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Controlling your temper - how do you do it when the kids are driving you nuts?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

Sometimes it's due to a meltdown or misbehavior on their part, but sometimes I just have too much going on in one moment and they won't leave me alone and I can feel myself getting upset.

I started a thread the other day about how sometimes I'd plop my toddler in front of the TV when I was making dinner, and I did that for this reason. I just had too hard of a time getting everything together and having a toddler hanging on my while I was working would start to get to me and wear my patience thin.

How do you handle those times where you feel like you're going to lose your temper?

 

 

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post #2 of 15

Some days, I do it well. My son also helps me with this as he comes up, hugs my arms and says in the cutest voice, "Play with me, mama" or "Please spend some time with me!". I melt and drop what I am doing if I can.

Some days I suck at it, and end up feeling guilty and horrible for part of the day. I really wish we wee independently wealthy or something so I would not be taken away from my kid, because I would so rather be exploring with him than other things I get mad that he is interrupting. 

post #3 of 15

I am a pediatrician in Charlotte North Carolina so I have my share of experience with frustrated parents. I also have two grown children. Here is my advice to you in a nutshell; keep in mind that your job as a parent is to set limits and be respectful of your children. Your goal with your parenting is to turn the volume down, not up.  When you lose it, not only does that scare your child but it teaches them that having an "tantrum" is OK. Why not, my mother is having one! What is the message in that? Children mimic everything you do so we don't need anymore of that! I recommend you get, read, and study a book called 123 Magic by Thomas Phelan.  Dr. Phelan will give you all the tools you need to deal with these situations. This book is now in it's 4th edition. I recommend it all the time and it is great. I hope that helps.  Doc Smo

post #4 of 15
I have a thought that I keep repeating to myself when I feel near the breaking point: "she's only 2.5. She's not doing this to tick me off. She's angry/frustrated/sad/etc and doesn't yet know how to let little things go. My job is to show her that we can stay calm through the little daily problems.". Sometimes it helps keep me from breaking down and sometimes it helps me pull back into a rational place. I don't know if that's helpful for others but it's made a difference to me.
post #5 of 15
I was thinking about this today... My 2 year old is working on/being tormented by molars, and having a growth spurt, and he's being very "challenging". What keeps me in line is that when I do start to blow up (verbally and with facial expression and body language) his response is to immediately escalate right along with me. I can see how much he needs me to be steady and stable as I can be. He's a 2 year old and it's his job to be figuring out how to express himself. I had my turn!
post #6 of 15
That sounds familiar. Sometimes I wonder why some parents are so eager for thir children to speak early. I mean, once they start they never shut up again. And sometimes, all I want is quiet.
Generally, I make sure I get enough sleep and some me-time, because as long I have a chance to recharge, I'm more relaxed dealing with the children. This get's difficult though, when DH is travelling and I'm 24/7 on the task. So then I usually relax my housekeeping/cooking to get my internal stresslevel lower. Anyways, that doesn't always help, and sometimes they still get me crazy. Mostly, I deal by removing myself from the scene. I go in the garden, movement among plants is a sure way to get my equilibrium back, or I hide behind a closed door. The later one doesn't work quite as well.
Whenever I manage to handle a difficult situation well, I pad myself mentally on the shoulder. Giving myself positive feedback and not beating myself up over the times I didn't handle things so well, helps me to be more positive and relaxed next time around.
But then, sometimes I think PMS is a way nature ensures that tenderly nurtured children don't turn into demanding little monsters. So once in a while, I'm harsh, I might scold, I give time outs, in rare situations my hand does slip (There are situations, when I simply go into selfdefense mode: Last time that happened was, when DS threw rocks at my head.) What then? Well, they have learned two important things: (1) people who love us, don't always behave perfectly, and (2) if you push too hard, you'll get an unpleasant response. I do make a point of talking with my children about what happened and why.
post #7 of 15

A great strategy I learned here years ago is to just take a moment to really look at your child and see how small he is, how soft and fragile and new, how inexperienced in coping with the stresses of life.  Why, just a few years ago, he didn’t even exist!  It’s really not so surprising that a brief delay in his acquisition of raisins strikes him as a great tragedy, or that his feelings overwhelm his polite communication abilities.  A problem that looks small to you looks very big to such a small person.

 

That resets your perspective, and then one of several things can happen:

  • You might remember that this is the child you wanted so much, the precious gift you were so grateful to receive, the one who much of the time is one of your favorite people.  Then you suddenly see a darling baby who just needs some love and understanding, and you realize that helping him is one of the important things you need to do.
  • You might feel pretty dumb for getting so upset by a three-foot-tall person wearing a Cookie Monster hoodie.  Then you calm down, remember that you are the grown-up, and demonstrate appropriate behavior.
  • You might hold your child’s little hand, that amazing construction of bones and tendons and creamy-soft skin and weensy fingernails, and remember that you made that hand.  You made a whole real person!!  Then you realize you are not so powerless after all; you’re capable of miracles.  Surely you can get through this one moment.
  • You might realize that the frustration and anger and exhaustion threatening to overwhelm you are big feelings, and your child has these same huge feelings crammed into a much smaller body.  Then you feel empathy.  You remember how it felt when you were very small and upset, and you treat your child the way you needed to be treated.
  • You might notice how much of the tension is coming from you.  All the stresses of your life are piled up so that your child’s tantrum is the straw that breaks your back…but while you’re rolling your eyes at his shrieking over some little thing that doesn’t really matter, you are yourself obsessed with a lot of little things.  Then you try to relax and stop sweating the small stuff and focus on the big picture.  You remind yourself that you’re still struggling with this while your child has had a lot less practice, and you hear new wisdom in the words of the Beatles:

Try to realize it’s all within yourself–
No one else can make you change–
And to see you’re really only very small
And life flows on within you and without you.

 

My son is 8 now--and his feet are almost as big as mine!--but it's still working.  When we reach the point where he's actually bigger than I am, I hope I'll still be able to remind myself of his inexperience and remember how things felt when I was his age.  I feel that one of my dad's greatest strengths as a parent was his vivid memory of the experience of being different ages and his ability to remember the actions and ideas that helped him to pull himself out of bad feelings then.  He couldn't make my feelings change, but sometimes his confidence that these bad times are simply part of life's ongoing flow could help me move along. 

 

The other thing that makes a big difference for me is admitting EARLY that the kid is bothering me.  Sometimes I get into trying to be the perfect mom who never hurts her child with criticism, and I stuff it down, putting up with annoying noises and messy stuff in my space and flashing lights and uncomfortable nudging, until suddenly I lash out--and then I'm nothing like the perfect mom; I'm rude and shrill and hurt my child much more than if I'd said, "I'm tired of that sound," and, "Please pick up your markers," in a reasonable voice.  Often, the things that are bothering me seem like they "shouldn't" because they are relatively minor annoyances and developmentally normal things for my child to do, so really my stressed-out feelings must be caused by my being low on sleep or overwhelmed by work or something that isn't my child's fault, so I "shouldn't" blame him...but if I can stick up for myself and my need to feel comfortable instead of besieged, in the end I will be less blaming than if I let it go until I freak out at him.

post #8 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by EnviroBecca View Post

A great strategy I learned here years ago is to just take a moment to really look at your child and see how small he is, how soft and fragile and new, how inexperienced in coping with the stresses of life.  Why, just a few years ago, he didn’t even exist!  It’s really not so surprising that a brief delay in his acquisition of raisins strikes him as a great tragedy, or that his feelings overwhelm his polite communication abilities.  A problem that looks small to you looks very big to such a small person.

 

 

this is such a great post, EnviroBecca!

post #9 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by EnviroBecca View Post

A great strategy I learned here years ago is to just take a moment to really look at your child and see how small he is, how soft and fragile and new, how inexperienced in coping with the stresses of life.  Why, just a few years ago, he didn’t even exist!  It’s really not so surprising that a brief delay in his acquisition of raisins strikes him as a great tragedy, or that his feelings overwhelm his polite communication abilities.  A problem that looks small to you looks very big to such a small person.

That resets your perspective, and then one of several things can happen:
  • You might remember that this is the child you wanted so much, the precious gift you were so grateful to receive, the one who much of the time is one of your favorite people.  Then you suddenly see a darling baby who just needs some love and understanding, and you realize that helping him is one of the important things you need to do.
  • You might feel pretty dumb for getting so upset by a three-foot-tall person wearing a Cookie Monster hoodie.  Then you calm down, remember that you are the grown-up, and demonstrate appropriate behavior.
  • You might hold your child’s little hand, that amazing construction of bones and tendons and creamy-soft skin and weensy fingernails, and remember that you made that hand.  You made a whole real person!!  Then you realize you are not so powerless after all; you’re capable of miracles.  Surely you can get through this one moment.
  • You might realize that the frustration and anger and exhaustion threatening to overwhelm you are big feelings, and your child has these same huge feelings crammed into a much smaller body.  Then you feel empathy.  You remember how it felt when you were very small and upset, and you treat your child the way you needed to be treated.
  • You might notice how much of the tension is coming from you.  All the stresses of your life are piled up so that your child’s tantrum is the straw that breaks your back…but while you’re rolling your eyes at his shrieking over some little thing that doesn’t really matter, you are yourself obsessed with a lot of little things.  Then you try to relax and stop sweating the small stuff and focus on the big picture.  You remind yourself that you’re still struggling with this while your child has had a lot less practice, and you hear new wisdom in the words of the Beatles:

Try to realize it’s all within yourself–

No one else can make you change–

And to see you’re really only very small

And life flows on within you and without you.



My son is 8 now--and his feet are almost as big as mine!--but it's still working.  When we reach the point where he's actually bigger than I am, I hope I'll still be able to remind myself of his inexperience and remember how things felt when I was his age.  I feel that one of my dad's greatest strengths as a parent was his vivid memory of the experience of being different ages and his ability to remember the actions and ideas that helped him to pull himself out of bad feelings then.  He couldn't make my feelings change, but sometimes his confidence that these bad times are simply part of life's ongoing flow could help me move along. 

The other thing that makes a big difference for me is admitting EARLY that the kid is bothering me.  Sometimes I get into trying to be the perfect mom who never hurts her child with criticism, and I stuff it down, putting up with annoying noises and messy stuff in my space and flashing lights and uncomfortable nudging, until suddenly I lash out--and then I'm nothing like the perfect mom; I'm rude and shrill and hurt my child much more than if I'd said, "I'm tired of that sound," and, "Please pick up your markers," in a reasonable voice.  Often, the things that are bothering me seem like they "shouldn't" because they are relatively minor annoyances and developmentally normal things for my child to do, so really my stressed-out feelings must be caused by my being low on sleep or overwhelmed by work or something that isn't my child's fault, so I "shouldn't" blame him...but if I can stick up for myself and my need to feel comfortable instead of besieged, in the end I will be less blaming than if I let it go until I freak out at him.
What a lovely post, full of compassion, perspective and love. I was tearing up while reading it. I have a 28 month old DD and her little sister is 5 days old. For the most part we are adjusting well but DD1 is on a shorter fuse, melts down more and clearly needs me right now. Thank you for the reminder that she is still so very small and in need of a lot of guidance and love and doing her best. It's so very easy to have unrealistic expectation of a smart, verbal, sweet little girl. I sometimes forget she's only two and needs the freedom to have a bad day just like the rest of us.
post #10 of 15

Thanks for sharing EnviroBecca.  You post incorporated so much love and understanding not only for the child but for parents as well.

 

post #11 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by skycheattraffic View Post


What a lovely post, full of compassion, perspective and love. I was tearing up while reading it.

 

Ditto.  (gets tissue)

 

(and congrats on the newbie, skycheat!)

post #12 of 15

I totally agree with all the above!

 

But it is important to remember that mamas are human, too. I think it is OK for our kids to learn that it is possible to push even the calmest, most loving adult to near the breaking point. Sometimes we cry, or yell, or whatever. It is a healthy lesson for a little one that even adults get upset, that they are still safe even when angry (no hitting or whatever), and that afterwards, everyone still loves each other. I don't consider my kids, the youngest are now teens, responsible for my moods. But they have learned that they will of course have an impact on how I feel. And they care about that. Well, at least usually.winky.gif

 

Don't beat yourself up for the occasional lapse. If it is happening too frequently, perhaps you need a break, support, or new methods. But within reason, our children will benefit from gradually learning to be partly responsible for the emotional environment in which they live.
 

post #13 of 15

Aww, I'm glad everybody liked my post!  smile.gif

 

Skycheat, congratulations on your new baby!  I only have one child, but I remember when he was a newborn and I was staring at him all the time, everyone else looked HUGE, and all other children we met--even my friend's baby only 10 weeks older--seemed startlingly alert and capable!  So it's easy to see how you could unthinkingly expect more of your older daughter.  I guess you just have to try to keep your perspective in both directions...while recovering from the birth and getting disrupted sleep...not the easiest thing to do!

 

I like Mama Rhu's point that it's okay for kids to see us get upset.  About a year ago, after hours of patiently reminding my son that I was not feeling well and wanted him to stop doing the various irritating things he was doing, I shrieked at him and banged a lot of stuff around and ran into my room and slammed the door.  I could hear him crying outside, and he sounded very frightened.  I felt like a terrible mama.  But when I came out later, my son handed me a paper that said, "Your a good good persin!  That's whi I like you."  I still have it in the corner of my mirror to remind me that, while of course I should try not to freak out at him, if I do it doesn't mean I'm a horrible failure.

post #14 of 15

I struggle with this too.

 

The biggest change that helped me came a few years ago. I was reading a blog post by another mom (can't find it any more, I think she abandoned the site) about time out/punishment/the parent-child dynamic. The thing that stuck out to me was this: "Stop holding your child responsible for your emotions." Paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it. So simple, yet so hard in reality.

 

Strangely this bit of advice made me completely change my outlook and interaction with my kids. It was hard and still is. My instinct, from how I was raised, is to blame my anxiety, stress, frustration and grouchiness on my children. It was a slap in the face to realize that there I was in my late 20s/early 30s, with my brain fully developed and my control over myself as good as it's going to get, and yet I was having trouble controlling my temper and blaming people whose brains were not even developmentally ready to identify, let alone control, their own emotions. Let alone mine.

 

The sentence... "you're making mommy upset, if you keep doing it, mommy is going to have to {insert disrespectful "consequence" here} until you can talk about it reasonably!" has changed subtly but significantly to, "I am feeling upset, so I am going to take a break for a few minutes. I am going to come back when I feel more calm, and we will talk about it."

 

Simply taking responsibility for my own emotions has helped immeasurably with controlling my temper. Not only has it helped me to stop blaming my children, but it's shifted how I talk (and yes, argue) with my husband, with my siblings. It's helped me understand my parents and though I know they will never change because they do not wish to, it has helped me not get roped into it when they do this to me, because I can identify it now.

post #15 of 15

I am so happy to see this thread. So many helpful perspectives. I have 5 children with one on the way. We have some special needs in our house ranging from Aspegers to ADHD to sensory issues to anxiety. It makes for some really challenging behaviors and I am not always the adult I should be. The other day my 4 yr old was being defiant and I responded really harshly to him and it hurt him deeply. Thankfully, he collapsed in my arms instead of running away. He still trusts me and wants my love and comfort. I don't want to ever lose that! I just wish I never lost it like that. I swear every day I won't yell, but nearly every day I do anyway. And a lot of time it isn't horrible stuff they are doing. Its just all the little things built up. They are messy, forgetful, don't listen and follow simple directions...and these are the teenagers mind you! Someone is always complaining or unhappy. When they hurt, I hurt, and there is always someone hurting around here - frustrated, upset, bored, hungry, angry, etc. It never ends. Who wouldn't crack?  

 

One way I have been coping is by using headphones and listening to music for a while. This is especially helpful when they are just being a little bickery, not enough were I need to step in, but enough that its putting me on edge. I think there are some real advantages to letting them work things out but I find its hard to let go and let them when the sounds of arguing are driving me nuts. I have some great noise cancelling headphones by iHome and honestly I can't hear them at all when I wear them with music and a low to medium volume. I'd hear a scream and the could tap me if they needed me. 

 

The other thing I do is make them go outside. All of them. And I have been known to lock the door if they won't stay out there. Mind you I have older kids who can watch the younger ones so I know this doesn't work for everyone. But even DH's sweet angel mother was known to occasionally chase her kids out of the house on the homestead with the broom and lock the door saying only, "Stay away from the river!" That makes me laugh and feel so much better! 

 

One thing I am trying NOT to do is use the TV. It does give me the ultimate in peace and quiet, but in the end its comes with a hefty price. The kids are fine while its on but as soon as its off, its like all the tension they've built up comes flooding out at once. It makes them more prone to meltdowns, irritability, and they seem more spacey and forgetful. It just makes everything worse in the long run, but is so seductive at the time. I am working on it!

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