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Feeling like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? 10 Ways to Be the Parent You Want to Be

Feeling like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? 10 Ways to Be the Parent You Want to Be

Parenting can be a rough ride. No matter how much we love our children, there will always be times when they stretch our patience to the limit. No one wants to lose control, but it can be difficult to stay calm, loving and logical when nerves are frayed and the two-year-old has just dropped the car keys into a sewage drain. These 10 tips will help keep your emotions in check when life hits the tipping point.

1. Maintain perspective

Is this a life or death situation? Is anyone going to lose a job, limb, marriage or bank account if the problem is not immediately resolved? Sometimes the answer is yes, and decisive – perhaps even aggressive – action is required. Usually, however, the stakes are much lower.

2. Act, don’t react

Children are incredibly talented at pushing buttons. Don’t let them goad you into a knee-jerk response. In particular, don’t allow yourself to be sidetracked by your child’s insulting language or by complaints about tangential issues. Focus on the primary problem; there will be time enough for the others some other day.

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3. The First Temper Tantrum to Manage is Yours

We tend to assume that hot-blooded parental anger is the result of misbehaving children. In reality, children seldom behave worse on angry days than on happy ones. The difference lies in the parent.

Exhaustion, stress at work, financial worries, poor eating habits and chemical mood swings can all change the way we react to our children. Learn to recognize your own temper tantrums for what they are. Resist the urge to pin the blame on someone else.

4. Look for Silver Linings

Every situation, no matter how grim, includes a few rays of hope and humor. Like the glowing sunbeams that light up the edge of storm clouds, these positive elements can help us find joy in the midst of crisis.

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Try to focus on the positive, even when it’s so miniscule as to be ludicrous: “Well, honey, the car broke down and now we have to walk five miles in the rain. But hey, at least you don’t have to take that math test today!”

5. Consider Pint-Sized Priorities

A popped balloon may not seem like a crisis to an adult, but ask any toddler and the answer will be quite different. Understanding your children’s priorities may not change your decisions as a parent, but it can help you not to go ballistic during a fifty-minute bout of adolescent self-pity. It can also help with Step 6.

6. Search for Holistic Solutions

A parent’s first response to squabbling siblings is often to enforce a parental decree. (“John, you take the orange cup. Mary, you’ll have to be happy with the blue one.”) The second instinct is to require a compromise, which is usually just a parental decree in disguise. (“Let’s switch off. John gets the orange cup today. Mary can have it tomorrow.”)

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Sometimes these techniques are appropriate and desirable, but often they keep us from reaching the ultimate goal: A solution that makes everyone happy.

Give John and Mary a chance to discover what they really care about. Is it the color of the cup? The size? Is there a patterned cup in the cupboard that Mary likes even better than the orange one? Would John be willing to give up the orange cup in exchange for a turn on Mary’s ipad? Get your children talking about solutions, and you’ll be surprised how inventive they are.

7. Decide not to be Bothered

Feelings aren’t a choice, but actions are. If your children’s bickering is getting on your nerves, by all means, take steps to alleviate it. But do so decisively, by creating and enforcing a rule. Do not allow yourself to become part of the squabble. Take a deep breath, remember that you are the parent, and take active control of your behavior.

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8. Make Eye Contact

It’s easy to yell instructions across the room while your arms are full of groceries – but it’s seldom effective. Slow down, free up your hands, and focus on one child at a time. If your child responds well to touch, place a gentle hand on her arm or shoulder. Speak in a normal tone of voice about what you’d like to have happen next. Create the option of eye contact, but do not force it.

9. Create Enough Space for a Resolution

When tempers are flaring, it can be hard to slow down and consider the needs of others. Help your children get along by deescalating the situation. This may require temporarily confiscating a disputed toy or sending children someplace where they can be alone, but it may also be as simple requiring that children don’t all talk at once. Make sure everyone has a chance to speak and be heard. Help each child to know that his needs are important.

10. Take Steps to Reduce Future Stress

The best time to solve a problem is before it even happens. After a crisis situation has been resolved, take time to ask yourself how things got so intense in the first place. Are there actions you could have taken to head off the conflict earlier? Do the children need more sleep, healthier food, or more one-on-one time with adults? Life is tough, and no one is perfect, but there’s always a silver lining: Every conflict gives us tools to help manage the next one.

Featured photo credit: ecerroni via morguefile.com

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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