Because kids can drive you bonkers in the most special of ways. And by “you”, I also mean “me.” So here are some ideas of how to cope when your little one (or big one) gets under your skin like nobody else.
1) Remember you’re the parent, and not the child.
Alas, that means that no matter how awful they’re being, your job is to model self-control. If you don’t, you’re going to feel lousy about it later, and you’ll have lost some of your credibility with your child. So it’s better to pull yourself together now than pay for it later.
2) Give yourself a time-out if you need one.
Time-outs aren’t just for kids anymore! When your frustration is rising sky-high, make sure your child is in a safe place and then step away.
Parents sometimes feel urgency to deal with something immediately. But there aren’t that many things that need to be attended to instantly. Having the wisdom to know when you can and should take a breather is a crucial parenting skill.
For example, sometimes you can say, “I’m going to go cool down and we’ll talk about this later.” That’s better than giving some consequence that you’ll have to rescind because it’s too extreme or untenable, or blowing up and having to save face after the fact. It can also have the side benefit of leaving the child to stew about the potential consequences.
3) Know how to calm yourself down.
Having stress management tools is another key parenting skill. It can be breathing or coping statements or calling someone for a brief vent.
If you’re chronically on edge, then it might be time to look at the broader architecture of your life and figure out how to work in more time to yourself, an exercise routine, change your diet, seek therapy, etc.
4) Recognize your triggers.
That means that certain situations are likely to push your buttons, and it’s good to be proactive. If, for example, you know that you get short-tempered when you’re short on time and have to get your kid out the door, then wake up earlier as prevention. Or have a plan of how to handle it when you are running late (i.e. the type of tools mentioned in #3.)
5) Practice compassion (for yourself, and for your children.)
Yes, they’re being challenging but likely, they’re facing challenges themselves. Those challenges might be particular to them, or might be developmental. A client of mine has made great strides just by repeating to herself like a mantra about her twin daughters, “They’re only five, they’re only five, they’re only five…” Reasonable expectations can stave off a lot of distress.
Your challenges are understandable, too. Sometimes parenting can feel hard and thankless.
Be kind all around, and remember that this, too, shall pass.
Parent and child image available from Shutterstock.