The Crossroads of Fury and Restraint


Two boys.  One truck.  Two Self-serving worldviews.  The toy is snatched by the impulsive hands of one while a severe and deserved injustice is felt by the other.  The one who is now lacking the truck bellows out NOOOO, (as if the longer the note is sounded the more deeply it will be felt in the soul of all within earshot) and stiff-arms his brother across the back.  The snatcher, feeling violated, returns fire with a barrage of shoving, hitting and yelling.  The Truck-less Boy’s feeling of injustice, boils up into a full-bodied rage, as he reaches for the last big gun in his arsenal:  The Bite.  With eyes that burn in wild fury and mouth open as if sprouting fangs, he lunges toward a vulnerable place on his brother’s body.  The Snatcher afraid of the impending pain yelps, wriggles and punches wildly at his brother.  A faint whiff of morality tickles the primal brain of The biting Truck-less Boy, and he stops short of sinking his teeth into the upper arm of The Snatcher.  He knows he shouldn’t be doing this but what now?  

Everyone in the house has a problem, including me who is watching this whole scene play out before my eyes again, bewildered.  I’ve talked, lectured, threatened, reasoned, explained, coached and ignored yet the scene still plays out.  I feel my toes curl, shoulders stiffen, lips purse, and eyes squint as the anger surges up in me.  I’m angry because it is happening again, and I’ve tried to deal with it the best I know how and it is not working.  I am feeling a failure as a parent because my children are behaving like barbarians.  I’m supposed to be the one that has to show them how to live sensibly and with respect for others…and right now I fear it looks like they have no one to guide them.  I imagine people saying “Those poor little feral children…where is their mother?”  Well, she is sitting here seething with anger and trying not to unfurl the immensity of her emotions on two unsuspecting preschoolers.

I am in the throes of what others tell me is a hard age to parent and I stand at a crossroads.  I can take the slick path of fury.  The one that allows me to ride the wave of negative primal emotion.  It feels so good for a moment to crush the situation into temporal submission, but the end of that path always ends with me feeling like a big sack of garbage…because I’ve played into the anger instead of rising above it.

The other path is one of restraint.  This path is arduous, slow and filled with boulders that prevent a quick resolution to the problems.  This path requires a lot more of me than the fury path because it requires me to sift through all of my emotions to clear a way for my logical brain to work.  The sensible option is obvious when I can reflect from a peaceful, war-free vantage point.  The problem is ascending to that still reflective place when primal emotions are lashing my feet to the ground.  


When I stand at those crossroads of fury and restraint here are a few tricks I use to help me take a beat, gain some perspective, and choose restraint.

  1. Write it out
    • Let it fly.  I write down everything I feel like saying but my refined grown-up mind knows I can’t in the company of my children.  When I write out all of my thoughts, negative and inappropriate as they may be, I am validating my real emotions instead of suppressing them in a safe way.  It is important to allow ourselves to feel the negative emotions.  When we embrace our negative emotions they lose their power and our logical thinking can resume.  We can see beyond the emotional cloud and act in a more productive and peaceful way.
  2. Step Outside
    • In an effort to get distance and perspective, I go one step further than just walking away from the situation…I go outside.  Breathing fresh air into my lungs, I know that through this small act, I am giving something essential and life-giving to myself which affirms that I am a person who has limits and needs replenishing.  I realize that I am incredibly important to my children and the job I do parenting them is hard and vital.  When I breathe in fresh air and take a moment to appreciate the outside world, to feel the air on my skin, I am transported back to reality and not emotional pseudo-reality.  When I return to my house I have more clarity of how to deal with my children calmly.  
  3. Be Grateful
    • I can help the situation de-escalate by focusing on the positive aspects.  When I am standing on the brink of anger I say 5 things, out loud, that I am grateful for in the situation.  Focusing on the positive aspects is another way to dull the intensity of the negative emotions without suppressing them which allows logical thinking to take place.
      • In the above scenario my 5 grateful things were:
        1. I’m grateful my kids will stand up for themselves when pushed around.
        2. I’m grateful my kids have a moral compass.
        3. I’m grateful my kids have listened to me in the past.  
        4. I’m grateful I have choices in how I respond.
        5. I’m grateful I have children to parent and love.


Raising children is not for the faint of heart.  Perhaps you find yourself in a similar place of feeling like your back is against the wall while parenting through tough seasons.  Take heart knowing you are not alone and that you can make simple choices to help steer the circumstances toward forward-thinking, problem-solving action.  


What do you do when you are at the crossroads of fury and restraint?  How do you gain the perspective you need to make good parenting choices while honoring your own humanity?


4 thoughts on “The Crossroads of Fury and Restraint

    1. Jody, thank you for your encouragement. I love putting words on “the page” but it is really hard and vulnerable. Your encouragement is valuable.


  1. Really good! Found your link through kindred moms. I was just reflecting on this today as my three were fighting over a swing – I wanted to step outside and yell at them to stop fighting but the restraint came in and I pulled back to that logical place of reason and decided they need to learn to figure out their own squabbles and I need to stop being the forcible peace maker – letting them figure it out themselves will prepare them for adulthood and my intervention only makes them rely on a moderator .


    1. Naomi, thank you for taking the time to come over and check out my blog. It is such a comfort to know that there are other moms out there in the midst of tough parenting…I don’t feel so lonely, and I hope you don’t either. I feel like a little bit of a control freak with my kids, and as you said “letting them figure it out themselves,” is key in helping them develop the skills necessary to take care of themselves. It is so hard for me to not step in and “set things straight” for them. We’ve all got something we are working on.


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