I never realized I had a short temper until my daughter became a toddler. In fact, after all my time teaching in elementary schools, I thought my patience was pretty spot-on. Because you need to keep your frustration in check when surrounded by so many little people, even if those kids are picking their noses and touching you repeatedly. Or pointing out your sweat stains to the whole class and the observing principal…
Yeah, I’ve always had my moments of annoyance, but I’d like to think I did a good job keeping my crap together. I used to be able to laugh off my daughter pooping all over the bathtub and I could take her tantrums in stride. But then I had my second baby, and my impatience and temper intensified. A screaming newborn, sleep deprivation, and a toddler who kept hitting me because I didn’t lay her teddy bear down in the exact right spot must have been the perfect recipe to turn me into a short-tempered mess of a mom.
Now I understand that my particular recipe of rage is a symptom of my Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, but that’s another article for another day. Until I realized my need for help, I did whatever I could to try to calm myself down when I felt like I was about to lose it with my two (going on 13) year old. In case you need help keeping your short temper in check as well, I’ll share my coping methods with you:
- Self-awareness: Stop. Just stop for 5 seconds and check yourself. What is causing you to get so upset? Are you hungry? Tired? Distracted? Fix those problems first because it’s not your child’s fault if those things are causing you to be short-tempered. It’s not her fault, so don’t blame or take it out on her.
- Your child is a human being with real emotions: I’m embarrassed to admit how often I forget this one. My kids are my subjects who must do what I say because I’M the parent, right? I’ll always know what’s right for them, right?
One day, I saw this on Facebook and it hit me right in the feels:
If I lose my temper easily and yell at her for accidently peeing over the toilet seat onto the floor, she’ll learn that going potty must be bad. If I yell when she gets in my way, she’ll learn mommy doesn’t want her around. If I yell and put her in a time out every time she gets upset, she’ll never learn to deal with her emotions in a healthy way. I constantly have to remind myself, after I’ve screamed at her, “What makes me think I can talk to her this way? There is no good reason to yell so loudly, so often at her.” So when you start to lose it with your kid, remind yourself that she’s a human being too, with real emotions. She can get hurt, angry, and sad, just like you.
- Get out of the situation: Some days, to get out of the situation I knew was going to make me lose my temper towards my toddler, I literally had to remove myself from that spot. I had to put the baby down, go outside, and walk around the house alone to cool off. Once I physically removed myself from the situation, I could think through how to approach. Sometimes you won’t need to physically leave. Just take a deep breath and think for a moment about what your child wants, why you’re getting so annoyed, and what you should do.
- Take a break: Every single parent needs to take a break from their kids every once in a while. For mothers who stay home with the kids all day, every day, I’d say this is the most vital to avoid blow-ups. I don’t care if your break is a relaxing massage or an errand to the grocery store without the kids for once—take that break. Walk extra slow through that grocery store and enjoy the time alone. These breaks are essential for emotional and mental health! A happier mom is a more patient mom.
- Swallow your pride and apologize: No one likes to admit they were wrong, and sometimes apologizing can be so hard. I hate realizing, and then intentionally pointing out, my weaknesses and the specific times I didn’t handle a situation well. But my sweet toddler, who is so quick to forgive me and run back into my arms after I yell, won’t always forgive and forget so quickly. So swallow that pride and shame and apologize. The times I humbly asked my husband or my daughter for forgiveness for lashing out at them, the resulting peace felt so sweet. This is always easier said than done, but do it. You’ll feel better about yourself and your kids will feel better about their mother.
- Forgive yourself: I’m still working on this one. Nothing makes me feel worse than when I’m blinded by red, then my eyes clear and I see my poor, sweet baby girl crying because she’s scared of the fury I just displayed. It’s hard to forgive yourself for causing any kind of pain or distress to your child. But you need to try. If you don’t try, you’ll sink even lower in despair. So please, understand you aren’t alone when you lose your temper, because being a mother is HARD. We all struggle in certain situations. Forgive yourself, apologize, and then move on with a renewed dedication to do better.
- Start medication: Do you find that you rage at the little things, like baby or toddler behaviors that are normal, and you can’t seem to stop yourself? Do you find yourself constantly in a bad or angry mood and you snap at any little need your children “bug” you with? If so, it may be time to get some medical help. No one should live every day seeing red. Get back to enjoying your little ones and all that they are learning. Get back to loving your Mamahood. If you need medication to help balance the chemicals in your brain, then so be it. There’s no shame in that.
Full disclosure—sometimes these techniques worked and sometimes I just couldn’t handle it. I sincerely hope at least one suggestion will help you speak more kindly to your little babies.