The Soft-Spoken Parent
The Top 10 Strategies to Turn Away Wrath
By H. Wallace Goddard

This week:

10. Blame it on the rain.

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A few years ago two dear friends called me from a distant city. Their voices betrayed their exhaustion. “We’ve had trouble with Breck lately. We don’t know what to do. We’re desperate. Will you help us?”

The weary parents described the stresses around their recent move to a new city. The dad’s new job entailed long hours leaving very little time or energy for his family. The mom was overwhelmed with the demands of the move and organizing the household.

Six-year-old Breck had started acting in angry and hostile ways. Every day he would battle against getting on the bus. He seemed almost to take joy in torturing his mother as she tried to rush him to the school bus that was holding up traffic by fighting with her. “It seems that he is deliberately trying to manipulate me,” observed the frustrated mother. “I think he wants to use his power to control the family. He seems to enjoy it.”

Why does he misbehave?

When the mother asked me if I believed that Breck was trying to manipulate her, my instinctive response was, “No. I know Breck. He is an earnest, sweet, normal boy whose worst fault may be that he is tender and a perfectionist. I think he is saying, ‘I am so confused about this move! I like to have some order in my life but I have been torn away from friends, our old house, familiar routines…and now my mom and dad don’t even want to snuggle with me at night because they say I need to be grown up. I feel desperately confused and lonely! Please! Please! Someone help me!'”

Seeing Breck as a lonely, confused boy leads to a parenting response very different from the one that would result from seeing him as devious and contrary. Bringing him up in light and truth includes seeing him in the best possible light-as a little boy wanting to be good but feeling very lost, lonely, and overwhelmed.

Rather than accuse, confront, and threaten, parents might respond to the message of pain and confusion that the boy’s behavior represents. They can help the troubled boy against their common enemies of confusion, alienation, and fear.

How to help

His father might say, “Wow! Son, you are really angry. Shall we run around the block together so that you can show me your anger?”

Or mother might say, “Son, this all seems so confusing. Can we snuggle together in the rocking chair?” There are probably many more ideas that are still better. And parents are uniquely qualified, based on experience and inspiration, to know what will work with a given child in a specific circumstance. There are many responses that might help the boy deal with his immediate anger and confusion.

Long term solutions to help the boy might include arranging for the mother to volunteer at school so that she could be with her boy during the difficult weeks of transition to a new school. Dad might carve out some time for his son on the weekends. Mom might have the boy stay home from school with her once a week to have time together for a picnic. The family might invite one of Breck’s classmates over to play at the house after school to help him build new friendships.

Children’s terrorism

When children cannot find a good way to get their needs met, they may resort to terrorism-not out of spiteful nastiness, but out of desperation. Maybe rather than wanting power over the family, Breck really wanted to feel a little power in his own life. Maybe rather than trying to manipulate and punish the family, he really wanted to feel loved and safe. [1]

That’s why I say to blame it on the rain. Think about the rain that is falling in your child’s life. Think about the stresses in his or her life. Think about the stresses in the family that might make your child feel anxious or lonely. A move? Health problems? Stress? Money problems?

The bad behavior we see in children is often due to the thunderstorm in their lives. So, blame it on the rain rather than blame it on badness in the child.

Reflection

Think of a time when you have recognized the circumstances that make it hard for your child to be peaceful and loving. Think of a time when you have tried to understand the pressures in your child’s life. How did it feel? What helped you get there? How can you get there again? How can you make that experience more common for you?

This is the last strategy to be shared on Meridian. To make your family more peaceful, purchase the book, The Soft-Spoken Parent: More than 50 Strategies to Turn Away Wrath by visiting your local LDS bookseller or by clicking here.

If you are a part of a study group, you may be able to arrange a quantity discount with your bookseller. We recommend this book for personal study, for mothers’ groups, and family discussion groups, as well as general book groups.



[1] [story adapted from My Soul Delighteth in the Scriptures]