Buttercup was a tiny baby, and Phoenix was 18 months. We were visiting with a friend who had a son Phoenix's age, and we moms were discussing the way we discipline the boys. The following words actually came out of my mouth...
"I can't even imagine getting angry with him and raising my voice to yell at him."
As a seasoned mom, I know better.
I know what children can do to make us moms lose our gourds.
As one friend said (a different, more seasoned, funnier friend) about her crazed look, furrowed brow, and wild eyes, "I did not look like this before I had kids!"
Children can be maddening and infuriating, and what maddens and infuriates each of us is different.
I have an abundance of patience when taking care of little kids. I don't get rattled by much when it comes to toddlers and preschoolers.
(Except for extreme cases like Giant. He about sent me over the edge as a toddler and preschooler. (Read that post if you have a strong-willed, volatile child.))
With older kids, I have a harder time keeping calm. In theory, I know they are learning and growing just as much as toddlers, but in practice...they are as big or bigger than me. Surely they know better!
But they don't.
So today I will give you some ideas on how to stay calm, cool, and collected in the face of horribly behaved kids.
1. The very first thing I have to do is make sure the child is actually behaving horribly. At first glance, things may look bleak, but by stopping and trying to see what is actually going on, the anger might melt away.
I once had all four little kids at a store purchasing kids' clothes. We were in the checkout line, and I was busy keeping the baby and toddler happy. When I looked down, I saw that Buttercup had DESTROYED the endcap display. It was hangers and hangers full of socks, and she had taken off almost every single one. My first instinct was to yell at her for making such a mess, but thankfully I instead stopped and calmly asked her what she was doing. She replied, "They are messed up. The blue ones on the back should be up here on this hanger." In her mind, she wasn't making a mess. She was cleaning up the mess some clumsy adult had made. I just can't get mad at that.
2. I must examine the root of my anger. Is it the child's behavior or my exhaustion/being overwhelmed/irritation with someone else the problem?
Recently, Cuckoo and I were at the school playground waiting for the big kids to finish school. His first trip down the slide ended in him sliding through a puddle and landing on the dirt at the end. He was a sopping wet, muddy mess. When he landed, I let out a guffaw of laughter, yelled, "Whoops!" and went to see just how naked he was going to have to be for the ride home.
A woman I barely know (whose oldest is in kindergarten) said to me, "That is far from the reaction I would have had if it were my kid", implying that she would have been angry in the same situation.
I used to go there. When a child makes a mess (or is the mess), my mind goes straight to the that's-just-one-more-thing-I-have-to-do-that-I-don't-have-time-for. But after hundreds of such messes, I've come to realize that my anger is ludicrous. The child didn't mean to slide into a mud puddle/spill his cereal/fall on the playground and rip his pants/drop the milk jug/run through the house excited to tell me something, leaving a trail of dog poo that was stuck to his shoe on the kitchen floor. Getting mad at him simply makes him less likely to slide down slides/eat/play at recess/get excited to tell me something.
3. Read the Bible.
I will never forget the day...
That morning, I had opened my Bible and just randomly started reading some Scripture. I landed on Proverbs 14. "He that is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly." I didn't think much of it, but said a prayer and went about my day.
While I was making lunch, the kids were in the "running room" (aka living room without a lick of furniture) around the corner. They were not running, but were happily playing. I went around to tell them that their food was ready, only to discover that they had been using this time to draw all over the walls with markers.
Normally, I would have lost it, but that day, the verse I had read just hours before popped into my head. I stopped, did some deep breathing and praying to God to help me not be foolish, then dealt with the situation. Not once did I raise my voice or lose my cool.
4. Give the child a hug.
Many years ago, I once told a friend that when I'm angry and just don't know what to do, I simply hug the kid. She jokingly asked, "Why, so you can squeeze him to death?"
Though the thought does cross my mind.
Honestly, I give him a hug simply so I can physically feel how small he really is. When I remember this, I can then remember that an angry adult can do some terrible damage to someone so little. With my words as well as my hands.
This also works for a teenager, but for different reasons. Since the teens are as big or bigger than me, I don't feel how small they are. Instead, it throws them off. They either are so stunned they hug back, which will of course calm me down, or they wiggle away, which then turns into a joke and I hang on harder and we end up laughing a bit.
5. When all else fails, get the heck out of the room.
As I have told my children countless times, good choices are not made in a fit of rage. We will almost always regret the things we say or do to another person when we are angry. Leaving the room to calm down is the best option. Always. It doesn't mean the other person wins. It doesn't mean you condone the other person's behavior. It simply means a break is needed in order to solve the problem rationally.
I wish I could say that I've never yelled at a child. I wish I could say that I've never slapped a child.
I get angry sometimes.
I sometimes do things and say things I regret.
It doesn't happen often, but it has happened.
And when I have done these things, I've done what I expect my kids to do.
And I do my absolute best to learn from it and do better next time.
Now it's your turn.
What do you do when you get angry at your children?
What helps you get a handle on your emotions?
I want to hear!
Have a lovely day!