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How to Keep from Killing the Little Devils

Sometimes it can be the most empathetic caregiver who is most at risk of getting emotional.

Dangerous myth number one: It only happens to somebody else, and then only to "criminal types."
Truth: Almost anyone, if pushed far enough, can get angry enough to scream, hit, or even kill (perhaps accidentally) in a fit of rage.

Dangerous myth number two: Children are kind, powerless innocent darlings who couldn't possibly provoke a big, strong adult.
Truth: Even small infants show an uncanny ability to arouse strong emotions in the adults around them. As they get older, the most interesting kids can also be the most difficult. You can love and respect strong-willed kids for the challenge they are, and realize that they sometimes will push a conflict until something breaks.

Throughout life, the art of living peacefully is often a result of learning to recognize and avoid situations where things could get out of hand. The same goes for parenting. There are things you can do to help prevent difficult situations from arising:

Step One: Assess your situation.
Be honest with yourself, and ask the hard but pertinent questions. For example:

  • Do you want this child? Are you crazy about him or her? Kids are often unreasonable, demanding creatures. You have to be absolutely crazy about them or you would never put up with it. Put another way, you have to be a motivated parent to be a good parent.

  • How difficult a child is this? Do you have a quiet, cooperative teddy bear, or an energetic, demanding boss who wants to control everything?

Step Two: Recognize the warning signs.

  • Are you in charge when you administer discipline? Or do you act impulsively and find that you are losing control of yourself?

  • Does your child's behavior sometimes leave you with a feeling of surprise and disbelief? "I just can't believe he did that." Totally unexpected situations can leave you without a planned and reasonable response, which means that your own spontaneous reaction may be one that surprises you, too.

  • Do you get angry when your child does? Empathy is great, but you have to be able to disconnect, to stop feeling what your child is feeling. You must take firm control when it comes to feelings of anger. You are not a friend with whom your child can quarrel, you are the boss. Nature made parents powerful so that they can take charge of their young offspring, and it did so because otherwise we wouldn't survive!

Step Three: Take control of your situation.

  • If you are having a difficult time, but know you want to raise this child, then you may need a little more time to yourself. Look for ways in which you can reduce or share your daily responsibilities, particularly if you are alone in your daily childcare tasks. Do whatever you can to reduce other causes of stress in your life, as well. Save your patience for your child.

  • Tell people how you feel. In the worst case, if you are not happy to have the opportunity to raise this child, then let the people around you know that you want to get yourself out of the situation. Don't wait for a crisis. Ask for help (or demand it if necessary) before things get out of hand. There is always a solution once you find the right help.

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