As parents we all know that feeling when we’re about to lose our tempers. ”Blood boiling” is so cliche, but is indeed how it feels. Deep breaths and walking away are effective with people and with most life situations in general, but I know when I get frustrated with my children it usually has to do with something pretty specific, usually their behavior. Either they’re doing something I don’t want them to be doing (fighting, being destructive with our property), or not doing something I wish they’d do (putting their things away, washing their hands, etc).
I’ve noticed transitions are also when I’m most likely to get frustrated (like when the kids get ready for bed, or when they’re getting out the door for school in the morning). Building in extra time so things run smoothly has worked, but for parents about to lose their temper, the following 3 tools I’ve discovered have been nothing short of MAGIC:
1) Lower your voice instead of raising it.
This takes practice, but I promise it works. Before you know it, it will become second nature. Saying, “Do not use that tone with me,” in a monotone voice (not a pleading one) when a child is being disrespectful will get him or her to calm down. Speaking loudly or being shrill will only give your child more power while draining you, and it will most likely escalate the situation.
2) Point to what you want instead of vocalizing it.
Like most parents, I hate hearing myself nag, or saying something more than once. So I’ve learned to point to what needs to be done at times instead of speaking. If I pass the boys’ room and see the folded pile of laundry for each is still there, and they are in the vicinity, I will look at it and point while we make eye contact. I’ll even smile when I do it, which makes me feel calm.
Just this morning I looked at my 7-year-old daughter and mimed brushing my teeth. She skedaddled right to the bathroom to do it. I’m not sure where I got this idea, but once I realized it helps when I’m about to lose my temper, I’ve been practicing it ever since to great results.
3) Say, “I’ll be waiting in the _” and walk away.
This goes back to walking away when you’re about to lose your temper. For me, the blank is almost always “I’ll be waiting in the car” in the mornings just when I think it’s time to go and I feel the need to nag. I then walk away, sit for a minute in peace and know it’s up to them to get their backpacks and lunch boxes, etc.
Last weekend we were at a friend’s house and after saying “Let’s go,” at the door several times, I finally turned, said a final goodbye to the hosts and then in a calm voice said as they continued to play Legos at the dining room table, “I’ll be waiting in the car and expect you’ll be there in 20 seconds.” I also used strategy #1, a calm voice, and they were indeed out within seconds. The mom even commented that she liked that idea, which gave me the idea for this post.
In the end, expending our own energy out of frustration does nothing but, well, expend our energy, leaving us with less joy to appreciate the wonderful parts of raising children. These are tools to help parents stay full of energy so we may continue to do the toughest, but most rewarding, job there is.
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