How do we as parents manage our anger when we are tired, stressed out, and kids are defiant?
When it comes to kids, I am known to have the patience of Job but even I have found myself wanting to throttle my child. If that’s you, you are not alone. Not by a long shot.
We all know the reasons our tempers are short—we’re tired, stressed out and too often pushed to the wall. And then our kids—who should know better—argue, talk back, give us black looks or just ignore us altogether. No wonder we want to shake them silly. Seriously.
So what do I do to try to limit the number of times my feelings get the better of me?
Just as it is important to set our kids up for success, it is important to set ourselves up for success. Are you a morning person or an evening person? I am a morning person. In the morning, I am full of energy for creative parenting. Get to me after 8 p.m. and I am pretty much a witch. One of the best parenting decisions I made early on was to have my daughter’s father be in charge of bedtime—a time of day when he was still wide awake and happy to spend some time with her. Later, when she was school aged, she knew she had to ask me early and in advance for help with homework. If I knew she was going to need help, I could reserve some energy for the task; if she failed to ask me in advance, I would say no. Not to be mean. Just because I knew that I could do more damage yelling at her and making her feel bad about herself, unnecessarily.
We want our kids to have every opportunity and we want to make them happy. To do that, we often say yes to classes and activities to which we should say no. I recently talked to a mom who is trying to decide between private and public school for her daughter. My advice to her was that unless the private school was going to provide a measurably better experience, she needed to take into account the benefit to the family system overall of going to school 5 minutes from home. Driving 20 minutes each way to and from school is stressful and sucks essential downtime from an already packed day. There are schools, of course, that are so perfect for your child that it makes you happy every time you think about her going there. That is a school worth driving to because it aligns so closely with your core values. Otherwise, make decisions that are going to streamline and simplify your life.
Have a Plan and a System
I loved going camping when I was a kid, but I didn’t love the tension between my parents around the packing and getting ready for the trip. It made me determined to make camping fun. One of the ways I did that was to make a system. I had checklists for everything that had to be put in the car, for what was in every box that got put in the car, and from the previous camping trip of what needed to be replaced before the next camping trip. Every camping trip we had the same menu—thereby assuring that I had everything I needed for whatever I was going to cook. Does even the sound of that suck the fun out of camping for you? Well, for it me, it meant we could leave at the drop of a hat (easy enough to transfer the boxes from storage to the garage) and that both my daughter and I knew who was responsible for what. Because of that, we went camping all the time without my ever feeling resentful at all the effort it took to give her a good time.
I think it is similarly worth it to work out systems and routines for weekly shopping, laundry, keeping track of sports equipment and who has what when, etc. A posted checklist for what needs to go out the door for each morning of the week (who has a violin lesson today, who has soccer) allows the whole family to take responsibility for making sure there are no extra trips back home to retrieve a forgotten item.
Work Together as a Family
If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I believe that families that do the work of the household together have more time to play together. Beyond the benefit to children’s development of doing chores, once kids are trained, it does take some of the stress and exhaustion off of parents—leaving them with more resources to interact with their kids warmly and playfully. Getting your kids to do chores does not happen all at once but, over time, I believe it adds greatly to family happiness, greatly reducing kids’ need to be defiant and parents’ anger levels.
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