Let's face it, kids grow up watching their parents and they learn pretty quickly how to push your buttons. Nearly every parent will at some point or another lose their temper with their kids. However, it is not productive to make a habit of this, in fact it is counterproductive, and frequently leads to bigger and badder tantrums and fights.
If losing your temper was effective, being a parent would be really easy. We’d simply have to wait until our child was annoying us too much, then we’d yell at him, and he’d go out and change his behavior. If yelling really worked, I would be out of a job and we would all have perfect kids. I will say that yelling can appear to work in the short term and I have had many parents tell me that they feel that if they yell at their children and spank them that they stop the behavior. My response to that is yes, but do they respect you or do they just fear you? Personally, I want my daughter to follow the rules I set because she respects me not because she is afraid of what I will do if she doesn't.
In addition, losing your temper is ineffective because the original problem is often forgotten in the heat of the argument, and goes unsolved after all is said and done. Instead of the child learning problem-solving skills from the parent to manage the particular issue at hand, those problem-solving skills get supplanted with the parent’s power thrusts toward the kids. This is not to say that using power is bad or immoral. It’s simply ineffective if the child doesn’t learn problem-solving skills. Simply put, if parents have problems with their child’s behavior and all they have in their parental tool kit are bigger hammers, the kids are going to develop bigger nails. The day will come when that parent will not be able to manage their child by losing their temper. It must be understood that learning how to solve problems and manage emotions is the primary task of childhood. And if the parent isn’t teaching that, it’s hard for someone outside of the home, whether it be a therapist, counselor or teacher, to pick up those pieces effectively.
Tip #1: Take a DEEP breath! Just taking a few deep breaths will have a big impact on you physiologically and will really help you center yourself so to deal with the stress at hand and keep your cool with your kids. You have to slow the process down and taking a breath does just that. Don’t underestimate the power of this exercise! It really helps.
Tip #2: Take a Perspective Check. Perspective is our point-of-view, or the way we look at the world. Take a really good look at your children. See them for the precious little creatures they are. Know that they love you and just want to have some of your time and attention. They are not deliberately trying to drive you crazy (though at times it sure may seem like it!). They just want to be reassured of your love for them.
Tip #3: Get Goofy! Even though this may be the last thing you feel like doing when you are longing and praying for the little men wearing white coats to come and take you away so you can get a moment’s peace, this method really works! It provides a great distraction and soon your kids will forget that they were even upset!
Tip #4: Break out the Photo Albums. Get out the baby books, the home videos, the photo albums. Looking at these pictures and talking about your memories is an incredibly powerful exercise that will really change your mood and you will be much more patient with your child with those sweet images fresh in your mind.
Tip #5: Got Gratitude? Gratitude is one of the most powerful, transformative emotions that we as humans can experience. Get out a pen and paper if you can, or just start saying out-loud things you are grateful for. There is always something to be grateful for, if you choose to look for it. As we are able to really feel gratitude for all the miracles that literally saturate our lives, we are better able to see the beauty in everything around us. You will begin to see your children as the divine little creatures they are and leave the false images of being whiny and misbehaved to wither into dust.
Why it’s Cool to Keep Your Cool
You’ve heard the phrase, “living up to expectations.” We often relate this phrase to good or positive expectations that a child is excelling or achieving great things. However, this phrase also goes the other way. A child will live up to positive expectations or negative expectations alike. Your child is living up to your expectations right now. What are you expecting of your child? What are you telling them in those moments when you are frustrated? In exasperation, do phrases like “you’re so aggravating” or “why are you so difficult?” or “why can’t you ever do anything right?” or “you’re such a trouble-maker,” ever slip from your lips? Those phrases spoken in haste are labels that your child will begin to live up to, literally.
This is why it is so crucial that, as parents, we are able to keep our cool when the situation is tense. Once uttered, those words can never be taken back. A ‘sorry’ does little to neutralize the effects of hurtful words. So, on those craziest of days when you are at your wits end and overwhelmed, exhausted, and frustrated – take a deep breath, check your perspective, get a little goofy, look at those adorable baby pictures, and count your blessings.
(Any questions regarding topics discussed can either be asked in the comments section or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org)