Being a parent can be incredibly frustrating at times. When we shout, lose our temper, or can’t seem to control what our children do each of us has a voice inside that is critical of what we do. Our inner critic can sometimes make us feel useless and demoralised and feel like a bad parent. The trick is to notice it, recognise when we made a mistake and use it to motivate us to keep trying. We need to be realistic about what we are capable of achieving as a parent and think about what we can do that may help the situation. We may also need to change what we say to ourselves and think in ways that are helpful rather than harmful.
- Challenge the negative labels we use on ourselves
When your inner voice starts calling you useless, stupid or a bad parent catch yourself thinking those thoughts and think ‘is this true?’ Work out what it is that is making you feel that way and what positive statement you could use such as ‘I’m trying my best’, I found that situation really difficult’ or ‘everyone makes mistakes’
- Use positive statements
Positive affirmations are useful to help us feel more confident. ‘I love my child and work hard to be the best parent I can be’ ‘I am here when my child really needs me’ ‘I am constantly striving to be a better parent’ ‘If I am gentle with myself I will show my child self-acceptance’
- Avoid judging other people’s intentions
One of the hardest habits to break as an adult is where we feel other people are out to deliberately wind us up. Sometimes other people can be thoughtless, but they rarely think ‘I’m going to wind you up’. Our children may say or do things that drive us mad. Once again it is usually because they are operating with a different agenda to ours – they get caught up with what they are doing. They might say something like ‘I hate you’ when what they actually mean is ‘I don’t want to do this and I’m feeling really annoyed with you right now’. If we can be realistic about others’ intentions it helps us feel much better than when we react to what we perceive as a deliberate attempt to harm us.
- Don’t catastrophise
When our child does something wrong, parents often think that it will mean they will grow up to be criminal, spiteful, angry, mean or a horrible person to live with. Children need to make mistakes to learn, and often act up when they feel jealous, annoyed, worthless or lack confidence. All behaviour has a reason. What is important is we find out what is causing our children to act that way and find ways to help them with their emotions and feelings. So when you imagine the worst about the future, stop yourself and focus instead on how you will cope with the present situation.
- Learn how to control your anger
For many parents, anger management is the one area where we fall down. Children are hard-wired to test boundaries and push our buttons. But when we shout, give harsh punishments or hit our children we are giving them a lesson in how to control their temper when they are frustrated. Find what works for you to keep yourself calm. How can you create a gap between what happens and how you react to it? It could be giving yourself some time out, counting from one to ten, taking three deep breaths or repeating a mantra such as ‘ I can be the adult here’ or ‘ I can stay calm’.
- Plan a time to work through worries.
If you constantly find small things are making you worried or angry, schedule a time to think about them. Keep a list during the week of everything that angers or worries you and go through it at a scheduled time. Work out what you think would really help for each point. You may find that by the time you get to review your list, some of the points will no longer upset you
- Give yourself credit
When you do something well notice it. If you have handled a situation badly in the past and kept your cool or managed to say assertively what you need, spend a few minutes acknowledging yourself. So often we notice all the bad things and don’t give ourselves a pat on the back for our good points or efforts. So take the time to notice and praise yourself when you make progress or do something well.
- Look after yourself
Just as a car needs petrol, we all need some fuel to keep up our motivation. As a parent, we can sometimes feel that we are at the beck and call of our children and family. It is important to spend some time doing little things that give us pleasure. Work out what you love to do. What helps you relax? What do you enjoy doing? What makes you laugh? Plan to build little activities (such as listening to your favourite song or drinking a lovely cup of coffee) into each day. Also plan some time each week when you can be away from your child and enjoy a few hours off. You will come back with renewed energy and feel recharged, ready to keep going again. Learn to ask for help when you need it, or do a swap with a friend.
- Think about the future in a positive way.
Imagine yourself in ten or fifteen years’ time looking back at your child and thinking ‘I did a great job as a parent. My child has some great qualities and values’ Think about what those qualities and values are, and spend your time as a parent noticing and commenting each time you see that quality in your child. Create a picture in your mind about how you want your children to turn out and constantly work to find ways to move towards that picture. Focus your thoughts on positively achieving your goal and coping rather than any shortcomings.
- Have a laugh
Life can be so serious. It is so important to sometimes have a laugh. When we feel bogged down and ready to cry, sometimes finding the humour in our situation can help us find a new perspective and just put the negativity and sheer awfulness of it all back in proportion. Sometimes spending time with friends can help us laugh, or watching a sitcom, comedian or humorous movie. Sometimes books can make us laugh out loud or silly videos on youtube. Whatever it takes to build some humour into your life.
- Have realistic expectations
It is good to keep a realistic viewpoint on what our children are capable of achieving at different ages. No child is perfect all the time. All children misbehave. All children have habits and annoying tendencies like making a mess or not being grateful for everything we give them. That is part of being a child. We need to give them opportunities to learn from mistakes. We also need to be realistic about what we are able to do at any one time. If we are overwhelmed with work or it’s the time of the month, we need to go easy on ourselves and stop ourselves from being too harsh with discipline at that time. We need to be tolerant and flexible in our expectations. And reframe what we are telling ourselves about their behaviour to reflect more accurately what is really happening.