When I was a teenager, I hated babysitting.
Seriously. So many girls at church would jump at the chance to babysit, and me? Nope. Nuh-uh, no thank you.
…oh gosh, please don’t make me.
I blamed it on being the youngest in my family. I blamed it on not understanding kids. I blamed it on not liking kids.
But it basically came down to one simple fact: I just did. Not. Have. The. PATIENCE.
It’s funny, because most people I know think of me as a very patient person. And with adults, I totally am. I get their problems. I get they’re tired, or busy, or hungry. I know that if I can’t guess what they want, they’ll eventually tell me. If I need them to do something, I ask them, and I get a straight answer.
But little kids don’t do that. Kids, especially little kids, could not be reasoned with or easily understood. Babies were the absolute worst. I had no patience for taking the time to figure out what they wanted or how to communicate with them…so I just never did.
Well, you can imagine that worked out fantastically for me when I had my own kids.
Like with most things about having your own kids, things change, especially your perspective, and a lot of things just–click!–fell into place for me. It was so much easier to understand them when I was forced to deal with one 24/7. Talk about a total immersion program.
But honestly…my patience still fell short.
Three kids later, a million life lessons learned, and my kids were still driving me crazy!!!
I loved them, but I told them to do something, and they wouldn’t (or, sometimes more frustratingly, they couldn’t).
I loved them, but I asked what happened, and I couldn’t get a straight answer.
I loved them, but I told them not to do that, and they didn’t listen, and now someone’s hurt or something’s broken.
I found myself yelling a lot. I cried a lot. I made them cry a lot. And I just walked around feeling awful. A lot. I was a total rage monster and I couldn’t figure out why.
I was having total Mommy Tantrums.
I didn’t know those were a thing. No one talked about them. I’ve read about them now, and had friends mention them (oh gosh thank goodness for friends who can open up about these things so you don’t feel like a total failure) and I was totally having them.
So I started approaching my impatience…differently.
First, I tried to spend more time communicating with my kids.
What did they need that was keeping them from listening? Was I not explaining things correctly? Were they hungry? Tired? Angry? Scared? Did they even know what I was asking them to do?
Often, I found there was a hitch in my communication. Or I’d overlooked something. And yes, it took patience to stop and figure it out instead of jumping straight to yelling about it, but call this a practice in self control. I made a decision that I was going to try and find the problem instead of freaking out, so that’s what I started doing.
Second, I started treating my own tantrums the same way I treated theirs.
Obviously, Plan A (stopping and exercising self control) didn’t always work. I’m only human after all.
At that point, I resorted to Plan B.
I made myself stop. I made myself take deep breaths until I calmed down. If I needed to, I sent myself to my room to calm down. Sometimes I couldn’t make it that far without crying, and I would sit down on the floor and cover my face just to give myself some space. I gave hugs and kisses and apologized. I made it right as best I could. I literally took what I told them to do when they had a tantrum, step-by-step, and made myself do it too.
You know how much this helped??
There’s a lot to be said for holding yourself to the same standard you hold your kids to. And it was very, very obvious that that’s what I was doing when I told them I had to be in time out and I went to my room.
And the couple times I sat down and covered my face and cried? My kids were right there to give hugs and ask if I was okay. I always thought it was terrible to “show weakness” and cry in front of your kids, but some of my biggest breakthroughs with them have been that way.
I promise not all of them. I’m not a total downer of a parent.
Third, I tried removing the “but”.
That sounds a little silly if you say it out loud. But seriously (oops, there’s that darn but again), I needed to remove the “but” from “I loved them, but I told them” because when I started getting angry, they couldn’t see the “I love them” only the “but you always do this wrong“.
Honestly, at some point, I couldn’t even see the “I love them” sometimes.
My anger stemmed from impatience, which stemmed from having my priorities backwards. More on that later. But for now…I worked hard at loving them first.
They still needed discipline, sure, and they still needed to be educated, but approaching it with love instead of anger was extremely helpful for keeping the horrible Mommy Tantrums at bay.
Fourth, I tried to get more time for myself.
Half the time, I realized when I was raging, I had eaten terribly for days, I hadn’t showered, I hadn’t picked up a book or watched a TV show that wasn’t a kids’ one in ages, I hadn’t spent any time with adults.
Taking care of myself and giving myself space helped me clear my head and be a real person. I am usually a very happy, bubbly person. I talk nonstop. I like to make people smile. I bake cookies and hand them out like…well, like cookies. And when I didn’t set aside time to recharge, I wasn’t my usual self. Which made me very impatient and unkind.
In the end, I am the adult now. Which is weird, honestly. I’m pretty sure there’s supposed to be a handbook that goes with this, but I must have missed that.
It’s my job to lead by example.
It’s my job to have better self-control than they do.
It’s my job to be patient.
Some may argue that it shouldn’t be about it “being your job”, I should just be accountable…and you’re right. Framing it as a job makes it a social contract for me, a set of inescapable obligations, and for me that holds weight. Maybe it shouldn’t, but it does.
Phrase it however you need to.
Be the adult.
Be patient. Be kind and gentle. Remember what kind of parent you want to be and do your best to be it. Because I bet remembering that person will help you rein in your patience and get back on track. Maybe not 100%, maybe not right away, but it will.
And dude, if you ever need to vent…you just come over here and talk to me, because I can commiserate. (Seriously. Send me a message through my contact page. I’ll talk your ear off. Or listen my own ear off. Whatever works.)
Love you all! Remember who you are! Remember who your kids are! And keep on fighting that good ol’ parenting fight.
You have so totally got this.
What helps YOU have patience and avoid Mommy (or Daddy) Tantrums? Tell me about it in the comments below!