The After Action Review of my temper tantrum has already uncovered one problem area for me. The negative voice in my head that wants me to take responsibility for other people’s actions, blames me for everything and helps to keep my frustration and anger high (Shoulding on Myself).
Next, I’d like to point out another simpler error I made, in part due to the confrontation that took place in my head. Because I was unsure of my responsibility and angry at myself for being a failure, I posed a question to my sons: “Who turned off my alarm clock?”
I already knew one or both did, but that is irrelevant. When I asked the question, it came out as a question, of course. Questions like this one, coming from a parent, leaves the door wide open for denial.
“I don’t know” is one possible answer; or maybe you’ll get the answer that I got: “Why the hell would we turn off your alarm clock?!”
And there it is. The opportunity for wordplay, lying, distraction. Suddenly, I’m not the parent who is in charge. I’m the one on the defensive, answering the demanding question of a naughty child.
Don’t Ask a Question That You Already Know the Answer To
I want to pay special attention to this minor glitch in communication. Ever heard the phrase “the devil is in the details”? The question I posed is the devil at work.
As any parent knows, a young child will do something obviously naughty right in front of you and if you ask, “Why did you do that?” the child will say essentially, “Do what?!” and look at you like you’re crazy. It’s no difference with teenagers, except they may add “You can’t prove it!” onto their defense.
If you think I’m crazy, think about the last time someone caught you with your hand in the cookie jar. Was your first thought similar to “Is there any way out of this?” before the ideas of integrity and morality settled in your mind? I’m just saying that denial of wrongdoing is a natural thing although we (hopefully) reach for higher morality before we act on it.
When I asked the question “Who turned off my alarm clock?” I opened the door for confrontation and lying, a.k.a DISTRACTION.
How Distraction Works
Distraction is what happens when someone misdirects the FOCUS of a statement to secure a better outcome for the one doing the distracting. In this case, my son employed three techniques.
- One, he used a curse word and haughty loud tone to add a fresh problem that may throw me off my game (and perhaps put him in the driver’s seat because “louder always wins” around here).
- Two, he questioned me in return, implying that my perception was invalid.
- Three, by refusing to address the focus of my concern, he dismissed it.
My initial reaction to this was “He’s acting like his FATHER!” which is a trigger point for me. This thought is always followed by a bunch of shoulding (I should have stopped this sooner, should have raised him differently, should have known, etc. ad nauseum) and guilt, which further clouds my ability to act and think clearly.
At the time, “He’s acting like his father” won. Not only was I thinking about that, but I had launched into EXPLAINING, defending my position. Fact of the matter is there was nothing to defend; I explained myself out of habit. I explain myself because I (incorrectly) believe that doing so will cause the “distractor” to understand.
The distractor doesn’t want to understand. He wants to distract from his misdeed.
Therefore, it didn’t matter if I said I knew they (he) had turned off my alarm clock because Santa Claus came to me in a dream and told me so. He wasn’t interested in how I knew, only that he didn’t want to get into trouble for it. ANY explanation I had would result in him attempting to yell over me, saying something else to add to the distraction, or dismissing my claim.
Hindsight is 20/20, but it’s also invaluable as I forge a new path for myself and my family. Next time, distraction won’t work as well, and that is progress.
Did Anything Good Happen?
I want to end this section of my temper tantrum AAR with a positive action I took.
While my body was busy playing my part (explaining, increasing frustration levels), my mind heard a little voice saying, “Something is not right. You are not feeling strong. What is wrong?” Miracle of miracles, I listened to that little voice.
I realized that this was part of the dance. I realized that it needed to stop, that there would be no “winner.” I stopped myself and said, “Go to your room.” I didn’t hear another word he said; after I took the power back, I didn’t waver. (*Note to self: You can’t send your husband to his room. There’s a way to take my power back with my husband, I just have to find it.)
And just like that, I ended the confrontation with my son.
I’ll stop on a positive note, because the next section of this AAR will deal with the actual temper tantrum I threw in front of my youngest son (My Temper Tantrum and How I’ll Handle Anger in the Future).
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