I was having a bad parenting day. Everything was met with resistance, and my responses were less than helpful. But when I asked her, “Do you know what I love about you?” a smile slowly spread across my four year old’s face. “What?” she answered. My quick response was met with “What else?”
And we played this course correcting game for a good long time. And then she asked me, “You know what I love about you, mama?”
How to pull yourself out of a bad parenting day
Our day suddenly took a turn for the better. Here are five more ideas to get out of a bad day.
Unfilled tanks cause difficult days. And nothing fills my kiddos tanks more than sitting on the floor and playing. Some undivided attention goes a long way toward fixing a bad day.
And when the kiddos are napping or having their quiet time, find some time to fill your tank: read a book, watch a show or take a nap. The dishes will be there later. Promise.
2. Allow a treat
We don’t get lots of sugary treats at our house. But occasionally on a difficult day I’ve been known to ask, “Who wants ice cream?”
It’s less about the ice cream and more about the grace of a treat even though none of us “deserve” it. Grace all around does wonders for attitudes. Other treat ideas: give the kiddos a just-for-fun bath, let them pick a whole bunch of books for you to read together, or bake something with them.
3. Change scenes
Get outside. Fresh air and sunshine are great prescriptions for turning a day around. Bad weather? Leave the house. Go the mall. Call up a friend for a play date. Get lunch. I’ve even been known to put my kids in the car and drive around so I have some time to think, calm down and make a plan for the rest of the day.
Even if you can’t get outside, find a way to get all your bodies moving and get a little blood pumping through everyone’s veins:
- Play music and have a dance party.
- Race from one side of the house to the other.
- Jump up and down.
- Do somersaults in the middle of your living room.
- Make an obstacle course with dining room chairs and couch cushions.
5. Accomplish something
Sometimes the best way to turn around a bad day is to get something done. Doesn’t if feel good to know you’ve done something productive? Kids love a sense of accomplishment too!
So empty the dishwasher together. Pick up the playroom. Change the sheets. Fold a load of laundry and race the folded clothes to the bedrooms to put them away. Acknowledge the accomplishment and genuinely thank your child for helping you.
What can you learn from the moment?
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During difficult moments, I could place the blame on so many circumstances. I could point the finger at teething, or say that lack of sleep on my part made me feel unbelievably tired. I could also blame it on our temperaments, and how ironic it is that two, laid-back parents could produce one heck of a fireball.
And yet. Perhaps we also forget to see the world from our children’s perspective:
- We forget we have choices and can make them easily (“I want to eat cereal today”) whereas kids don’t (They eat what we place in front of them). They don’t always get to decide what clothes to wear or understand why we leave at a certain time on certain days.
- We forgot they may not have reached developmental milestones that enable them to manage emotions as they sort through more and more of them every day.
- With new words and impressive grammar, we overlook that they still have a long ways to go and can’t always express themselves as clearly as we can.
- And they may be at that age where they’re grappling with the realization that the world actually doesn’t revolve around them, and that they’re but one person in an abundance of others, pushing them to assert themselves more.
When these bad parenting days happen, choose to do better:
- Put the situation in perspective and reassure yourself that this will pass. Remind yourself your child is normally well-behaved.
- Pick your battles. If your child wanted to wear a bib all evening long, let him. Reserve the battles for more important issues like safety and hygiene.
- Don’t concede to unreasonable requests. Calmly tell your child your needs and why he can’t always get what he wants. Similarly, if he keeps switching between wants—he wants his hat on, only to want it off a second later—don’t give in. This behavior doesn’t need attention and can even get worse because of it.
- Praise good behavior. When your child is in his normally good mood, praise his actions: “Look at you, coloring your paper!”
- Give choices when possible. Offer two parent-approved choices to give him back a sense of power he may feel he has lost.
- Encourage good manners. If he shouts “Don’t want that!” respond with, “You can say, ‘No, thank you’.”
- Apologize for your poor behavior. Toddlers aren’t the only ones who misbehave. Say sorry for your own mistakes so he knows you make them too. He’ll know you truly feel terrible for disrespecting him.
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These bad parenting days remind me that I’m susceptible to reacting immaturely and in ways I wouldn’t be proud of. That even after practicing mindful parenting and remaining calm on most days, I too can make mistakes and lose my patience.
And perhaps most importantly, I realize that moms have bad days too, just like their kids.
Steph Fisher is a mom of two. She writes about simple living, learning, faith and parenting.
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