As parents, our jobs never end; so it stands to reason that some days we are going to be a bit more high-strung than others; after all, it isn’t easy juggling family life, work and health on a daily basis.  As the demands for work and finances increase in a parents’ life, so does the stress.  And the ones who usually get caught in the middle are the children.  If mom and dad are feeling the weight of the world on their shoulders, chances are you are going to snap at your child at some point unless some of this pressure is released.

I remember being young and single and have experienced a parent totally losing it with their child in a grocery store (more specifically the cereal aisle).  I would often naively think to myself, “I will never yell at my child like that.”  But then reality sets in:  a few years later, with bills to pay and deadlines to meet, I am working from my home office when my daughter walks in, oblivious to the mounting stress I am feeling and starts asking me to play with her.  The first few times she asks, I patiently tell her that mommy is busy and that I will play with her later.  In fact, I find her antics cute and entertaining.  But she, being the persistent child that she is, keeps asking until the asking turns to whining.  As my eye starts twitching at her moaning and wailing, any patience I had earlier leaves me.  After all, I have deadlines to meet, paperwork to finish and bills to pay.  Finally it happens:  I raise my voice and in a boisterous tone I tell my daughter, “Mia, mommy is busy right now!  I will play with you later!”  Defeated, she lumbers out of the office, with her head low.  As she finds something else to do, the guilt and shame sets in.  Work is now impossible for me as I immediately regretted my actions.  If I had any focus before, it is now all but gone.

Situations like this are normal, and most parents experience this from time-to-time.  But if these sorts of outbursts become a regular habit, there are several consequences that can occur.  One, the child may get used to your fits of temper and not take them or your requests seriously.  They may also start demonstrating this behaviour towards their friends, siblings and also you as a parent.  Not to mention the effect it can have on their self-esteem.

Keep in mind that in some occasions, an upset like this is unavoidable; especially if it is in regards to a child’s safety.  If your child is wandering out into a street unaware, of course you are going to snap at your child.  But if this sort of constant and consistent scolding has become a habit, it may be good to start doing what you can to curb and reverse this behaviour before it results in negative condonations.

Here are some tips to support you in snapping less at your children:

1)    Don’t beat yourself up

Mistakes are good because they help us grow and learn how to do things better and more efficiently.  If you do have the occasional slip-up, let it go.  Keep in mind that as a parent, you are still learning how to be one.  In fact, there is never a time where you won’t be learning how to be a parent.  By the time your child is twenty, you are still having new parenting experiences.  So if you fly off the handle; be easy on yourself, learn from your mistake and course-correct.

2)    De-stress

When you set yourself up for success by giving yourself what you need, whether that be sleep, food or a massage, you set your children up for success too.  When you take time to distress and love yourself enough to give yourself what you need to be happy, your children only benefit.  Additionally, they will see you behaving this way and may even replicate it in their own lives.  You will be calmer, more collected and present, and if your child begins triggering you in some way, you will be more apt to respond to the situation instead of merely reacting to it.

3)    Take time for yourself

Adding onto tip number two, it is very important that you also take time for yourself to do whatever it is you love to do, whether that is reading a book, going out dancing or simply catching up on your favourite series.  Have me-time is another way of loving yourself.  If you have ever been on an airplane, the flight attendants usually tell parents that if the oxygen mask falls from the ceiling to put the mask on yourself first, then put it on your child.  The reason being is that, in an emergency situation, when most peoples’ rationale goes out the window, the only person that can look after a child is their parent.  You do your child no good if you are unconscious or unavailable for them.  So, make yourself available to them by taking care of you and loving yourself.

4)    Understand your own triggers. 

What sets you off?  What is stressing you out that you are taking it out on your child?  And more importantly, what can you do to ease the stress?  Understanding yourself and your triggers is not just some personal development mumbo jumbo, it is having the knowledge and awareness of preventing an outburst before it happens.  If you know that lack of sleep keeps you from being calm and collected, or money issues are weighing down on you, do whatever preventative measures you can so that these triggers don’t set you off in front of your child.  If you feel calmer once the bills are paid, then pay the bills in advance.  If you have made a habit of not getting enough sleep which turns you into a grumpy humbug in the morning, then start going to bed earlier.  Know yourself and your quirks, and do something about it.

5)    Take care of survival first.

People are interesting creatures:  we are capable of so much creativity and enlightenment, and at the same time that creativity, compassion and vitality can fly right out the window if our survival isn’t taken care of.  When basic needs are threatened, such as food, water and shelter, we fall into survival mode which isn’t necessarily healthy for our emotional and mental states. And what is worse is that our children pick up on it and naturally mimic their parents’ mental and emotional states.

If you are stressed most of the time, and find it hard to relax or not worry, then perhaps some form of intervention is needed; not just for you, but for your children as well.  Whether that means using a debt consolidation service, or getting a weekly massage, or spending some time in your man-or-woman-cave then by all means, do it!  If you need to drop your children off somewhere for a few hours such as your parents’ house, or perhaps a centre that offers additional hourly drop-off services such as Little Human Scholars in Petaling Jaya (wink wink), then take that much needed time for yourself by allowing trustworthy friends and family watch your children.  Again, when you take care of yourself and give yourself what you need, you are more able to take care of your children, be present with them, and be cool, calm and collected in otherwise stressful situations.

To find out more about our hourly drop-off services, now available on the weekends, click here.  Wishing you endless amounts of happy parenting experiences!

Jana Moreno