3.14.2015

Temper Tantrums {My Own}

The other day Em, totally exasperated, said: "Mom, you said you'd try not to get your madness on me." That girl likes to call me out on things, but she was right. I said I'd try to be nicer but was instead getting my mad-ness all over her. (She was also right when she observed, "I think you didn't get enough sleep, Mom.")

How do you control your temper? You have one, right? Please say it's not just me. Stress and sleep-deprivation (aka life with a baby) bring my own temper bubbling to the surface. Sometimes I catch myself snapping at Em, the ugliness flying out of my mouth, and think: What am I doing? I shouldn't be acting like this...and still I can't stop.
But anger-highs are as fleeting as sugar-highs and leave an even longer wake of remorse.

I feel like I can muster up a pretty decent degree of patience most of the time (four years with a strong-willed child will do that for you), but what about when your kid's on their fifteenth breakdown of the day (or hour)? Or those intense moments when you have two kids crying at the same time, or you're running late and can't get out the door? Or you're just having a bad day
And so I bring you….


 Put yourself in time out. I haven't been very successful at putting Em in time out lately, but was surprised how well she reacted when I explained that I was having a hard time being nice and needed to have a time out. I guess what kid wouldn't like seeing their parent undergo the discipline usually reserved for them? She was oddly respectful and let me go into my room without a fight. It was like I found a trap door out of a tense situation and gave us both time to calm down. Even if your kid bangs on the door the whole time, having the door as a buffer can help protect them from your anger and you from regretful actions. 

(So, that worked one time....probably means it'll work every time, right? Cause kids are super consistent like that.)

Let the storm rage on. (Sorry, I couldn't help myself.) You don't have to change how your child is feeling or get sucked into their emotional hurricane. Just be there for them while they ride out the storm. This is healthy practice for us adults, too. To feel our emotions--even the uncomfortable ones--instead of numbing them. It's strangely comforting to remind myself how little control I have over a given situation. I can surrender instead of wear myself out trying to control the uncontrollable.

I have a particularly hard time with screaming babies (guessing I'm not the only one...) I used to attach to Em's crying, especially in the car, and feel the anger/frustration quickly mount until I thought I might explode if I had to endure said crying for one more second. But with Haven I've practiced detaching from the crying. Babies are going to cry. It's stressful and unpleasant, but as Em reminded me today, "It's just what babies do." (Wise little lady.) There will be times when you can’t respond to them immediately (because Hart of Dixie is on. Joke. Because you’re showering or sauteing something or peeing or helping another kid...) There will also be times when you have met every possible need you can fathom for your little bundle, and they're still going to scream. When I change my goal to simply enduring crying instead of feeling like I have to make it stop, it becomes much more bearable. (Back to that surrender thing.)

Search for the root. I have to remember that when Em throws a tantrum about not getting a certain color cup, it's not about the cup. What's the real root of her crankiness? Not enough sleep? Too much TV? Not enough connection? It's easy to be frustrated and think, It's just a stupid cup! Kids are ridiculous! But dig deeper and see if you can uncover the problem behind the problem. And if you don't have the energy to remedy it right then, make a mental note for the future. (Or maybe I’m wrong and it really is just about the cup.)

Keep your patience tank fullWhen I catch myself lashing out with alarming frequently, it usually means I haven't been taking care of myself. I can't put off self-nurturing any longer, or my kids (and anyone else within range), will continue to suffer for it. It's much easier to deal with the shenanigans of kids when you are well-rested, well-fed, and have had a break recently. That's been my biggest temper-related revelation of late. Rather than labor over how to rein in my rage in those volcanic moments, I should prevent myself from getting to that ready-to-erupt place in the first place. Do whatever it takes to equip yourself with a nice, long fuse.

Know your triggers. And then put that knowledge to good use and plan accordingly! If being late really gets to you, start getting ready twenty minutes before you normally would, so that when your baby poops and your toddler melts down and you can’t find your phone, you can still be kind of on time. If whining makes you want to claw your own eyeballs out, have a system in place to deal with it. (Love and Logic has some good, actionable ideas.) You know your pet peeves and you can outsmart them!
Check out her article, "Dear Mom Who's Trying to Do It All"
Cut yourself some slack. If you beat yourself up for losing your temper, you'll probably keep on losing it. Negativity just spawns negativity like that, and shame turns into hopelessness. You are human and you are trying your best. Take the opportunity to apologize and show your kids that you're struggling to become better just like they are. And the cool thing about kids is how readily they forgive. Most of the time :) 

How do you keep your cool? I'd love to hear what works for you in the comments section. (Even if--no, especially if--it involves Popsicles and sprinklers :)