No parent wants to yell at their children but when kids test limits, it can be hard to hold your patience. Even committing to being a respectful and peaceful parent, doesn’t always protect parents from being triggered by certain behaviours in their children.
It is part of a child’s natural learning and developmental progression to experiment, test limits and assert their independence. You want your children to be able to play and explore freely wherever possible but not at the expense of your sanity. For it’s when a parent’s sanity gets compromised that they usually find themselves on that quick path to Yellsville.
Adults have much more ability than children to regulate their emotions. Even so, many parents (including me) still allow themselves to get to the point of complete and unchecked anger and frustration towards their children. To be fair to both you and your children, it is important to recognise what causes you tension or stress and then put appropriate measures (read limits) in place to minimise these occurrences.
In some instances these triggering moments can creep up and take you from completely calm to losing the plot in seconds but more often than not, the tension builds over minutes, hours or even days and then one final straw breaks that proverbial camel’s back and WHAM!, you find yourself yelling.
Does this sound like you?
It could be that you find it hard to work in the kitchen with the children at the bench putting their fingers into everything. You patiently allow them to ‘help’ you hoping to instill in them some life lessons and a love of cooking. All the while the tension inside you builds as ingredients start to spread over the bench and the floor and part of your prepared ingredients makes their way into your toddler’s mouth.
You still have not set a limit because you feel it would be unreasonable to tell the children they cannot ‘help’. Finally, as the bowl of food you had set aside crashes to the floor, you lose it. You rage and your child cops the brunt of it.
It would have been much fairer on both yourself and your child to recognise the tension building inside you earlier and set a limit. It could be that you ensure the kitchen is a kid free zone when you are cooking or that you find other times to do the bulk of food preparation (when someone else can watch the children or they are sleeping) so there is not so much to get done with them around.
The same could apply if your toddler was playing around the washing you had spent the last 30 minutes neatly folding into piles. He might initially knock a pile over innocently as he plays. You grimace inside but calmly pick it all up. It was an accident after all. Another pile goes over and you let out an exasperated sigh, asking him to be careful of your washing.
You continue folding and a third pile goes to the ground. This one was done on purpose because now your toddler can sense the stress it’s giving you, making it an interesting experiment for him.
“I told you to be careful around the washing! Now look what you’ve done! I spend all day tidying up this house and all you do is wreck everything!”
You become unreasonable and exaggerated at this point because all your bottled up feelings come crashing out when you open the lid on that emotion.
What would have saved this situation would be recognising that folding the washing whilst a toddler is playing at your feet is most likely fruitless. Certainly, attempting to make piles on the floor is asking for trouble. If it is something that triggers stress in you, you have to stop it before it gets to that point.
It makes sense that having your hard work destroyed, is going to cause annoyance. Who wants to repeat extra, unnecessary work in their already crazy, busy day?
Making a physical barrier between your toddler and the folded clothes would have ensured that the eventuality of them being repeatedly knocked over is greatly reduced and therefore the chances of you reaching yelling point would have been lessened.
It is okay to look after your own needs so, your child does not bare the brunt of your accumulated frustrations.
I recently had to remind myself of this. I was sitting next to the children in the bath. They were having a good time splashing and playing but it was getting a little boisterous. I began getting small splashes of water on me which I hated. Don’t ask me why, it is just something I have always hated – being splashed.
I didn’t say anything because I knew the children were enjoying themselves and it was nice to see them having fun together. A few more splashes came my way and I gently reminded the girls to try to keep the water in the bath as my annoyance built.
They thought it was hilarious that I was getting wet so my thrill-seeking eldest scooped both her hands into the water and flung the contents in my direction, landing the bulk of it in my face.
I LOST IT! I was so triggered not just by the water but by the lack of consideration that was shown for me and my dislike of the water. In hindsight, I realise that I had in no way indicated that I did not enjoy getting splashed. I had not set the right limits to keep the girls safe from my barrage.
Moving away to give them the space they needed to splash or putting firmer limits in place early would have prevented me being splashed in this way and stopped me getting to the point of yelling.
Toddlers and young children will explore, test and defy. This is healthy and important for them as they develop their social and emotional skills. It can be easy as parents to become triggered by certain behaviours especially as they become over-worked, over tired and tested by their children.
Recognising early that your child’s behaviours are causing a simmering of tension inside you will help prevent that inevitable melting point from being reached. Respect your own needs when necessary and put them before those of your children. Set the limits needed early or put other protective measures in place when you feel that twinge of annoyance creeping in. This will drastically reduce your incidences of feeling anger and yelling at your children.
You might also enjoy reading
5 Practical Tips for Staying Calm With Children ~ Kate Russell (Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids)
How to Stay Calm When You’re Losing it ~ Dr Laura Markham (Aha Parenting)
My Secret for Staying Calm When my Kids Aren’t ~ Janet Lansbury (Janet Lansbury – Elevating Childcare)
How to be a Calm Parent ~ Shawn Fink (The Abundant Mama)