How dare he act that way” I thought as my toddler threw a tantrum while I left my friend’s house. “I don’t want to go home!” he screamed as I picked him up. His little legs were still kicking as he and I went to the car.
“Bad mom” echoed in my head. What am I doing wrong? I was angry and ashamed, feeling like a failure. Moms aren’t supposed to be angry, at least according to Instagram. But the feelings are real when your kid has a meltdown in the cereal aisle in Walmart.
Does the behavior of your kids bring out the worst in you, especially in the summer when kids seem to do nothing but irritate each other and you?
How do you manage your emotions when your kid can’t manage his?
- Remove shame. It’s natural for a parent to feel frustrated, embarrassed, irritated or angry when your child has an outburst. But shaming yourself or your child makes the situation worse for both of you. Shame causes you to react out of self-preservation rather than tending to your child and responding appropriately to their behavior.
- Self-regulate so you can help rather than react. Get a drink of water, walk to another room, lower your heart rate by taking deep breaths. Take a timeout of any kind. If you’re in a public place, worry less about what others think and more about your child’s needs. It’s hard for your kids to do what you can’t do yourself.
- Ask the Holy Spirit for assistance. When you have a relationship with Jesus Christ, His counselor and helper live in you. The Holy Spirit transforms in you what you can’t do yourself. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. Ask God for help in the moment. He knows what your child needs. Ask Him for wisdom and perspective. He will meet your needs.
- Be on the same team as your child. In these moments, your natural self will tell you that your kid needs to obey you at all costs. It will tell you that threats, yelling, shaming, and asking stupid questions will cause them to comply and settle down. But these responses can invoke a power struggle between you and your child and position you against each other. Instead, be on the same team with him. You’re for him, not against him. He needs you to be the adult and help him regulate, because he can’t do it on his own.
- Deal with the “why” behind the behavior when you’ve both calmed down. There is some need your child’s trying to communicate. It might be frustration, feeling tired, or being overwhelmed. He might need choices. But it might be a bigger issue that you must tend to, with grace and truth. A child’s behavior says what he doesn’t have the vocabulary to say, even teens. Look beyond the behavior, but also be open to the responsibility you may have in driving the need behind the behavior.
Friend, the struggle is common and you’re not alone. Reach out to other moms, a mentor, or a professional for support. Additional helpful resources are: Calming the Angry Child by Tricia Goyer, The Connected Child by Karen Purvis, and Balance, Busyness, and Not Doing It All, which deals with underlying stressors that drive your responses.
Lord, help each mom struggling with her emotions, no matter what stage of parenting she’s in. Equip her every need, according to your glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). Amen.
Love to you!