Being a mom is the most wonderful experience of my life! The days are bliss, children so well behaved, the house is clean, the laundry is all done and dinner is almost ready. I thought they said parenting was a challenge?
Ha ha!! Enough of the fairy tale. Some days, no matter how hard I struggle to keep my cool or keep the peace in the house, it’s just not going to happen. One of us is tired, hungry, stressed, not feeling quite right, or just plain having a bad day. Before I know it, tempers start flaring, everyone is on edge and the situation is starting to look dire.
On these days, my first instinct is to keep battling on. I think “There is no way I’m going to let my child push my buttons and get the best of me. Chores need doing, homework needs completing and gosh darn it, those things will get done because I’m the mom and that’s what I said needs to be done.” Anyone else with me?
Most days Mama ‘wins’ and tasks are accomplished without (too much) voice raising or yelling. Occasionally, the battle intensifies but somewhere deep in my brain I know nothing productive will ever be accomplished if we continue down our current path.
I know the yelling and lack of patience on my part is wrong but it seems like someone else is in control of me and I can’t stop my own meltdown. Sometimes my sweet girl will push back even harder against and other times I watch her spirit crumble while she tries to figure out what has happened to the mama who supposedly loves her.
So what is a frustrated parent supposed to do?
4 Ways To Turn A Bad Day Into A Good One When You’re A Parent
1. Keep Your Child’s Heart
Early in my parenting journey, I started researching the kind of parent I wanted to be. I read Keeping Our Children’s Heart by Steven and Teri Maxwell. This is a fantastic book and I think every parent should read it. The concept of ‘keeping your child’s heart’ can be a little different for everyone but for me, it means that no matter what else is going on, my daughter should always feel safe, loved and cherished.
Always showing your child love is really the essence of a parent’s job anyway. Even in the difficult moments when my patience no longer exists, my words and actions should still remain loving; I should not morph into a screaming, yelling, scary person. Remaining somewhat calm can be immensely difficult but it’s totally worth the effort.
In a few days or years, my daughter will not remember what the argument or bad day was about, but she will remember that I made her feel unloved or scared. Is this argument really worth hurting her heart and our long-term relationship? Is it worth yelling over a load of laundry? Which is more important-the chores or a broken heart?
My goal as a mom is to always keep my daughter’s heart in the forefront of my mind and actions. Occasionally, I lose sight of that goal and frustration and yelling creep into our day. When our day is really getting out of hand, I know it’s better to throw in the towel and do something completely different before someone’s feelings are irreparably hurt.
For me, this means a complete redirect for everyone. I stop everything, close my eyes and take a deep breath. After a few seconds, I announce that we’re going to do something else.
My daughter adores ice cream sundaes so a redirect for my family usually means an impromptu trip to the favorite ice cream shop. We’ve also gone for a bike ride, bounced on the trampoline, snuggled up and watched a TV show, and gone to the park. Other ideas that would work for us include singing songs, playing video games or playing a board game.
A change of scenery is the key for me and diffuses the situation quickly. It’s healthy to take a break from a tense situation and give everyone a little time to cool off. Any type of exercise, such as running around the playground, going for a walk or hike, even a tickle fight are so good for elevating serotonin levels (a natural stabilizer).
Several times, I have realized that it had been awhile since we had eaten and a snack to raise blood sugar levels was just the thing we needed. After our cooling off period and several good hugs later, I reevaluate whether we should go back to the point of meltdown or not. Sometimes we do, and other times the day doesn’t look at all like I had planned. And that’s ok too.
3. Ask For Forgiveness
When I’ve done a poor job keeping my child’s heart, I ask her for forgiveness. Just as I teach my child to apologize when she’s misbehaved, I need to model the humbling behavior of asking for forgiveness. Usually I’ll wrap her tight in my arms, give a big kiss, then gently ask for forgiveness, being detailed in what I am asking forgiveness for and why. A prayer usually follows.
For me, it sounds something like this: “I’m is so sorry for raising my voice and talking to you in a way that was upsetting and scary. I love my sweet girl to Saturn and back. You deserve the best from me. Sometimes I mess up and I’m sorry.”
The response from my little girl is usually “It’s ok, Mama. I love you too. I’m sorry I didn’t do what you asked.”
At this point, I find it best to discuss how or why the day spin so out of control. This needs to be done as objectively as possible so as not to cause additional hurt feelings but by no means does redirecting the day mean that everyone is off the hook for their bad behavior.
I explain what my expectations were and what behavior was incorrect on her part: “When I asked you to ____ (do dishes, do your homework, walk to the dog, etc.), it’s very frustrating and upsetting to me when you ___ (whine, talk back, try to negotiate). I expect you to do the things you’re asked, when you’re asked so that we can spend the rest of the day together. I love you. Let’s finish ___ together and go have fun.”
I don’t normally give consequences on these truly bad days when I’ve totally lost my temper. If life were fair, I sure would deserve some consequences myself. The guilt I feel is consequence enough.
Being a mom is the most incredible blessing I could ever have imagined. It is also more difficult and demanding than anyone ever told me. After almost 9 years of parenting, I’m starting to learn a few little tricks to make the difficult days a little more manageable.
My house may never be on the cover of a magazine or even presentable for company but as long as I never lose my little girl’s sweet smile over it, that’s all I need.
Aileen Helsley is creator of Adventures of a Real Mom. She lives in Upstate New York with her family and variety of farm animals. Although Aileen sometimes burns dinner and feels inadequate, she is loved by her family and is grateful for her crazy life.