Sunday, January 9, 2011

Presenting: The Parental Anger Scale

IMG_20110107_164257Parenting is usually a lovely, rewarding profession. This post is not about those parts. Instead, this is about the frustrating moments anyone who is in close company to children has certainly experienced. There’s just something about the persistent “whys” of a three-year-old, or the I’ll-just-dump-this-yogurt-on-the-floor dining technique that triggers weak parenting.

These things affect us to different degrees as I’ll attempt to describe via the Parental Anger Scale:

Level 1: Amused Parent

Frequency: 150x/day

Triggers: child is whining, often preceded by confusion

Child’s Grievance: something trivial like being presented a wrong-colored cup or dish, a meal not served immediately upon child realizing she is hungry and hasn’t eaten in four seconds, or child asked to share one Lego from a collection of thousands

Parental Response: smile, chuckle, or eye-roll

Level 2: Annoyed Parent

Frequency: frequent

Triggers: child is whining excessively, playing the why-why-why-why game, or refusing to play nice with others

Child’s Grievance: been awake for three hours, stolen toy, lost toy, toy too far away, toy no longer entertaining, or hungry

Parental Response: polite explanation (“teaching moments”), snacks, bribery or redirection

Level 3: Angry Parent

Frequency: occasional

Triggers: child maintains persistent level 2 activity, performs are-you-kidding-me actions like dumping glitter all over the place, or perpetrates hitting/violence or outright malicious speech toward others

Child’s Grievance: who knows?

Parental Response: timeout, loss of privileges, or early termination of activities (the car is turned around, as they say), insists that parent cannot understand children who don’t use their words because all they can hear is “quack quack quack” (implying child is a duck)

Level 4: Frazzled Parent

Frequency: rare

Triggers: child maintains persistent level 3 activity which is preceded by parent’s sleepless night, commits truly dumbfounding errors like painting the dog in the house and thereby causing thousands of dollars of damage

Child’s Grievance: the world (if for only a moment) doesn’t seem to revolve around her, left unsupervised for 12 seconds while parent goes to the bathroom, or most treasured toy wasn’t in hand while parent is strapping child into safety seat

Parental Response: most treasured toy is thrown from car window at highway speed by parent, hands off child to spouse upon arrival and leaves, or locks self away in bathroom to cry


Of course most of the things that lead to parental anger start as child anger. They get a scale, too:

Level 1: The world is over

That is all.