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Losing Your Cool Can Be a Positive Parenting Experience

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Three-quarters of the Java Family are quite passionate when expressing their opinions and emotions — and those happen to be the three who are together most of the day. So there are many opportunities for tempers to flare, usually between the siblings, but sometimes the inevitable bickering or poutiness causes me to lose my good humor as well.

Although I try to keep things in perspective and remember who the adult is around here (ME! Right? Just checking…), sometimes, even I am prone to my own temper tantrum. It may be a quick one-sentence of yelling. Or it may be an all-out grumpy day. I’m not proud of it, but I’ll own up to it.

But here is the key thing: all does not have to be lost. It is what you do AFTER you yell that really makes a difference.

My parents grew up in the generation when parents were the Supreme Rulers of the Earth and the concept of apologizing to a child was non-existent. They meant well, and they did lots of other things wonderfully well, but apologizing was not something they did. It wasn’t until I read Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families
that I realized just how important it is for parents to apologize to children.

First, it demonstrates that we are human — this is important not only to reveal our imperfections, but so that children will eventually realize that we also have feelings — in other words, as long as we keep ourselves up on a pedestal we can’t also blame our children for not treating us like humans. Second, it models good behavior for them in all their relationships — that when one makes a mistake, one should apologize. And finally, it re-establishes the relationship — it’s a touch point to say, “I still love you.”

I actually apologized to my son before he could even speak, but the first time I remember apologizing to my son when he could respond, I remember him saying how it hurt his feelings when he yelled. And I explained how it upset me when he acted a certain way, and that while yelling wasn’t the right way for me to respond, that his actions upset me. And then I explained that no matter what, I loved him, and that seemed to make him feel relieved because he let out a huge sigh and hugged me tightly. When we’re having a rough day and he’s not listening and I’m tired of repeating myself, all I have to do is say, “Please don’t make me turn into a yelling mommy” and he’ll straighten right up. He is able to see how our actions impact each other.

I have found this method of apologizing works with my daughter as well. She gets particularly upset when I show any displeasure with her, so she needs lots of reassuring, and knowing that Mommy is sorry helps.

Of course, the best thing is to avoid getting so worked up in the first place.

We use the 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 (123 Magic)
technique in our house and that has definitely cut down on tantrums (from the kids) in our household. Finding the right way to communicate about your expectations and the consequences about those expectations — whatever that method is — is key. Then employing some of the same techniques you teach your children for dealing with their frustrations — count it out, walk away from the situation, take a deep breath and talk it through — it may be a different technique for each situation. I remember putting MYSELF on a time-out because I knew I was getting too crabby — I just put the TV on PBS, got the kids settled, and went into another room for a few minutes so I could pull myself together and get into a better frame of mind.

And when I’ve had one of those days where I’ve really just blown it, I do exactly what they said in the video — I settle down to watch an episode of Supernanny or Nanny 911 and then I feel much, much better. Of course I’m not sure what THOSE parents do to feel better…