As a first mom, there have been times where I find myself losing my temper and ranting and yelling at my toddler’s behavior or actions, with much sadness and regret afterwards. It is because of this experience that I have regularly read on studies, articles, and journals on how to communicate more effectively with my little one and how to keep calm in doing so. Being a parent is tough, and the pressure we as parents place on ourselves makes it difficult to find balance and calmness during hectic and stressful situations.
What to do when you lose it literally…..
First, recognize that there is a high price in ranting, raving, screaming, and threatening you child. Regularly lashing out at or in front of your kids can do some very real damage to their psyches, says psychologist Matthew McKay, Ph.D., a professor at the Wright Institute in Berkeley, CA, and coauthor of When Anger Hurts Your Kids. “Studies have shown that parents who express a lot of anger in front of their kids end up with less empathetic children. These kids are more aggressive and more depressed than peers from calmer families, and they perform worse in school. Anger has a way of undermining a kid’s ability to adapt to the world,” McKay says.
Research also shows that the younger the child, the bigger the impact. “When children are little, you’re their universe,” says psychologist Robert Puff, Ph.D., author of Anger Work: How to Express Your Anger and Still Be Kind. “When you get angry, their world is shaken. By the time they get older, they have friends and other people in their lives to turn to, and that minimizes the impact.” Also worth noting: The occasional, nonabusive freak-out is generally much less damaging than regular fireworks, which send a child the message that he or she is not safe and that there’s something wrong with him, says McKay.
How to try and stay as a calmer mom…
In the heat of the moment of anger, visualize your child as a baby, says Sandra P. Thomas, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and coauthor ofUse Your Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Empowerment. “Older kids and teens are not adorable like babies, and sometimes they can be very obnoxious,” she explains. “When you remember them as the babies they once were, that can do some good.”
Try taking a break. “If you’re able, take a time-out and walk into another room, even if it’s just for a minute or two,” says psychologist Laura J. Petracek, Ph.D., author of The Anger Workbook for Women. The key here is getting some literal distance from the situation and recovering your sense of calm.
If you have already reacted in an angrily manner, the most important thing now is to own up to what you’ve done wrong. Don’t blame your child for triggering your impulsive outburst. A good example is to say “I am very disappointed at your carelessness, but I shouldn’t have yelled like that. It was wrong for me to lose it in that way, and I’m very sorry,’ ” advises Thomas. Please note that it is not a good idea to overdo the apology — if you dwell on it, it can make a child feel as if he’s truly been victimized.) Once you have apologized, one should promise that you will try your best not to do it again, comfort your child as needed, and move on.