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  • Writer's pictureRachel Ruiz

It's okay to loose your cool sometimes

What to do when anger takes the parenting wheel.

If you haven't experienced parental rage this past year and a half, please tell us your secret. There's been so many changes to our family routines that even an adaptable, go with the flow person like me has lost their shit... too many times to count.

The logical mind knows in the moment that there's no reason to explode but everything in your body is like "Look out, it's gonna blow!" The emotions and tension well up inside you and are screaming to come out. I typically have one of three reactions - the blank face just walk away, the squeeze my face so hard sour lemon ergghhh, and the I will make everyone feel what I feel yelling spree.

Then, the guilt wells up. The aftershock. Did I really just say that? Did I explode over a banana peel? Am I cut out for this? This is the familiar refrain. Because I got upset, I'm now a ______ parent. Insert whatever adjective suits your worries.

What if we questioned this line of thinking? Is it actually okay for our kids to see us mad, overwhelmed, upset, and dare I say, explosive? Now of course I don't mean anything that will harm a child's safety. I'm talking about big emotional reactions. Big Feelings as we say in the toddler parent world.

Kids need to know our limits too as parents. In fact, it helps them develop a flexible mindset about how humans act. It tells them that people get upset, and they also get over it. Emotions are temporary and restraining them all the time makes it even more difficult to be a human. If parents are always calm, cool, and controlled, it impresses upon kids that life is a one note orchestra - when bad things happen, we have to react as if nothing affects us, or worse that we're simply okay with it. Showing our anger about little or big situations promotes the belief that we're allowed to experience a range of emotions about what life is, and emotions don't have to define our worth and character.

Now, there comes a time when the anger spills out and it hurts our kids. We've all been there, said something blaming or shaming. Take a moment and then re-engage. This is what I call "The Repair." Here's a few pointers for how to walk your kiddo through what just happened.

1. State the facts. Describe what happened. Avoid "you did this" and try to share from your POV.

"When I saw you throw that toy again, I got upset and I yelled."

"I didn't know when you were going to be home and I hadn't gotten a text so I got so worried that then I was mad."

"I had a long day at work and when I didn't get help with dinner, I kinda lost it."

2. Share how you feel. Now is not the time to make it about you. Use what you're experiencing to connect to what your kid might be feeling.

"I'm embarrassed that I did that. You might be wondering if I'm mad at you."

"I'm feeling overwhelmed right now. You're probably overwhelmed too seeing me act that way."

"I'm having a rough day and in a cranky mood. I bet you wish I hadn't taken that out on you."

3. Now, it's time to apologize. State what you will do next time.

"I'm really sorry I blamed you for my bad mood. That's not cool. Next time, I'm going to walk away until I'm ready to talk."

"It sucks that I let my anger spill all over you. I'm sorry. Next time, I will ask you in a respectful way."

"Wow, I'm so sorry I acted that way. There is no excuse to take things out on you. Next time, I will take a deep breath and choose to be kinder."

[For a non-verbal kiddo, you may use some words and then focus on a connecting activity. This means stop what you're doing and play with them. Reassure them that you are no longer angry and give them a hug or look that says "I love you."]

So you've channeled your anger into a teaching moment and a way to connect deeper with your child. When they get upset or overwhelmed in the future, they will remember how you showed your emotions and then repaired the relationship when needed.

It's okay to loose your cool sometimes. We want our kids to know our limits and trust the relationship we have with them. It's what we do in the aftermath that really matters.

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