Ready to Snap? How to Catch Yourself and Get Back on Track

Photography: Poppy Peterson Photography | www.poppypeterson.com.au

By Dr. Laura Markham

Here’s how to start shifting your gears to get out of that irritable space.

“Can you give tips on how to stay connected when you feel irritable? I’m not yelling, but I’m not as respectful as I think I should be.” – Katherine 

We all have irritable days, when we find ourselves reacting to our child with impatience. We know what respect and compassion look like, but somehow we can’t find them at that moment. We might feel so fed up that connecting is the last thing we feel like doing.

As long as you catch yourself, apologize, and get yourself back on track, the humans who love you will forgive you. In fact, the way you repair those small relationship ruptures will teach your child some essential lessons about life and love.

Katherine’s question shows that she already knows the answer for those irritable times: Reconnect with your child, so you’re more emotionally generous and she’s more cooperative.

The hard part, of course, is that we can’t reconnect until we first shift out of that irritable place. So start by shifting gears. Here’s how.

  1. Notice your own impatience. 

You feel irritated, like your child is being a problem. And maybe she is. But instead of using that as permission to get mad, use it as your red flag that you need to stop and shift gears. Remind yourself that when you’re feeling really good, you respond to her with more emotional generosity.

What if your child is being really difficult, maybe even impossible? You can’t change your child directly, but you can change your own reaction. The more you can react with understanding, the more likely your child will calm down, too.

Remember, those are your emotions. Your child may be triggering them, but as you’re always telling your child, it’s your job to manage your own emotions.

Remember, those are your emotions. Your child may be triggering them, but as you’re always telling your child, it’s your job to manage your own emotions.

The only choice you have here is whether to make things better or worse. Can you choose love?

  1. Summon up all the compassion you can for yourself. 

Okay, you aren’t at your best right now. Maybe you’re being brusque or irritable or whining or snappish. That’s not a sign that you’re a bad person. It’s a sign that you need some help. Your job is to be the grown-up in the situation and give yourself that help! (As opposed to taking your upset out on someone else.) That starts with giving yourself some nurturing. Start by speaking tenderly to yourself, reassuring yourself.

See next page for 3 more tips…

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