Being tested as a parent

My eldest daughter when she was a toddler once had a friend round. I was curious when I could hear lots of laughter coming from upstairs. Her friend had poo’d in our hallway, and they had both put on their wellies and were marching up and down the hallway ‘through the mud’!

Years later my second daughter, aged 2, put a face-cloth in the bathroom sink and put both the taps on full. We discovered the bathroom with a few inches of water on the floor. We sent her downstairs whilst we used towels to mop up the water. When we were finished we went downstairs to discover that she had used a green pen to draw a line all around the living room –across the cream sofas and chairs, and on the wallpaper!!!

Pushing buttons

Children can push us to the limit. Sometimes it is a pattern of behaviour -something they do again and again -that drives us to distraction. Sometimes it is a one-off action which has our blood boiling –like hitting the baby or when my son walked home from nursery across busy roads on his own.

No one is perfect

Ok, I will have to confess that I do ‘lose it’ from time to time. We are not always prepared for the unexpected, and no-one is perfect. However, over my years as a mum, I have come across a few ways that can really help when my children have unexpectedly acted up.

5 great ways to stay calm

You may like to look at these and work out which ones you could use when you suddenly feel angry with your child:

  1. Stop and think before you act.
  2. Try to act calm even if you don’t feel it. Visualise yourself scooping up your emotions and feelings and putting them down next to you.
  3. Take a few deep breaths. Repeat a mantra such as ‘I CAN be the adult here’ ‘I can handle it’ or ‘He/She’s just a child’.
  4. Imagine a lovely scene, or think about how you would behave if this was a friend’s child or if your mother-in-law was in the room!
  5. Find something else to do for a minute or two. Go for a walk if it is safe, make a cup of tea or put Abba on very loud.

Practice and find what works for you

Think of a situation where you get angry and really feel it. Then try out your calming technique and see what works for you.  Practice whatever technique you choose frequently so you can access it easily when the red mist descends!

Re-frame children’s behaviour

I found it helps when I re-frame my child’s behaviour. Children experiment and try new things often without realising the consequences. I know that if my child is going to learn from their mistake I need to be calm and talk them through admitting their mistake, Help them work out how to make amends, work out what lesson they can learn and then forgive them so they can move on.

Stay calm, and say how you feel

I would just add that if I do lose my temper, then my child sees my anger as their punishment. They can’t learn the lesson from their mistake if they feel threatened or vulnerable by my shouting or blaming. The barriers come down and they go into ‘protection mode’.

When I can tell them how I feel when they behave in certain ways, they realise the impact of their behaviour and are much more likely to change what they do. And when I have done this and my child comes to me to make amends or tell me the lesson they learned I feel it is all worthwhile!

child behavioural expert
The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

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