Wednesday, 19 March 2014


Everyone is doing the best they can.

Today I am working on an academic paper about predictors of parenting in early adolescence from indicators in middle childhood. For mothering, we find that maternal proneness to anger (outside the parenting context) is the strongest predictor of hostile parenting, whereas for fathers it is household chaos (disorganised households that are noisy and without routine).

We reported the same thing in middle childhood, but back then I wasn't a mother myself. The finding didn't resonate with me. Now it most surely does. I am prone to anger. I am encouraged by my Head of School to knit during meetings because it helps curb my outbursts. I get unreasonably angry about poor service. It should come as no surprise that parenting is just the sort of stressful context where anger flourishes.

What to do?

Much of my anger stems from rigid ideas I hold about how people should behave in certain contexts. (If my repeat prescription has been lost through no fault of my own, a doctor should be disturbed on my behalf.) So being more flexible and less judgemental would be good. But tough.

I am trying out another idea. When I think through how/why things make me angry, I often attribute negative intent. For example when trying (and failing) to get a waiter's attention for the bill/check, I think they are being lazy and deliberately avoiding my gaze. That makes me cross. Instead, I am making a conscious effort to think to myself (as irritation begins to rise), "Everyone is doing the best they can." Whether or not it is true doesn't really matter.

The biggest job will be doing this in relation to the boys. I have a tendency to take their misbehaviour personally, and to think that they are doing annoying things deliberately. The noise level in our house is often high. I would like for it to be quieter. Surely they can remember to keep their voices down when someone is sleeping. But maybe the boys are doing the very best they can to regulate their volume.

Everyone is doing the best they can. Rinse & repeat.

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