Do you find yourself disciplining your kids non-stop? Here are 4 things to remember before you get mad at your kids that will keep you calm.
In one afternoon, I managed to discipline my son four times before realizing my grave mistake.
In one scenario, he moved a toy truck that his brother had been leaning on, and in another, spilled a cup of milk all over the dining table. Later, he pushed a swing without realizing that his brother was a mere few inches away from getting hit.
And finally, he moved the handle to a bassinet back and forth without realizing that doing so would break it.
So, what did I overlook?
No matter how wrong his actions may have been, he didn’t do them with bad intentions.
Take the scenarios with the truck and the swing. I scolded him for potentially harming his little brother, more afraid that someone would get hurt and assuming he should know better.
The scenario with the milk was as accident as accidents get. He knocked the cup over, but with the way I reacted, you would think he had done the Worst Thing Ever.
And the scene with the bassinet was when I realized my mistake in all this supposed disciplining. I saw his dejected face after I had scolded him to stop. The expression plainly said, “I’m in trouble again for something I don’t even know why.”
It was the expression told me I was losing my patience and that it was taking a toll on him. I needed to step back, stop reacting—and start parenting.
4 things to remember before getting mad at your child
We’ve all felt exasperated with our kids, especially when we have to discipline all day. Everything they do seems to warrant yet another “no” or explanation of why they need to stop.
Except we’re so immersed in the situation that we don’t take a step back to even examine whether our response is the right one. We’re exhausted and impatient, and they feel scolded and belittled.
Instead of disciplining immediately, remind yourself of these four points to shift your perspective:
1. Remember that she’s a child
Part of the reason we react so strongly when our kids do something wrong is our expectations. We know how to better hold a cup of milk or that we shouldn’t tinker with a bassinet too much before it breaks.
But kids don’t have that experience under their belt. They only have certain capabilities, both physically and mentally, and won’t know that handles can break or that a swing could hit someone.
Keep in mind that, however infuriating your child’s behavior might be, she’s still a child. Consider childhood as the time in her life when she should be practicing and making mistakes, when the stakes aren’t so high.
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2. Determine your child’s intentions
The impulse driving your child’s actions aren’t malicious, entitled, defiant or angry. She might simply want to play or entertain and will grab a toy out of someone’s hand. She’s curious, and will want to run toward the park on a busy street. And accidents happen—even adults spill cups of milk.
Her intentions aren’t bad, just as wanting to play or be curious aren’t bad. You can then focus on explaining how her impulses are best saved for a more appropriate activity.
For instance, wanting to play with a toy is good, but explain that we don’t grab them from other people’s hands. Going to the park is exciting, but she can’t run off too far, especially when other drivers can’t see her.
Rather than scold my son, I should have said, “I know you want to play with that truck. But next time wait until your brother has stopped leaning on it or he’ll fall.”
3. Assess whether the action warrants your attention
Do you scold your child for every little thing as if he had just made the worst mistake? Sometimes we take it too far and get upset over the pettiest reason. Maybe he didn’t close the screen door all the way, wore muddy shoes inside the house, and yes, spilled a cup of milk on the table.
But can you imagine scolding your partner for doing the same thing? Would you get on his or her case for leaving a gap open when they closed the screen door?
Ask yourself whether his behavior is really that bad—more than likely, it isn’t. Yes, you’ll still need to remind him not to tread mud into the house. But you’re better off simply having him clean up his mess and letting him handle the consequence than getting mad.
4. Check in your feelings
Perhaps the best thing you can do when your child does something wrong is to check in with your feelings.
Notice how you feel. Are you annoyed that she did it again? Impatient because you now have to tend to cleaning up a mess? Angry at her for hurting her little brother?
Simply noticing your feelings can reset your response. Now you’re no longer reacting and saying things you’ll regret. Instead, you can take a step back and tone down your anger.
You likely won’t be chipper and happy, but you can avoid raising your voice or labeling her as “stubborn” or “naughty.” These slight changes can make a difference in how you’ll respond. Maybe you won’t give her a hard time, and instead have her clean up her own mess and to be more mindful.
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Getting angry at your child is a natural and common feeling, but one that you can often avoid. Start by remembering that she’s still a child—she doesn’t have the physical or mental abilities that adults do and will act accordingly.
Find out what her intentions were. Behind ever misbehavior is an impulse that likely isn’t rooted in trying to do wrong. Decide whether you even need to give the issue attention. You might be better off letting her handle it herself or at most, be neutral about your response.
And finally, check in with your feelings first. This “pause” will allow you to take a step back and respond with more intention and purpose.
Kids will be kids, and I should like to add, parents will be parents. We’ll make rash judgments and poor choices as all people do. But let’s remember that they’re not always out to make trouble.
After all, some things aren’t worth the discipline—especially over a cup of spilled milk.
Get more tips:
- The Most Powerful Way to Respond When You Feel Angry
- On Choosing to Turn a Bad Parenting Day into a Good One
- “Help! I Can’t Stop Yelling at My Child.”
- Unfair Reasons We Get Mad at Kids (And How to Change)
- What to Do when You Tell Your Kids “No” Too Often
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