"Ok, you screamed at your kid. Now what? Unpack
your baggage so your kids don't have to carry it. It's all grist for
the mill." -- Lu Hanessian
Have you been trying to turn over a new leaf during this first month of 2013? If so, maybe you've been noticing how hard it is to change. Join the club!
So for all of us today, a reminder about losing it.
We don't have to be perfect parents. Really.
We just have to seize those opportunities to realize when we're
off-course, and find ways to start moving in the right direction. If
when you lose it, you use it -- and set a clear intention to make some
changes -- then it losing it will have been completely worth it. Kids
are resilient, and they don't need perfection from parents. That would be a heavy burden, because they aren't perfect either. What children need is a parent who models how to be a responsible, loving human. A parent who accepts them with all their imperfections, models
compassion and respect, and apologizes and reconnects when things go
wrong -- as they inevitably do.
So let go of that heavy baggage of expecting yourself to be perfect. You never will be, but you're more than enough, just the way you are. You're not expected to be perfect. You're only expected to keep growing. Parenting is a journey, not a destination.
So what should you do when you lose it? Get yourself back on track.
1. Get yourself back to calm. When our children get upset or act out, it usually triggers us into fight or flight, which is why we start acting like they're the enemy. But they're not the enemy, and it isn't an emergency. So next time your child starts getting upset, that's your red flag reminder to Stop, Drop (what you're doing), and Breathe so you stay calm.
Take a deep breath. Let go of your fight or flight panic, and shake out that stress. Switch gears emotionally by finding a more positive thought. How about: "I'm a good enough parent...I can make this better with my child right now," or "This isn't an emergency...I can handle this."
2. See it from your child's point of view. Ok, so he was being impossible. I don't know about you, but I've certainly acted impossible when I'm scared, hurt, or just plain overwhelmed. We're all sure we're "right" when we're angry, but there's always another way to look at things. Nobody has to be wrong. If you can acknowledge your child's feelings, it opens the door to reconnecting. "Oh, Sweetie, we are both so upset. I guess you were hoping...." You can still set a limit and guide your child, while offering your understanding.
3. Avoid a Repeat. Later, ask yourself, "What's one thing I can do so I don't lose it next time?"
- Can you reduce the amount of stress in your life by paring back so you aren't always rushing?
- Is there a certain time of day when everything falls apart? How can you give yourself and your child more support at that time of day?
- If you notice you sound like your parents when start yelling, can you unpack your own childhood baggage a bit? If you need to, get some support.
- When you start to threaten your child with consequences, can you notice that it's coming from your own sense of helplessness? And, instead, use that as a reminder to take a deep breath and calm yourself down? You'll intervene so much better from a calm state.
- If you want to stop yelling, but you're finding it tough, give yourself a break -- It IS tough! But it's also possible, so give yourself better support, in the form of a star chart. Your kids give you stars for every morning or afternoon you don't yell. Every week that's better than the week before is worth celebrating.
Commit to doing that one thing.
Remember that every time you apologize, you're role-modeling.
Now, go hug your child.