When parents have meltdowns
We all love our children, but every parent has at one point or another lost their temper with their child. It's normal. Forgive yourself and follow our suggestions on how to keep calm.
Mom has hit meltdown point
Good moms and dads get angry. Good moms and dads are human. Getting angry with your 3-year-old toddler when they are drawing with chocolate ice cream on your white percale linen is normal.
Anger is a normal reaction when a person reaches their limit. Apparently even the renowned parenting author, Dr Spock, admitted to once screeching “shut up” to his baby who screamed all night. But if this is happening a bit too regularly and you’re becoming aware that you’re getting angry most of the time about any little thing, it’s time to do something about it.
What is anger?
Anger is a very natural emotional reaction to something that is a stress, loss or threat to our actual body or perceived part of ourselves such as self esteem or values for example. Counselling psychologist Tiffany Gregson explains that anger involves arousal of areas in the brain that are not really reasonable, rational areas. And because of this our reactions are not always reasonable and rational ones. We have to be able to admit we feel real human emotions and admit we need help for those strong emotions we find hard to control.
Strong anger responses often occur when an individual’s resources are low. Parenting is a 24-hour occupation with very few breaks. The break parents do get is often at work, which is no break at all. Helen, mom to three small boys, found herself screaming at her kids after a cramped day inside due to bad weather. “I’d been up all night with my baby, my video machine broke, the tumble dryer stopped midcycle, the cat vomited and my child asked for tea. It was all too much.”
Suggestions on how to keep calm
• Recognise the progression of anger, from irritation through frustration, anger to rage and aggression. It’s normal to feel these feelings but important to know how to stop the progression to more dangerous levels. You still have control and a choice in how you react. So feel the emotions but don’t let them take control
• If you feel your blood begin to boil, walk away and withdraw until you’re calm
• Stay in the present and don’t bring up everything your child has ever done wrong. Take note if you’re reacting due to past anger in a new situation
• Try to see the humorous side of parenting. Tanya, mom to a toddler called Luca, arrived to fetch him from a play date, only to find him and his accomplice covered in mud from head to toe. Instead of losing their tempers both mothers saw the humour in this and hosed their children down. But Tanya notes she did explain to him afterwards why it was wrong to turn a flower bed into a mud bath
• Ensure that your boundaries and discipline sound. Parents who yell are parents without a clear plan of action
• Try to remember that you’re the adult. April, mom to 3-year-old Emma, finds that Emma responds far better to discussion than to shouting and physical punishment. If April reacts like a child, Emma stops listening.
• Remember that children make mistakes and do stupid things without thinking. It’s all part of their learning process
• Don’t take it personally. Although it may seem that your child has conspired to make your day hellish it’s often fatigue and overstimulation that sends him over the top with you close behind
• If it’s too late and you've already lost your temper, remember that you’re human, restore the good feelings, explain to your child why you lost your temper and apologise.
If you’re exploding too often for your liking:
• Think about what the real, underlying problem could be. If it’s stress about work or your marriage, work on those. Realise that your anger could be misplaced
• Take time for yourself. This is written in every piece of parenting literature available... maybe they have a point? Stress release is an important part of our modern world
• Take your anger as the warning sign it is and examine your life. Seeking help from a mental health practitioner is perfectly acceptable and there are anger management courses that offer sound and practical advice for dealing with anger.
Although anger is a natural response it can often be irrational and damaging and then it needs to be addressed. Forgive yourself for your occasional outburst towards your child and know that even children need to know that parents have limits. The highs of parenting are so high such as the happy smiles or extra squeezes your 3-year-old gives you at bed time, but the lows can be equally powerful, such as the surly look you get as your carefully prepared dinner gets hurled across the table. Remember that parenting is emotional and that’s precisely what makes it so rewarding!