Dr. Laura Markham
Founder of AhaParenting.com | Author
“On Mother’s Day I decided never to yell at my kids again. I want to be a good role model. But only 24 hours later, I completely lost it and found myself screaming like a crazy woman.”
Are you noticing how hard it is to regulate your own emotions? Join the club! So for all of us today, a reminder about losing it.
We don’t have to be perfect parents. Really. We just have to seize those opportunities to realize when we’re off-course, and find ways to start moving in the right direction.
If when you lose it, you use it — meaning you set a clear intention to make some changes, and use the incident as your motivation to follow through — then it losing it will have been worth it, as a spur to get yourself back on track.
Children are resilient, and they don’t need perfection from parents. What they do need is a parent who models how to take responsibility and make repairs. A parent who apologizes and reconnects when things go wrong — as they inevitably do, in human relationships.
So let go of that heavy baggage of expecting yourself to be perfect. You never will be, but you’re more than enough, just the way you are. You’re only expected to keep growing. Parenting is a journey, not a destination.
So what should you do when you lose it? Choose love.
1. Restore calm and safety. When our children get upset or act out, it usually triggers us into fight or flight, which is why we start acting like they’re the enemy. But they’re not the enemy, and it isn’t an emergency. So next time your child starts getting upset, that’s your red flag reminder to Stop, Drop (your agenda, just temporarily), and Breathe so you have a choice about whether to get hijacked by your anger.
Take a deep breath. Switch gears emotionally by finding a more positive thought. Maybe: “This isn’t an emergency…He’s acting like a child because he is a child…She’s showing me she’s upset and needs my help.”
2. See it from your child’s point of view. Ok, so he was being impossible. I don’t know about you, but I’ve certainly acted impossible when I’m scared, hurt, or just plain overwhelmed. We’re all sure we’re “right” when we’re angry, but there’s always another way to look at things. Nobody has to be wrong. If you can acknowledge your child’s feelings, it opens the door to reconnecting. “Oh, Sweetie, we are both so upset. I guess you were hoping that….” You can still set a limit and guide your child, while offering your understanding.
3. Avoid a Repeat. Later, ask yourself, “What’s one thing I can do so I don’t lose it next time?”
- Can you reduce the amount of stress in your life by paring back so you aren’t always rushing?
- Do you need more sleep?
- Is there a certain time of day when everything falls apart? How can you give yourself and your child more support at that time of day?
- If you notice you sound like your parents when you start yelling, can you do some healing? If you need to, get some support — take a parenting class, get a good parenting book, join a forum, see a counselor.
- Are you doing preventive maintenance with your child, so that he or she is less provocative? You’ll find these strategies also help you feel closer to your child, so you’re more able to see things from her perspective.
- When you start to threaten your child with punishments, can you notice that it’s coming from your own sense of helplessness? And, instead, use that as a reminder to take a deep breath and calm yourself down? You’ll intervene so much better from a calm state.
- If you want to stop yelling, but you’re finding it tough, give yourself a break — It IS tough! But it’s also possible, so give yourself better support, in the form of a star chart. Your kids give you stars for every morning or afternoon you don’t yell. Every week that’s better than the week before is worth celebrating.
Did you find one thing you can do to support yourself so you can regulate better when you start to get upset? Commit to doing that one thing.
4. Commit to NOT TAKING ACTION next time you get angry. Just stop, drop, and breathe. Walk away if you need to. I know you want to set your child straight right this minute, but you’ll do a better job once you calm down. She’s not going anywhere. You know where she lives.
5. Always apologize after you lose it. No child (or adult) ever deserves to get yelled at. Remember you’re role-modeling, both when you yell and when you apologize.
That’s it, five steps. Every time you do this, you’re rewiring your brain and it gets easier to regulate yourself next time. You’ll find you’re living with a lot less drama, and a lot more love.
Now, go hug your child.
This post was originally posted at AhaParenting.com on 5/17/16
About Dr. Laura Markham
Dr. Laura Markham is the founder of AhaParenting.com and author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How To Stop Yelling and Start Connecting and Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life. Dr. Laura says that earning her PhD in clinical psychology at Columbia University was just the beginning of her education as a psychologist. Becoming a mother convinced her that parents are doing the hardest job in the world, and need more support. She says her aspiration is to change the world, one child at a time — by supporting parents.