Things that help me keep my cool in the heat of the moment:
Focus on connection first, above all else, putting our relationship first. Just having this intention can often help me stay calm.
Remember (if needed, hang reminders) to just breathe before doing or saying anything. Usually nothing is so urgent that I can't take a few moments to just do nothing but breathe before attempting to respond. Just breathe, slowly, in through the nose while expanding my belly, out through the mouth.
It helps me to make the effort to see more than my child's behavior. I used to have this quote hanging up, and when I'd get frustrated or angry about my child's behavior I'd think "s/he is the lettuce", which would help me respond more calmly and compassionately:
|When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don't blame the lettuce. You look into the reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or our family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and arguments. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change. -Thich Nhat Hanh
eta Remember, you're the lettuce too. Remember to take care of yourself. Self-care is so important. I yell so much more when I'm not taking good care of myself and my needs aren't met. What do you need? Are you eating well? Getting enough water? Enough rest? Need support, information, ideas, help, friendship, sunlight, a break, someone to talk to (someone to listen to you), etc, etc.?
It helps to take a mini-vacation from the stress of the moment, from the list of "shoulds" in my head (you know: I should do this, she should do that, a good mom should...), from expectations, from everything. Ways I take a mini vacation include: put on some good music and really listen to all the sounds (and dance, if possible), take a look out the window to appreciate the beauty of something outside, take a nice long drink of water and really feel how nice that cool water feels, look at how beautiful my child's face is, tell a joke or in some other way find some humor and smile (or better, laugh), grab the small vibrating massager and rub my neck for a minute (and enjoy it). Really, it doesn't have to be anything that takes much time. And it's better if I'm doing these things throughout the day before getting to that point of being about to lose it, but even in the heat of the moment a little mini-vacation can be helpful.
I find that in general, one essential ingredient to solving problems in our family is to spend more time enjoying each other. Not even necessarily big chunks of one on one time (though that helps), but just more pleasant, close moments in our day. A touch, a hug, positive words, smiles, jokes, a game we play together, inviting the kids to cook with me or talk with me while we cook, sitting down to enjoy snack together. I know it's hard with so many little ones. I have 3 and they're 8, 6 and 4 now, but really it is so important to find some joy together. Taking time to enjoy each other gives us a more solid foundation to work with when times are tough, helps to prevent tough times by filling their cups (and mine), and helps us to heal from conflict. Sometimes it's hard for me to enjoy my challenging child, but it's important for me to do so. I have to look beyond the behavior and deliberately choose to connect with her and have fun with her. And it always helps, it always feels good.
eta She wouldn't be better of with someone else. It's not that you can't get it right, that somehow you've failed. It's that parenting is very hard work, especially when you do it alone without enough sleep and support. You love her, you want to do better, and you will do better.