I feel like I’m screaming at my children all the time, and I feel like I’m drowning. There is always so much to do, and I feel like there’s no support out there. How can I look after my children, parent them effectively and look after myself?...
It happened again, didn’t it?
You gave the 5-minute warning for coats and shoes.
Now the clock is ticking closer to t-minus LATE, and there is your child standing around whining that they can’t find the shoes that they aren’t even looking for.
You gave several additional warnings.
The clock ticked. No shoes were found.
The sloth from Zootopia moves faster than your children.
You stood there flinging the extra necessities that the school has asked you to provide today for your child and trying to tell yourself to calm down. “We have time. We are not actually late yet.”
Your child declares that they no longer want to wear the outfit they chose today and decide that they will not get into that car without the dinosaur onesie you bought last Christmas – that they have won once.
The tears get louder and louder, as the dishwasher whirrs and the dryer thumps in the background.
Now you’re taking deep breaths, trying to assess the extent of your lateness and decide your next move. But it’s not working.
You lost it.
You screamed. “Get your shoes and coat on NOW! Why are you moving so slowly? Can’t you see we are late!? In the car NOW!!!!”
Phew, that’s tough to admit, isn’t it?
Believe me, I know how tough it is.
If you’re shouting at your children and wondering how to stop, the first thing I want you to know is that you’re not alone.
But how can we stop these outbursts? And how can we manage our children in an effective but positive manner? – All whilst maintaining a healthy mindset?
Harsh discipline or punishment is about imposing control through authority and power. It tends to be reactive, often in the heat of the moment. There is no discussion, reasoning or negotiation; the phrase “because I say so” is often heard!
When too much punishment is imposed for bad behaviour, children may become resentful, angry and vengeful. Think about how you would feel if a boss or friend started shouting orders, lecturing you or threatening you. Would it make you obey or resentful?
Not only does overly harsh discipline cause resistance and retaliation, it can easily encourage lying. A child will focus on covering up misdemeanours to avoid punishment, rather than changing their actual behaviour.
Positive discipline is about helping your child to learn positive values and develop social skills for life. It may help to think: what am I aiming for as a parent?
Getting your child to do what they’re told right now may seem critical in the heat of the moment, but unquestioning obedience is probably not on your list of top adult qualities you aspire to. Instead, most parents aim to raise a young person who is responsible, but also adaptable; good at compromising and negotiating, skilled at communicating and able to think their way out of problems. These are exactly the kind of traits positive discipline encourages.
But a word of warning - don’t confuse positive discipline with letting your child do whatever he or she wants! Children whose parents are overly relaxed or “permissive” often struggle with poor self-control and have difficulty committing to decisions.
As parents we shout for lots of various reasons. Sometimes we shout because we’re overwhelmed, distracted, tired or a myriad of reasons.
But it all boils down to the fact that we’re triggered by something.
We all have triggers. We all have things that drive us mad and make our skin crawl.
Each and every one of us have unique triggers, they key is to find the triggers that make you explode.
There are strategies to try to remedy these outbursts;
Breathing: When you were angry, your body was in your ‘fight or flight mode’ – your heart rate accelerates, your breathing becomes shallow and your muscles are tense. Get your brain and your body back on track with a few deep breaths. Do not say or do anything else until you have taken at least 4 really good breaths.
Watch for the Re-Trigger: Your children might not be ready to give up the fight. It’s easy to get worked up over the same issue again. Instead, remind yourself that you are only in charge of your own actions and that you’re modelling self-control (even if you blew it a few minutes ago).
Take Responsibility (no BUTS!): It doesn’t matter who started it. Teach your children how to take responsibility without shifting the blame to someone else. You can do this out-loud by saying, “Wow, I’m so sorry, I really let my anger get out of control!” Keep the focus on you, don’t add: “…but you shouldn’t” or “…but you know better.”
Give Yourself a Do-Over: Give yourself the chance to handle the situation differently by offering a “do-over.” Say, “Ok, I’m going to try that again without the shouting” or “I was so angry earlier that I don’t think I heard what you were trying to say.” If you start to feel angry again, let it go. Take a break and try again later.
Repair the Relationship: If hurtful words were said, harsh punishments were given or physical aggression occurred, your children may feel disconnected from you. Set the situation aside temporarily, wait on giving consequences and focus instead on your relationship.
All children need love, guidance and to have rules and boundaries. Rules and boundaries help families to understand how to behave towards each other, and what’s OK and not OK. But the best way to go about this will vary based on your children’s age and stage of development. All children are different and develop and reach milestones at different rates.
My top tips to set clear consistent boundaries for children of all ages are;
· Keep guidance simple and consistent.
· If your child is behaving in a way you don’t want them to, clearly explain what you want them to do instead.
· Be available and make time so your child will come to you when they feel something is wrong or they are upset.
· Keep talking and listening to your child even if at times it feels like a challenge. Start listening from a very early age and seta pattern for life.
· Review family rules as your child gets older and recognise the different needs of children living at home. For example, you shouldn’t expect the same from your 12-year-old as you would from your four-year-old.
· Get support from friends and try any good ideas they have found helpful.
· If you are struggling and things are getting out of hand, get advice from your GP, a health visitor, or your child’s teacher.
No, you’re not the perfect parent. None of us are.
You’re a work in progress. A parent who is learning from mistakes and moving forward in a positive direction.
And that is a sign of a good parent.
Peace and Love to you all,