It happens to everyone. Maybe it was just a bad day, or you were sick, or had a fight with your partner that morning. Maybe you had cramps, or missed a promotion, or your toddler discovered how to pull her sister’s hair. And it all piles up until WHAMMO – you’re losing it.
How do you get back on track when you’re angry with your kids?
1. Give yourself space and time to calm down. Lock yourself in the bathroom if you need to.
2. Take 10 deep, slow breaths.
3. Use your words, as calmly as you can. State the facts without blaming yourself or your kids. “I’m angry. You are fighting with your sister and I want you to stop but you’re not stopping. I feel frustrated by that.” Sounds easy but it’s actually harder (and more effective) than you’d think.
4. When the kids are in bed, unload to your parenting partner or another adult you trust and respect. Have a good cry if you need to.
5. Forgive yourself.
6. Learn about cognitive dissonance. Even parents who are highly dedicated to promoting Attachment Parenting slip up and use harsh discipline occasionally. This doesn’t mean that it’s good to make mistakes, but it’s normal. We are all human. We can choose to make better choices in the future. The shame and embarrasment that come from slipping up are a sign that our actions are not in line with our beliefs. It’s like physical pain; it’s a sign that something needs attention before it becomes a big problem.
7. Read an inspiring parenting book, blog or other resource. Naomi Aldort’s Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves is one of my favourites.
8. Plan something fun with your kids. Go outside and run around together. Laugh and be silly. Aldort recommends replacing the word “Stop!” with a playful “Oh no!” when kids are acting up. Let them play at being the powerful one in the relationship for a while and watch the power struggles vanish.
9. Re-examine your expectations of your child’s behaviour. Are they developmentally appropriate? Are you expecting them to act older than they really are? Are you comparing their behaviour with their peers or other hypothetical children? Are you adopting society’s expectations instead of using your own good judgement?
10. Go back and look at their baby pictures. They really do grow up so fast. Do you want to spend this fleeting time being angry? Let it go. This too shall pass.
Parenting, in the emotionally challenging, digging deep and growing and learning alongside your kids sense of the word, is incredibly hard work. Learning anything difficult involves failing, just like a baby does when he learns to walk. He stumbles and falls, over and over again, until he learns how to balance on his own two feet. Staying humble enough to admit our mistakes, apologise for them, and keep learning and trying until we figure it out is the only way to learn how to parent. And that’s hard, but ultimately very liberating.
What do you do to get back on track when you’re losing it with your kids?