Do you ever lose it at your kids? Like, really lose it? I’m sure for most of us, there are definitely times when we are pushed to the brink by our children and before we know it we have given in to our emotions and lost it at the kids.
I used to lose it ALL – THE – TIME!
Before I learned of RIE parenting and made a conscious decision to try to remain peaceful with my children, their antics got the better of me, often.
Occasionally, even now, my instinct to yell at the children takes over and out it comes like an avalanche. The difference now though, is what I do in the aftermath.
It is not the end of the world to lose it at your children (although, obviously, it is not ideal). Children on the whole are extremely forgiving. Should you want to maintain a strong and connected relationship with them afterwards, however, it is vital to make a full and heartfelt apology once you and they have had time to cool down.
Yesterday, I picked my children up from care on my way home from a long (and stressful) day of teaching secondary school students. It was late and when we got home. We headed straight into our evening routine of bath, dinner etc.
We went to the bathroom and I asked the girls to please remove their clothes whilst I got the bath ready (scooping out toys and warming the water etc). Miss 4 started whinging at me that she didn’t have her helicopter because she left it at day care. I acknowledged and continued getting the bath ready.
Then, Miss 3 started screaming at me to take off her shirt RIGHT NOW! I was bent over the bath, washing out dirt residue from the previous night’s bath so I told her I would help her in a minute. Meanwhile, Miss 4 demanded that I get her undressed tonight and started whinging that I wasn’t helping her.
They were in a chorus of demands, complaints and whinges. I tried to acknowledge them both. But over the screaming, shouting and wailing, i simply couldn’t be heard. I lost it!
I shouted: “STOP SHOUTING AT ME!” (The irony of this is not lost on me, believe me). Miss 3 immediately stopped and squeaked a small “Okay, Mummy.” Miss 4 started howling hysterically and ran to her room.
I took a breather, immediately remorseful of what I had just done. Miss 3 climbed into the, now ready, bath and I asked if she was okay and told her I was sorry for shouting. I said: “It’s a bit scary when I shout, isn’t it?” “Yes”, came the small reply. I asked if she would like a hug and she hesitantly wrapped her arms around me. We embraced for a bit and then she blurted: “Can I have bubbles, Mum?”
She was over it. Happy to forgive and move on. I poured in the bubbles and went next door to her sister who was sitting on her bed looking at a book.
I sat next to her. She didn’t acknowledge me. I began: “I’m so sorry I shouted”. I paused to let her hear the words and know that I meant them. I continued: “I know you hate it when I shout.” Pause again. “I am still learning not to shout. I need to use my calm voice to let you know what I need, don’t I?”
She looked at me and snapped: “Yes! You scared me.”
Me: I know I did, I’m sorry.
Miss 4: “Well that’s okay, we all make mistakes sometimes. Next time you will do better.”
Me: (As I dragged her into my arms) “You know what, I think I will.”
Whilst I know we always do our best to stay calm with our children and parent them respectfully, there will be times when we slip up. And that’s okay. What is important at this time is knowing what to do afterwards. Making that heartfelt apology is what children truly need to reconnect and find trust in us once more. Furthermore, you will be modelling to your children the value of recognising your mistakes and trying to make amends.
You might also enjoy reading:
Repairing the Relationship After a Parental Meltdown ~ Kate Russell (Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids)
My parenting is inspired by Magda Gerber’s RIE approach. If you are interested in learning more you can find some good information here or I highly recommend these books (affiliate links)
Dear Parent: Caring for Infants With Respect (2nd Edition) ~ Magda Gerber
Your Self-Confident Baby: How to Encourage Your Child’s Natural Abilities — From the Very Start
~ Magda Gerber
Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting ~ Janet Lansbury
No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame ~ Janet Lansbury
Nice post and as a parent l try my level best to not loose it all with my kids…
My 4 year old has been having meltdowns if we are at a store and I won’t buy her a toy or if we are home and the activity she is doing needs to end. I try to prepare her before the situation saying that before we go in the store we are just getting a few items, not toys or that we are going to go brush our teeth after the game, but she is still having such a difficult time testing limits. How do I help her without losing my cool? I don’t like sending her to her room and after reading about time outs I won’t do that anymore, but I am a single parent and need a break from her outbursts sometimes. It breaks my heart when she goes through these situations. I feel like she is testing me, but I don’t want to hinder her independence or autonomy, I love that she is so self-sufficient and wants to do things her way…I’m just struggling with the boundaries too I guess. Thank you for your help!
Hi Michelle, it sounds like your daughter is wonderfully spirited, much like my 4 year old. For children like ours, transitions are hard. It can take them a long time to process the change and accept the new beginning. It sounds like her strong emotions when you set limits makes you uncomfortable. To answer your question “How do I help her without losing my cool?” I would think about why her expression of emotion triggers you so much. When we consider this, we often tend to realise that as children ourselves, we were led to believe such emotional expression was negative and even punishable. Therefore in our quest to be peaceful parents, we desperately hope to avoid such tense situations and feel helpless when they occur. Try to see these expressions from your daughter as perfectly normal and indeed, healthy. She has a fighting spirit, which, as an adult (with the benefit of natural emotional maturity) will actually stand her in good stead.
To help her through these transitions, I would do as you have been doing in giving her advanced warning but I would even take it a step further and give her some more choices around these transitions. Options such as would you like to brush your teeth now or after the game? Would you like to run to the bathroom or fly in my arms? At 4 you can give her a little more control over these transitions. You might even like to talk to her about what sorts of things would make it easier, why doesn’t she like doing x/y/z etc. Ultimately, though, if she tests and you need her to do something for whatever the reason is and you know you have given her enough autonomy over the situation, it is ok to take charge and make it happen. It is equally ok for her to yell and scream at being made to do it. Try not to let this ruffle you. Find a mantra you can repeat in your head eg “She needs me to be calm.” and talk her through the process calmly and confidently with appropriate empathy for the hard time she is having.
I hope that helps. Please let me know how you get on or if i can help you any further.
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