A letter from a reader after I published Parenting an Angry Child:
My son can be angry at times, but I often blame myself. I am a single mom of a 3 and 5 year old and needless to say, I lose my temper in ways that are totally unacceptable to me when I am under control! Screaming, snatching him up, out-of-control! I just don’t understand where it comes from.
I am much better now after reaching out to Dr. Laura Markham at ahaparenting.com and Hand in Hand Parenting, and some of the books on your list. Saved my life! But I still have bad days, and the guilt can be overwhelming! (like today)
I was wondering, what you do to stay calm during these trying times? Thank you again, for changing the world by supporting parents!
I responded to her that day and I’m going to publish here my response. As I have mentioned, this kind of thing is hard to talk about; we worry about saying the wrong thing or people getting the wrong impression. I still have those worries, but I am going to try to speak plainly here and relate what my experience has been. I realize not everything will apply to all situations.
One of the things I keep hearing over and over is, “I’m so glad to know I’m not alone.” The same is true for me. Over this past week during a couple rough patches, I found myself thinking of all of those responses and I too was so glad to know I’m not alone in wrestling with this.
Here is my reply:
Sometime, honestly, I just don’t manage to stay calm either. Same sort of out of control parenting rage takes over and I’m suddenly grabbing up my son and essentially tossing him in his room, screaming back at him; I hate it. I’m not telling you that like it’s a good thing, just so that you know you’re not the only one who has moments like that.
A couple strategies that have worked for me (because it’s usually only me home with the kids, so no chance to hand them over to another adult.)
- I’ve gone into my bedroom, locked the door and then walked out the backdoor and taken deep breaths. I can still hear my son scream and he hates that I’ve gone out back, but it gives me a chance to calm down enough to try again.
- I have put on loud music to drown out screaming in the car. He hates that too, but sometimes if I am not in a situation where I can’t pull over, I think it’s safer than me getting in a wreck from being distracted by screams.
- Lots and lots of “emergency plan changes” Like, OK- I think we’re going to have hot dogs and frozen peas for dinner in front of a movie. again. It is not my ideal that my son watch tons of movies, but I am only one person and I have three that need me. If putting on a movie is going to keep our evening from turning into a terrible yelling fest, I think it’s fine. (I mean, my kids do watch movies anyhow, but I’m saying sometimes I just scrap whatever plan I have and say, “Hey do you want to watch a movie?”)
Emergency plan change could also mean that we just DON’T do that extra errand I hoped to get in, that we get by on whatever’s in the pantry for dinner, or that I let my kids have a third bath for the day. It just means I let go of what I thought the day would be like and find a way to make things work. It certainly isn’t always easy and can get very wearing, but sometimes it’s necessary.
- I keep a ton of sensory activities on hand and know which ones are likely to grab his attention and calm him down (things like play dough, playing in the bean box, blowing bubbles, taking a bath.)
Ultimately, we do so much better if I manage to get us in a good routine and avoid the melt down cycle to begin with – very regular meals with very little sugar, regular sleep, outdoor play, consistent time to connect in a positive way.
All my best to you. Thanks for all the hard work you do. I know it’s not easy to always be trying to learn more and do better. Hugs,
On Tuesday I will share Part 2 – what else I would have in included in this reply if I had thought to. Until then, take care and thanks for stopping by!