our deepest needs, we are not so different from other mammals. Mongooses pay back individuals who previously protected them. Not just parents. They remember and reward helpful friends. For example, they groom the sentinels that sound the alarm when the predators appear. So if you have a cute and wonderful girl grooming you after a hard day at work, this is older and deeper than it looks.
We are governed by survival. Not just of individuals or societies, but families. If two parents work, the family has more resources, the society has a higher productivity rate, the individuals are more fulfilled. Everybody wins. We are possibly more stressed, but we survive.
Consider the Korean family model as an alternative. Society is kind of dying demographically with one kid per family. The kid has a lot of stress because he has to carry all the family hopes on his shoulders. The mother stays at home cleaning, cooking, and taking the child to various activities. The father works 12 hours a day, and releases the stress by getting drunk with friends, so he is not really at home. Less than ideal. Eventually, something will change, because the model is not sustainable.
10 evolution-inspired lessons for parent
I kind of rephrase here:
1. Realize that we are an altricial species. The kids will be underdeveloped and will make lots of mistakes. Our kids develop VERY slowly compared to any animal, and they have more skills to acquire due to our complex civilization.
2. Teach your kids to stand up for themselves. You cannot always be there for them, but you also cannot leave them to learn for themselves. The risks are too high. We do not have 1000 hatchlings per family.
3. Cultivate an other-oriented approach to life. Cooperation is important for human survival. We are social animals.
4. Feed your kids like they lived 20,000 years ago. And I do not refer to the paleo diet which is controversial or worse. Do not allow them to eat food with lots of salt, sugar, fat, and MSG. The food that sells well might be slowly killing our kids.
5. Get your kids to develop identities tied to sport or exercise. Even if you are not very athletic, allow your kids to run around. Physical activity has many psychological benefits.
6. Cultivate artistic and musical interests. There must be some evolutionary advantage, even though we do not fully understand it.
7. Allow for plenty of free play with other kids. Cats and dogs practice hunting before they try the real thing. It is safer to play with parents than in an unsupervised environment…
8. Get your kids outside — a lot! Neanderthals did not stand the competition. Modern people did not develop to dwell in caves…
9. Teach your kids values that would be helpful for small-scale living. Tribes were small, rarely above 100 individuals. In such families, individuals know each other very well and care for each other deeply. There are visible and real consequences for any antisocial behavior – like in a small military unit.
10. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Not everything the parents do is good. Usually, this is not a reason to stay away from family life. Forgive yourself and do not stop trying things. Kids are resilient…
Parents still regularly spank the kids
We kind of know that spanking is not good, yet we still spank the kids. Why? Both mothers and fathers spank the kids, moreover, they do it approximately twice as much as they report.
Laws prohibit the physical punishment of children. These laws are good.
15 major trends associated with physical punishment, including poorer parent-child relationships; more domestic violence; more crime perpetrated as child and adult; more drug abuse; higher probability of depression; more physically-forced sex; and physical abuse of one’s own children. These data strongly suggest that a variety of poor outcomes are associated with physical punishment.
Yet the parents do not believe, cannot stop themselves, or do not see a more effective alternative. Possibly parents undermining each other’s authority leave each other helpless…
What are the main reasons for bad parenting?
The motives for physical punishment, conscious and unconscious, are many—control of behavior and thoughts; to socialize and discipline children; helplessness, fatigue, stress, rage, to do what was done to oneself, and lack of alternatives. Distress, if excessive, leads to anger. Other negative emotions such as fear and shame can lead to distress and then anger. Mix in action and impulsivity and it’s easy to see why some parents end up hitting their children. Bottom line, impulsiveness, action, and violence are not the messages one wants to send to one’s children…especially not as a way to solve problems.
Violence or shouting is just one possible behavior. The same reasons may cause parents to distance themselves from the kids’ lives. Or hire caregivers and multiple extracurricular activities simply not to deal with the kids. There are many models that kind of work but do not work really well. Are there effective models?
What do functioning families do?
The main idea is a personal example. If the relationship between parents is positive, helpful, and respectful, the children will usually copy. High IQ and understanding of the proper verbal communication help, but not eliminate issues. If something bad happens, try to avoid it in the future, but also try to forgive yourself and your family members.
We all make mistakes. Most of us are not focused enough to hear each other. However, if we try, the situation is better.
Functioning families learn. A lot. They need to adapt to new situations, as things happen and kids grow. And they succeed because they are flexible, open to counseling, ready to change harmful behaviors. They work hard, slowly and systematically changing patterns over time.
I do not believe in ideal people and ideal familiies. I believe in hard work that is eventually fruitful.
To accommodate of confront?
People pleasers are not happy. They give up too much, and if their partner is not willing to treat them exceptionally well, the situation is explosive.
Confrontations are risky. They may generate new understanding and new agreements, but they may also cause disagreements and anger,
Eventually, all tensions need to be handled. The conflicts need to be understood and the alternatives discussed. Ideally, the confrontation can be handled under the supervision of qualified professionals or using professional-grade tools with a focus on resolving the issue rather than blaming each other. If the issue is not worth a confrontation, maybe it will eventually disappear.
Love does not solve all controversies. It can provide enough motivation to stay involved and look for effective alternatives. Moreover, it motivates us to learn. This is actually quite a lot.