You know that feeling you get when the kids have been bickering for what feels like hours but probably only amounts to 15 minutes? The racing heartbeat, the clenched fists, and the headache slowly forming?
You know that mama bear instinct that kicks in when you witness a child being unfriendly to yours at the park? When you just want to approach that other child’s mother and confront her. Teach your child to be nice…you want to yell.
You know that exhaustion you experience when the kids have been sick for days, make that weeks, and your husband is working around the clock and you just can’t get any relief? I give up, you think. How much longer can this go on?
You guessed it. Temporary.
Despite the fact that it sometimes feels otherwise, emotions are actually a temporary state of mind. Emotions are simply spontaneous reactions to stimuli that include physiological changes.
Emotions feel very big at the time, but they are, in fact, temporary.
This is an important distinction to be made when it comes to parenting.
Children experience a wide range of emotions on a daily basis. This is not news to any of you. Children can have big reactions to small events and small reactions to big events. At times, they seem to have no reaction at all. It’s all in a day’s work when it comes to being a kid.
But parents also experience a wide range of emotions on a daily basis. Parents react to the behavior of their children, stress of everyday life, unwanted input from others (perceived or actual), and many other triggers throughout the day.
The good and bad news is that parents have ample opportunity to demonstrate appropriate (or inappropriate) reactions to these temporary emotions throughout each day. Parents have the opportunity to show kids that it’s perfectly acceptable to release an emotion, but that it’s best to address the actual source of the stress in a state of calm.
Parenting is hard work. It can be difficult to hold it together every single second of every single day…particularly when kids are sick, tired, bored, or just plain crabby.
It can be difficult to craft the perfect response when the same question is asked 337 times in a row or to remain patient when the kids are fighting over the same toy for the 7th time that day. It can be difficult to stay calm in the face of parental stress.
But staying calm is exactly what we need to do.
Staying calm teaches our children that we can cope with and work through these difficult emotions.
Staying calm teaches our children to stop, think about the problem, and find a reasonable solution.
Staying calm teaches our children to avoid acting in anger.
Staying calm teaches our children that it’s not a good idea to make big decisions based on temporary emotions.
Staying calm teaches our children that this, too, shall pass.
Staying calm just might create a generation of people who think before they act and consider the feelings of others before they speak.
The next time you feel the urge to just snap for a minute, or send everyone to their rooms, consider this: Your immediate reactions to these temporary emotions will shape how your children cope with similar emotions. Your facial expressions, your voice tone, your body language, and your words are all under the watchful eyes of a future generation.
Take that mommy (or daddy) time out, use deep breathing exercises, or head outside for a quick burst of fresh air. Do whatever you have to do to stay calm in the face of these temporary emotions so that you can teach your children that yelling and overreacting don’t work.
Cry when something is sad, label your frustration when something makes you mad, and verbalize your feelings often. But don’t make decisions based on those feelings. Make decisions when the feelings have been resolved.
Because three weeks of no television doesn’t really teach a valuable lesson anyway…
Take the time to teach your children that emotions are not to be controlled, but they are also not to be acted upon the instant they arise.
Take the time to teach your children how to release their emotions in a healthy way before dealing with the actual trigger.
Teach your children the power of feeling first, and acting second.
How do you cope with daily parenting stressors?
Katie is a Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist/Parenting Expert in Los Angeles, CA. She has a five year old daughter, three year old son, and a rock and roll husband who makes her life complete. Katie has a parenting advice blog, Practical Parenting, and can be found on Twitter. She also writes for moonfrye.