Q: "Do you ever really lose it with your kids?"
A: I laugh rather sheepishly, thinking that they heard me yesterday from across the street screaming at my kids to stop fighting, from my apartment? I could have said, "not really, I try to stay calm around them, I don't want to give them any complexes, y'know." Like the one young, pretty, trendy mom I overheard in the park speaking to one of her friends on the same topic (I refrained from barfing. Was she for real?). To my friend's question, I decided to tell the truth. "Of course I do! I think we all do!"
I had some practice "losing it" before my own kids came along.
I think back to when I was a teacher and I lost it, I mean absolutely lost it with my 6th grade class. I felt so bad afterwards and so did my students. The next day, I could see they were really afraid of me and not responding in the same way as they did before my blow out, my tantrum. I feared that I permanently changed the tone of my class and I had such guilt. I confessed to a close colleague and true Master Teacher about what had happened and the effect this had on my students. I asked her, "what I should do?" She told me to simply explain to my students that "I was angry and frustrated. I lost my temper and I'm sorry. I will do my best not to let it happen again." That was it. I did just that. My class accepted my apology and we were all ready to move on.
I now try to practice the same technique with my children. While these types of incidents do happen with my own children on a more frequent basis than I am proud to admit, I feel that a simple appropriate apology that is genuine and pure can send a powerful message to your kids. For one, children will recognize that we are all capable of making mistakes, we are all capable of apologizing, we are all capable of forgiving and finally, that being honest about your mistakes at any age helps us move on.
Another important mantra that I tell myself is that "tomorrow is another day to be the parent I want to be." While I'd love the magic of repeating the mantra to work alone I know that is does not. After a bad day or even a good day I have to do some self assessing. When I lose it, I must ask myself "How could I have handled that better?", "What could I say the next time that happens?" Creating and thinking about strategies to deal with our kids behaviors and our tempers can stop it from happening again. And sometimes losing it, is really about me needing a break, a break from the kids and accepting that there is nothing wrong with that. Being honest about taking time away from your kids and taking care of yourself is being a good parent and can save you all from losing it.
As well as assessing when things go wrong, I have to self praise when I handle something right. Like when I don't yell out my son's name when I catch him doing something wrong in public, but quietly ask him to come over to me and tell him firmly but calmly that I want him to "stop punching his sister". Or that I found a calm solution to my daughter not wanting to get off the swing on the playground that she has been in too long and there is a line forming of angry nannies that think we are rude. Praising yourself can give a much needed faith in your parenting especially when you feel you suck. A good way to keep track of all the good stuff that you do is to write it down in a journal,if you have the time.
Doing the right thing is hard.
You can't always do it right. The idea of a super parent or a super teacher is a lofty goal and many times you end up losing it more if you're trying to achieve the title. All parents struggle at one time or another and I don't care how many books they have written, or how many degrees they have if they call themselves an "expert" or even if they answer parents questions on a blog. Professionals like myself have the theory, know the psychology and in some cases have the capacity to come up with some interesting strategies and solutions to issues, but make no mistake, we struggle too. The hope of our work is to suggest strategies so we can lose it a bit less and do a bit more so we can feel good for both our sakes and the sakes of our children.
***If you find hard to control your temper on a constant basis or feel you are reaching a point that you feel violent with your kids seek professional help from your child's pediatrician or call a 24 hour crisis help line like, The New York Foundling Hospital.