It could have been the weather. Or the lack of sleep. Or the million and one things I had on my mind, the emails I needed to respond to, the timers going off, the dishes in the sink, the bickering, the puddle of milk left on the table which I put the mail onto. Or it could be that I’m human, and simply don’t always have the capacity to respond with loving firmness each time one of my kids pushes my buttons/boundaries/house rules. I cracked. I let loose and really hollered at my son for something he did. It ended with him being sent to his room after I had let loose a barrage of anger in his direction. He stormed off yelling. I sat down, after popping the others in front of a screen, and felt like a failure.
Sound familiar? I hear this from my peers and clients, time after time. They try their best, they read websites, books and articles, go to workshops and classes, take part in Facebook groups and parenting forums. They have a tremendous amount of information they’ve amassed and yet they still “lose it/mess up/fail.” Yelling has become a commonplace occurrence for many parents, with one publication going so far as to declare it the “new spanking,” while at the same time, parents are trying harder to tone it down.
So what does it mean if I, a CBT therapist, parenting coach and someone WHO IS SUPPOSED TO KNOW BETTER, loses it? Have I just failed on a epic level or is all hope simply lost for mankind?
Nope. It means I’m human. It means that we are simply not capable of being the perfect parent every single time, and that we need to cut ourselves some slack occasionally. Parenting children is a messy, unpredictable emotional rollercoaster, which can quickly zoom from laughter and smiling to tears and shouting. Granted, we want to avoid shouting and escalation, as everyone loses in that situation, including the kids or parent not involved in the particular situation. So how can future bust-ups be prevented? Here are 6 tips:
- Recognize when you’re starting to lose your temper — this may be the most difficult part. It means that you need to practice being more in tune with your body and mind, so you can recognize when you’re starting to feel out of control. For some, it’s a physical sensation (clenched teeth, flared nostrils, huffing, elevated pulse) or a change in vocal tone/intonation and for others, it can be your thought process (I canNOT believe she is pulling this on me now!). Try and notice how you begin to react when upset or frustrated so that you can be more aware of these “warning signals.”
- Step away — When we’re in the moment, it’s hard to gain perspective. Physically moving away and taking a few minutes to calm down allows you to regain control of yourself and figure out how you would prefer to handle the situation, and not just react. Or, you can just disconnect and check Facebook.
- Deep breath — I get it. You can’t always physically walk away from your child in order to have a few minutes to calm down. So if you can’t lock yourself in your bedroom and play Candy Crush, take 4-6 deep breaths right then and there. YouTube has a ton of videos that teach this skill, take a few minutes and find one that you like, and practice before going to sleep. This will teach your body what to do, so that you don’t have to start thinking it through as you’re fighting the rage coursing through your veins…
- Practice, practice, practice — Your high school drama teacher drilled this into you, and so will we. It’s all fine and dandy to know things in theory, but getting it right in reality takes practice. Ask your kids or spouse to role play with you, run through situations in your head or in front of a mirror.
- Don’t expect perfection — if you aim for a 100% success rate, you will fail. Aim to conquer most of your yelling tendencies and you’ll find that you’re feeling much and confident in your ability to cope with stressful situations and if you do occasionally pull a Mt. Vesuvius, cut yourself some slack, do a post-mortem and practice so that you can hopefully avoid it next time.
- Apologize — kids are human beings. Just as we deserve respect, so do they. An apology goes a long way with soothing hurt feelings and you’ll find that you feel a lot better too.