Your children have been playing nicely for a few minutes, giving you the chance to get a head start on dinner. Maybe tonight you’ll be able to make something other than pasta, thrown together at the last minute.
But then, the kids’ voices get angry and loud, with shouts of “That’s mine!” And you think: Here we go again. Can’t they get along for more than two minutes? Why can’t the older one just be nice?
Before you can get to the kids’ bedroom, you hear the little one wailing and you know her big sister has done it again. You rush in, angry, and yell at your oldest child for hurting her sister – and then feel like crap when you see the look of fear in your oldest child’s eyes and she starts crying as loudly as her sister.
Two minutes later, you’re sitting on the bedroom floor, a big mess of self-flagellation, resentment, and frustration, while your kids giggle as they peek around your body at each other. You’re mad at yourself for breaking your promise to not yell at the kids. You’re exhausted from the kids’ constant bickering and fighting. You know you must be scarring them in some way with the anger and resentment you can’t keep from bubbling over. But really, if they just behaved better, you’d be a better mom.
Your kids are turning you into a lousy mom.
You don’t have to stay here on the floor, tearing apart your parenting. Here’s how to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.
Taking Care of We
Your ability to control your reactions is governed by the part of your brain called the prefrontal cortex. Your prefrontal cortex is like having a CFO who collects all of the data and makes executive decisions on how to manage your behavior and your choices.
When you lose your cool because your kids are misbehaving, screaming bloody murder, and trying to take each other down, it’s like you’ve set up shop in the basement, otherwise known as the fight or flight part of your brain. To get back upstairs into the CFO’s office (your prefrontal cortex), you need to find a way to feel empathetic toward your child.
To build empathy, see if you can you look at the situation from your child’s perspective. Usually when a child acts out, the bad behavior is expressing a need:
• Has your child started a new preschool with new rules and a new routine and he needs more help adjusting?
• Are changes surrounding the addition of a new baby changing how much attention you can give to your older child and your daughter needs more time and reassurance from you?
• Are you working more hours lately and your child is missing you?
Getting promoted to the CFO’s office by shifting your perspective, being empathetic, and managing your temper is an awesome goal. But when your child launches into another tantrum at Target or leaves teeth marks in his brother’s arm, and you feel those mean mommy emotions starting to boil, what do you do?
How can you keep your patience when everything – including you – feels like it’s falling apart?
Taking Care of Me
It’s scientific fact: the better you take care of yourself, the more self control you have available. Eating well, getting good sleep, and other healthy habits affect how you use glucose, fuel for your brain and body. Physical activity – not just what we commonly define as “exercise” – makes your brain bigger and faster, especially in the prefrontal cortex.
You can build willpower with STEAM Power: S for Sleep, T for Talk Nicely, E for Eat Well, A for Activity, and M for Mindfulness. When you integrate new habits that help your prefrontal cortex work more effectively, you can more easily manage your moods, stop yelling, develop patience, and feel like a better mom overall.
Are you thinking that all of these ideas are great but you’re wondering how in the holy hell am I supposed to do all that? Or have you tried to let go of resentment, yelling, or another bad habit in the past and your new ideas have worked for a while but then you’ve fallen back into your old, familiar patterns?
Click here for STEAM Power, five free cheat sheets with ideas, tools, and tips to make sure you’re headed in the right direction.
If you think more information is nice but you know you need more hands on help, schedule a free mini session with me to get you back on track. I’ll work with you one-on-one to share tools you can start implementing right away to ease resentment and frustration with your spouse and kids, let go of guilt that can get especially loud when you start thinking about yourself, or help you figure out comes next for you so your time is filled with what matters most.
From my perspective of a mom of older kids, the adage the days are long but the years go fast is gospel truth. What do you want your kids to remember? How much more time do you have to fix what isn’t working? If patience feels so far out of reach it feels like you’re stranded on the basement floor, it’s time to try something different. You don’t need to spend all that time climbing 44 flights of stairs to get to your inner executive offices. Let’s go find the elevator.
Kathleen Ann Harper is the author of The Well-Crafted Mom. She works with moms who know they have everything they ever wanted, yet still feel like there’s something big missing. Through one-on-one sessions, group programs, and retreats, Kathleen helps moms find the time and energy to craft a life that includes creativity and joy. Discover more about Kathleen at thewellcraftedmom.com/about
I'm a mother of two incredible boys, wife to Bill White of Happy Baby Signs, author of the books The Well-Crafted Mom and Signs of a Happy Baby, and an intuitive life coach. I like to blog about my adventures with my family and the life lessons I'm learning along the way. I hope you'll join me on this journey.
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