HOW TO SNAP OUT OF SNAPPING AT YOUR KIDS

Photography: Fran Jorgensen | www.franjorgensen.com

By Sam Milam

This past week I’ve been struggling a lot. Struggling with balance, with taking care of my body (like eating because I’ve got too many other things that I want to do so I forget to eat), with taking my emotional temperature frequently, or with being distracted and detached from my kids.

The biggest cause of snapping at my kids is distraction. I’m working on something important to me and fail to recognize something important to them. This leads to a constant flow of, “Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama! Mama!” Screaming and tears and me feeling like, “WHAT??” And Momzilla comes out. Instead of that playful, gentle person that I strive to be.

Just tonight as we were reading stories before bed. We were all cozy and peaceful with our lamp on. They had chosen a glow in the dark Dora the Explorer Christmas book. The littlest just wanted the lights off to look at the glowing pages. So we did that for a bit. Then older wanted to read the pages and turn the lights off in between each page so we could see the glowing. Read and see. Read and see. Read and see. Then when it was at those read times and I had to flick the light on, the littlest would scream and cry and try and pull the lamp off the table while older is yelling at me to keep reading. Then little just falls on the whole book crying and I regretfully say, “just stop it!” And I drop my head into my hands. And both kids cry. Oldest cries saying, “I’ll give you a hug mom. It’s ok for baby to cry because it will make her feel better.” I mumble, “I know. I’m just having a hard time.” And he holds me (like the parent he is not. And the incredibly empathetic little boy that he is). And I try to calm down. I handled it poorly. I was grouchy. I was tired. I snapped right when I should be sending them off to dreamland feeling secure and loved.

Sometimes parenting is just completely and utterly overwhelming. It feels like there is no moment between the rope being nice and loose and the rope snapping. It feels like there is no warning. Just happy and calm to angry and hurtful.

The good news is that there is a moment in there. I would have seen it if I took my emotional temperature. If I labeled my feeling instead of just letting my reaction run wild without any rein on it. I could have stopped for a moment instead of pushing on with “I am going to read this story because it is bed time and everyone is supposed to be happy and calm and loving!” even though that isn’t what was happening. I should have said to myself, “I am feeling frustrated right now. My expectations are being disappointed.”

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. -Viktor E. Frankl

Expectations can be brutal. I can envision us all laying in our giant bed wearing matching jammies, freshly washed hair, smiling faces with dimples, cuddles and “I love you”s and “you’re the best story teller in the world, mom.” And sometimes we can achieve that. But  most of the time we can’t. Sometimes they have dreads forming in the hair that hasn’t been washed in 3 weeks, they scream and run away when it is teeth brushing time, and one sat on the other ones hair and made him cry, and they decided they wanted to switch pajamas even though they wouldn’t fit the other, and you are mad at yourself for getting a stupid glow in the dark book in the first place.

This list could go on and on. Unmet expectations. Reaction. Frustrated moment. Reaction. Reaction. Reaction.

It’s difficult to shift away and learn tools to stop living from one reaction to the next without any say in what your mouth is spouting. Our kids deserve patience and love and kindness. And WE deserve to give ourselves patience love and kindness. And tools.

HOW DO YOU SNAP OUT OF SNAPPING AT YOUR KIDS?

See page 2 for four key steps you can take…

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