"I've been working hard not to yell at my kids. But sometimes I just can't help it. I explode, and then I feel so guilty. I know it isn't really what my kids are doing, it's just me, having a hard day. Is it really possible to stop yelling? What's the secret?" - Natalie
The secret is compassion.
For your child, of course, but start with compassion for yourself. You can't be emotionally generous when you're stressed, running on empty, feeling like you aren't good enough. Once you feel a bit less tense, you'll think better, and you'll be able to reach out to your child in a more relaxed way to turn around whatever is happening. Without yelling.
So when you notice that you're feeling irritable, no shame, no blame. That's just part of being human. We all have hard days. Think of your irritation as a red blinking light on your car dashboard. When you notice it, you: READ POST
"Sending children away to get control of their anger perpetuates the feeling of 'badness" inside them...Chances are they were already feeling not very good about themselves before the outburst and the isolation just serves to confirm in their own minds that they were right." -- Otto Weininger,Ph.D. Time-In Parenting
When our kids get angry, it pushes buttons for most of us. We're not perfect, but we try to be loving parents. Why is our child lashing out like this?
Many parents send an angry child to her room to "calm down." After all, what else can we do? We certainly can't reason with her when she's furious. It's no time to teach lessons or ask for an apology. She needs to calm down.
If we send him to his room, he will indeed calm down, eventually. He'll also have gotten a clear message that his anger is unacceptable, and that he's on his own when it comes to managing his big scary feelings--we don't know how to help him. He won't have worked through whatever led to his anger. Instead, he'll have stuffed the anger, so it's no longer under conscious control, and will burst out again soon. No wonder so many of us develop anger-management issues, whether that means we yell at our kids, throw tantrums with our spouse, or overeat to avoid acknowledging angry feelings.
What can we do instead? We can help our kids learn to manage their anger responsibly. That begins with accepting anger -- without acting on it. READ POST
“Before the plane takes off, the pilots have a flight plan…but during the course of the flight, wind, rain, turbulence, air traffic, human error, and other factors act on the plane…90% of the time the plane is not even on the prescribed flight path...During the flight, the pilots make constant adjustments to get back on track. The flight of that airplane is the perfect metaphor for family life…it doesn’t make any difference if we are off target or even if our family is a mess. The hope lies in the vision and in the plan and in the courage to keep coming back time and time again.” – Stephen Covey
You may have noticed that you aren’t perfect. That sometimes you aren’t the parent or the person you want to be. Sometimes you blow it. We all do. Welcome to humanity.
The bad news is that even if we’re committed to being the best parent, and best person, we can be, we will never be perfect. Life happens. We get off track. We get disconnected -- from our child, our partner, our own deepest guidance. We see the other person as making our life more difficult, rather than realizing that they're having a hard time. We feel hurt, we feel frustrated, we feel trapped. We lash out. READ POST
"The hardest thing is still to calm myself down when my
boys get wild and my buttons get pushed. I end up screaming despite my
best intentions." - Mollie
"When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they're finished, I climb out." -- Erma Bombeck
Mollie's right. The hardest part of parenting is regulating our own emotions. In our last post, we talked about how to get angry less often. But what happens when your child does something that makes you want to scream, and a playpen won't work? What are your options? READ POST
"Make a habit of bringing your awareness to your breathing frequently throughout your day. Our breath connects us to feelings of peace and contentment. Take a minute to deepen your breath from shallow, tense chest breathing to relaxed, deep belly breathing. When you feel totally overwhelmed, stop whatever you're doing, close your eyes if possible, take three deep breaths, and let your body and mind relax." -- Jan Marie Dore
It's impossible to be a compassionate, patient parent when you're tense. But life with children is full of triggers that make us tense.
Of course, those triggers, be they tantrums or traffic jams, don't actually make us tense. We make ourselves tense in response to them. It's a choice. Believe it or not, it's entirely possible to breathe deeply and feel relaxed during a traffic jam -- or even a tantrum. (I'm not saying it doesn't take practice. :-))
The easiest way to remind yourself to let go of tension is to breathe. Just breathe. It brings us back into our body, back into the present moment, back into a choice about how we want to respond.
So why not start practicing? Today, stop every so often throughout your day and notice your breathing. Every time you're upset. When you find yourself in traffic. When anyone in your house begins a meltdown. (Especially you.) READ POST
"Dr. Laura....In your last post, you warned parents against fighting in front of our kids. But as you always say, we're not perfect, we're human! What are we supposed to do when we disagree? And isn't it good for kids to see parents work out disagreements, and make up? And isn't okay if spouses don't always agree -- we can still love each other."
Yes, Yes, and Yes! The nature of human relationships is that we will sometimes disagree. It's wonderful for children to see their parents model how to work out disagreements. It's important for them to know that we don't always agree, but we always love each other. Kids need to see us ask for what we need without attacking the other person. And it's critical for them to see us make up, with affection and forgiveness.
That doesn't mean it's okay to yell at each other in front of our kids. The research shows that a civil disagreement followed by working things through to a solution, and affectionately making up, can teach kids valuable lessons about working through conflicts constructively. But the research also shows that yelling always affects kids badly. Yelling is not constructive conflict resolution. It's a tantrum.
And no, it's not "authentic." What's authentic is the tears and fears under the yelling. If we could express our hurt and fear, the anger would melt away. As the Dalai Lama said, "Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible."
But since most of us can't stay as calm as the Dalai Lama, how can you handle the inevitable disagreements that come up in a relationship -- when you live with kids? READ POST
"Yesterday my husband and I had an argument at dinner time in front of the kids. My four year old daughter yelled at us to ‘Be quiet!’ … My two year old had a tough time going to bed, which is unusual for him. Could that have had to do with mommy and daddy arguing?”
In honor of Valentines Day last week, my posts this week are about the intersection between being a parent and being a couple -- specifically, how to work through conflicts when you're in front of the kids. Next week, we'll get back to our Beyond Discipline series, with 10 Alternatives to Consequences and When Kids Just Won't Cooperate.
Conflict is part of every human relationship. If we live with children, those conflicts will sometimes come up in front of the kids. In the past, most experts reassured parents that there’s no harm in children seeing them fight, as long as the kids also see the parents make up afterwards. However, recent developments in neurological research challenge this view. Not surprisingly, it turns out that when children hear yelling, their stress hormones shoot up. In fact, even a sleeping infant registers loud, angry voices and experiences a rush of stress chemicals that takes some time to diminish. READ POST