We’ve all been there, haven’t we? The baby was up all night teething and now the preschooler has unrolled the toilet paper and “decorated” the house with it. Everyone is hungry but you haven’t gone to the store yet and no one is impressed with your efforts to make what’s left in the fridge work. You’re just trying to get out of the house to run that one errand, but you’ve been trying for an hour already and you’re starting to lose your mind. If one more person calls your name, you’re sure you are going to scream.
Sound familiar? If someone were to ask what the biggest surprise about parenting has been for me, I would have to honestly answer, “My own anger.” I’ve always considered myself a gentle, rather quiet person and when I imagined becoming a mom, that’s the kind of mother I saw in my head. Never once did it cross my mind that I would struggle–daily struggle–with managing my anger and yelling at my kids. But that has, in fact, been my reality.
I try not to beat myself up over parenting mistakes, because I know that I am doing the best I can and am always trying to learn and grow to become a better mother. But, at the same time, I can’t let myself off the hook with something that I know is a problem, and right now, with two wild little boys who seem to live to create a zoo-like atmosphere, my temper is definitely a problem. So I’ve had to seek out effective ways to control it in order to be safe and fair to my kids. This is what I’ve learned.
- Set Yourself Up for Success
Make sure you and your kids are both going to bed at a decent time, and waking up at a consistent time every day. Getting enough rest is important for all of our brains to be able to handle the stress of the day. If you have a small child who needs an afternoon nap, try to arrange your day around that. (It’ll be a welcome break for your brain as well!) Additionally, get into the habit of everyone eating three meals at about the same time every day, with protein-rich snacks in between. Healthy, predictable sleeping and eating habits do wonders for our kids’ behavior–and ours as well! Spending time outdoors every day (weather permitting) can also be a huge mood booster.
- Recognize the Warning Signs
From time to time, check in with yourself to see how you’re handling the stress of the day. Is your body tense? Have you been sharp-tongued with your kids or spouse? Do you simply feel in need of a break? Family life can be really stressful and far more difficult than the perfect lives we see in commercials or movies. If it feels hard, it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong! Don’t ignore the feelings; they will eventually just come out in an unhealthy way. Notice how you feel and be kind to yourself.
- Find a Way to Get a Break
If you’re feeling short tempered and tense then you need a break, even if it’s only five minutes. If your spouse or someone else is home, tell them the situation and ask if they can keep an eye on the kids while you cool down. If no other adult is present, find a quick engaging activity that your kids can do independently. (Play outside if its age appropriate, read books on their bed, eat a snack, etc.) Then go into your closet or bathroom and take some deep breaths. You might want to play some relaxing music, close your eyes and pray or meditate, or even eat a piece of chocolate.
- Ask Someone to be a Listening Ear
Everyone needs someone to unload their problems on. Ask a friend or family member if they will be your life support raft whom you can call when you feel like you’re drowning. (It’s best if this is someone other than your spouse, because he/she is too personally invested in the situation.) Explain to the person that what you are primarily needing is simply a listening ear, and reassurance that it’s going to be okay. You might not need or want advice, so tell them that ahead of time. Make sure you choose someone that you can trust to be encouraging and comforting, and not judgmental.
- Seek Balance in Your Life
If your life is totally revolving around your kids, or around your job and your kids, you are surely going to burn out. We all need balance: hobbies, friendships, reading and other areas of personal growth, exercise, etc. Not that you shouldn’t spend the majority of your time with your family, but you will be happier and healthier if you have part of your life that is just for you as well. Schedule time to do things that bring you joy and that remind you that you are an interesting, whole person, too.
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