I was really angry. For what seemed like the 835th time, I had asked my son to put a wrench back where it belonged. But he didn't seem to "get it," and so I found a valuable tool lying on the sidewalk. I did what I knew to do — I yelled.
Have you ever noticed that being loud doesn't usually motivate others? It's especially true for children, and yelling didn't help my son remember to return the wrench to my toolbox. So why did I persist in verbally venting?
Recognize the pattern
Frankly, I was parenting by the example shown to me. My dad has many wonderful traits. He's principled, fun-loving and supportive of his family. He is also a strong, German-Irish man. And I learned from him to raise the volume when I get angry. After I had children, I found that even mild disobedience would generate a verbal barrage.
While I picked up many of my dad's admirable qualities, I had to admit that I did have a problem appropriately expressing my anger. Despite my wife's best efforts, it took more than a few years for me to recognize this pattern and to tone things down.
Grow though failure
The road to improvement started with the simple acknowledgement that I wasn't a perfect parent — and never would be. No such parent exists! We all have our flaws, and regardless of the reasons for our shortcomings, recognizing them is an important first step toward changing for the better. Try writing down five admirable things your parents did in raising you — and then five things you didn't like. You'll likely realize that both lists are part of your own parenting style.
Another thing I realized was that this would be a long journey. Some patterns are quickly and easily addressed; others take time and lots of effort. I have failed more times than I care to admit. Every time I lost it with one of the kids, I faced a choice: feel guilty about that episode, or learn from it. As C.S. Lewis once observed, "Failures are fingerposts on the road to achievement." Over time, choosing to grow through failure leads to improvement.
John Fuller is co-host of the Focus on the Family radio program and the author of First-Time Dad: The stuff you really need to know.