Parents, we’ve all been there.
It has been a long day. Things haven’t gone as expected and there is more work to do in the evening. You are tired, frustrated, and are still thinking about your workday. You’ve asked your child to clean their room before heading out to play. They say they cleaned it, rush out the door… and then you step on a LEGO brick and see a pile of laundry on their floor.
How do you respond?
For some, we might start hobbling after the child thinking of all the things we will yell in front of their friends! “You are so lazy!” or “You are NEVER going outside to play again!”. For others, we may angrily sweep all of the LEGO bricks into a trash bag and donate it to a kid who will be grateful!
As parents, we are often faced with two choices:
We can react to our child’s behavior.
— OR —
We can model healthy behaviors regardless of our child’s choices.
With a pileup of frustration throughout the day, we are at risk to react harshly towards our children. Without recognizing where our frustration is coming from, we are more likely to transfer our stress to our children.
With increased awareness of our emotions, we can focus more on the issue at hand, in this case, the expectation of a clean room. Then, we can model a helpful response to our disappointment in their room-cleaning efforts. To become more aware, consider the following:
Take advantage of transition times: On the ride home from work, check your emotions. Take a moment of silence or a walk in the yard to consider exactly what is upsetting you. Knowing the root cause of your emotions is the first step to avoid reacting to your children’s behaviors and start modeling helpful responses.
Ask yourself: What triggered any stress or frustration today? How can I destress in the moment so I can respond to my child in a loving way?
Take ownership of your emotions: How often have you heard someone say “You’re making me angry!” With this perspective, we assume someone else is at fault for our feelings, and we are not accountable to our response thereafter. However, when we accept that we have a choice in our feelings and take ownership of how we are feeling, we can then take control of how we respond. In the situation above, we can own just how frustrated we actually are at the unkempt room and make a more conscious and helpful decision on how to react with a healthy response.
As parents, we have the great opportunity to model to our kids (of any age) a respectful and helpful response to emotions. Now maybe, when the next LEGO incident occurs, we will be able to approach the issue with awareness of our feelings and choose a reaction that will demonstrate love and a healthy response to our frustration.