Aha! Parenting Blog

Practical solutions for real parenting problems

When You Lose it With Your Child

"On Mother's Day I decided never to yell at my kids again. I want to be a good role model. But only 24 hours later, I completely lost it and found myself screaming like a crazy woman."

Are you noticing how hard it is to regulate your own emotions?  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. Children 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.  Maybe: "This isn't an emergency...He's acting like a child because he is a child...She's showing me she's upset and needs my help."

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 do some healing? If you need to, get some support.
  • When you start to threaten your child with punishments, 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.

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids


"Dr.Laura's daily emails are the perfect way to start the day with love and compassion"

Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings

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