I got a little overzealous when a friend recently asked me to finish this sentence: “If you don’t want to lose your temper at your children…” She might’ve been hoping for a less… enthusiastic answer, but here’s what she got. And it felt important enough to share with all of you.
If you don’t want to lose your temper at your children, give yourself a time-out. When you get angry, take a break. Put on a movie for the kids, and go for a walk. Go to your room and read for ten minutes. Lock yourself in the bathroom. Get away from the situation for a little while, and give yourself a chance to calm down.
If you don’t want to lose your temper at your children, take a deep breath. Count to 25. I know it sounds trite, but it really, really helps – and 10 isn’t long enough. Close your eyes. If your kids clamor at you for attention, hold out your hand (like, in the “stop” position), but don’t stop breathing and counting.
If you don’t want to lose your temper at your children, make sure you get regular breaks from them. Seriously. This is my number one cure to when my own kid has been driving me bonkers, and the number one secret behind our closeness – we don’t spend every waking moment together. And I don’t mean time-outs where you’re hiding in a locked bathroom or reading in your room for 10 minutes in a frantic attempt to calm down before you blow your top; I mean a couple of hours a week, minimum. Arrange play-dates at someone else’s house where you can drop them off and take yourself shopping or to a café or back home for the morning. Get some you-focused time, regularly.
It’ll help keep you stress-free, and a stress-free parent is a happier, more easy-going parent.
If you don’t want to lose your temper at your children, get time alone with your partner, too. (If you don’t have a partner, go out with yourself or a friend.) Get a sitter and go out on a date once a week – even if all you do is go for a walk together without the kids. Your relationship with your kids will thrive if your relationship with yourself and with your partner are thriving. Those healthy relationships with other adults will also model good relationship patterns for them to grow into.
If you don’t want to lose your temper at your children, communicate with them when you’re not angry. Tell them that sometimes you feel angry when they do or say certain things (but not that you’re angry at them directly). Explain that when you’re angry, you need to take a break so you don’t yell, because you don’t want to wind up yelling at them. Then, when you are angry, you can remind them that you’re taking a break because you don’t want to yell.
One last thing: If you don’t want to lose your temper at your children, give yourself permission to be really, really angry at them from time to time.
It’s okay if they infuriate you.
It’s okay for you to wish for time to yourself.
It’s even okay to wish for less responsibility. It’s okay to want a day (or a week or even a month) off. Being a parent is a full-time job – and it’s one of the hardest jobs there is. So it’s okay to want a little peace and quiet from time to time.
It doesn’t make you a bad parent – it makes you a parent. A loving, human parent.