So, normally when you read a parenting blog about tantrums and meltdowns, you expect to hear examples of kids losing their minds and regressing to an infantile, irrational state of existence. Then, you expect some tangible tips on how to deal with the emotional hurricane and hopefully prevent it from happening again in the future.
Well, let’s try something different here. Let’s talk about the often overlooked, but very real parental tantrum.
How do I know parental tantrums are real? Because I’ve had them.
Why don’t we hear about parental tantrums? Because it’s uncomfortable to talk or think about having lost your mind and acted in a way you’re not proud of toward or around your kids.
It’s safe to talk about kids having tantrums because, hey, they’re kids! When it comes to owning your words and actions during times of extreme stress and intense emotion, things get complicated.
The urge to ignore the existence of your parental tantrums may be strong, but denying the fact that you may lose it from time to time leads to more frustrated outbursts. Once the cycle gains momentum, it can be hard to turn around.
So, just like you expected, here are five ways to deal with your very own parental tantrums and try to prevent them in the future.
Take two minutes now to think about the last few times you’ve lost your cool with or around your kids. Label those instances as parental tantrums so you have a word to organize your experiences, and so you are more likely to notice them when they happen again in the future.
This isn’t about guilt or shame; it’s about turning the lights on in the dark spaces you’d rather not see. This awareness allows you to gain some control over your thoughts, emotions, and experiences.
Be aware of and label your past parental tantrums.
Know Your Triggers
We all have triggers. Little things that push your buttons and often cause reactions that are much larger than the situation calls for. Some of mine are refrigerator doors left open, new or unworn clothes winding up in the laundry basket, and unused lunch items that never got unpacked.
I know it makes no rational sense that seeing a day-old yogurt in a lunchbox can send me into an emotional tailspin, especially when much weightier situations don’t register with as much intensity. But being honest about your triggers without judging them will help you see parental tantrums coming and give you a fighting chance of keeping your cool (or at least containing your eruption).
Get to know your triggers so they don’t sneak up on you.
Be kind to yourself, that is. This notion gets its very own bullet point because it’s easy to be tough on yourself as a parent, which leads to more negativity and ultimately more parental tantrums. You’re human. You have needs, and feelings, and expectations. Parenting it hard, and it’s just a part of your life, not your entire existence.
You have other responsibilities and feeling stressed or overwhelmed does not signify failure or inadequacy, it reflects the fact that you are a normal person who has limits and does not possess a magic wand or own a superhero cape. Welcome to the club!
Be kind and forgiving to yourself because you are a parent, but you’re also human.
Here’s where it gets hard. Once you realize that you are in the midst of a parental tantrum, it’s very hard to but the brakes on and stop in your tracks. Lots of neurological and physiological processes have started and it’s not easy to turn them around just by realizing what’s happening. You’ve seen your kids in this state, and you know all bets are off. So, until your body catches up to the rational, thinking part of your brain, your best bet is to wait, or float. Close your eyes if you can. Imagine you’re on your back floating.
There may be choppy waters around you or even a tsunami wave approaching, but your only job is to keep your nose above the water line so you can breathe and keep your muscles relaxed so you stay afloat. Note, your kids may think you’re crazy because in the midst of you losing your cool, you will stop and momentarily detach from the situation at hand. That’s fine. It’s better to say and do nothing than to pile on more angry actions that you’ll ultimately wish you could take back.
This step is by far the hardest to master as a parent because it’s not about apologizing. It’s about taking ownership of what you said or did while you were emotionally out-of-control and communicating to your child that you will make different choices in the future. I’ll give you the words, which you can edit to fit your situation: “It was not okay that I screamed at you/slammed things/threatened to cancel your birthday. I will make a better choice next time I’m upset.”
See, there’s no part in here where you say but. So, there’s no, “I’m sorry I yelled, BUT you weren’t listening.” Or, “I’m sorry I said those things, BUT you were being disrespectful.” Being accountable is just about you. What you said. What you did. What you will try to do differently in the future. This is probably the most powerful tip when it comes to turning the volume down on parental tantrums because you like to be right. We all do. And when you start saying, “I’ll make a better choice next time I’m upset,” I believe that you will.
Take ownership of your words and actions so you can make wiser choices in the future.
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