Kids are frustrating. That’s just a fact. Of course they are wonderful, miraculous, adorable, fun and hilarious. But they can be also be incredibly frustrating. It is totally normal and natural to feel angry with your kids sometimes. Children will test you and wear your patience thin, but many parents feel overwhelmingly guilt when they get mad or lose their cool with their kids.
Parents, and sometimes especially mothers, tend to feel a huge amount of pressure to be happy and grateful for the beautiful gift of motherhood. Most of us are, but this doesn’t mean we aren’t going to have moments where we want to snap because we’ve been up all night with a sick baby and our toddler just threw her scrambled eggs across the kitchen and is currently screaming on the floor because she wants ice cream.
Parenting is very hard work. And there are days when you will want to tear out your hair or have your own screaming fit on the kitchen floor. But we all know that neither of these things will be helpful to you, so here are some tips on trying to stay calm when you’re dealing with kids at their worst.
1. Try not to raise your voice
A lot of parents yell. I get it…sometimes I yell too. I don’t do it often, so when I do, my kids know I’ve hit my limit.
The problem with yelling is that if you yell right away when you’re mad, this becomes your strategy for dealing with frustration and soon your kids will start to tune you out. You will then have to yell even louder, and soon you’ll be screaming just to get the desired effect. Not fun for anyone.
Yelling can be a tool, but you don’t want to overuse it. You want to keep it in your back pocket. That way, when you’ve really had it, you can yell and your kids will think, “Whoa! Dad just yelled. He must be really upset. We better check ourselves here.”
2. Plan ahead
Frustration can often occur out of chaos, like when you have a pack of sugared-up, overtired kids running around not listening. Look at your day and see what times you are most likely to get frustrated with your kids.
Bedtime is usually a big one, because everyone is tired after a long day. If you find yourself getting hot under the collar because your kids aren’t doing what you want them to do, such as brush their teeth, get their pajamas on etc. etc., it might mean that you haven’t been clear enough with your expectations and consequences.
Yelling and getting mad never helps. But going back and making a clearer plan does. Create a very specific list of what you want them to do:
The timer is your friend. Trust me. It works because it takes the pressure off you. Tell your kids you will set a timer for 20 minutes and if they aren’t finished all the things on the list when the timer goes off, they will be going to bed with no story.
It’s very simple (and even fun) for them…if they beat the timer, they get a story. If they don’t, no story.
This can also work in the mornings for getting ready for school or preschool. Just swap the story consequence with something else, like a favorite TV show. Lots of people tell me, “By the time we leave the house in the morning, I’m yelling, sweaty and frustrated.” That’s a terrible way to start the day for everyone.
Think about where the frustration starts, and that’s where you need to start making the changes. Give it a try—your kids will be happier and you will be able to get through the day without losing it and having to feel guilty later!
If you’re looking for a more detailed system for dealing with the most common behavior challenges in kids aged 2 – 12, have a look at Kids: The Manual. You get instant access to online videos, how-to guides, reward charts, and much, much more!
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