Recently, my precious 2 ½ year old gave me a real test of patience. I’m not entirely sure that I would say I passed that test with flying colors. Allow me to explain…
On this particularly beautiful day, my sweet child decided that going through the front door of the house was far preferable than going in through the garage. She made this choice as we were already walking into the house through the garage, and she was alerting me to this at a full-volume scream. Now, I’m coming off a long day myself, not feeling very good, and my husband was away on business. (Basically, already not my best day.) I decided to humor her and walked through the house to the front door and took her out on the porch to then enter the house form the front. WRONG. Somehow, this only made it worse. Now I have the screaming banshee on the front porch for the whole neighborhood to enjoy my parenting skills.
Oh, and now she is refusing to come inside.
At this point, it’s possible that I may or may not have uttered a few words that I am now thankful she isn’t repeating. I picked her up and brought her into the house, shut the door, and took her into the kitchen. She is still mid-meltdown. And now, I am, too. So what great parenting thing did I do next? I actually put my hands on my head and screamed “WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO??” So now we are both in the kitchen crying, and neither of us knows what to do. It’s not my shining moment.
Here’s what I am proud of, though: I walked away. (Wait, what?) Yes, I walked away. I sat in a chair (within eyesight of my kiddo) and gave myself a minute to cry and catch my breath. Believe it or not, it helped.
So after maybe 2 minutes of taking some deep breaths and calming myself, I walked back over to my child, who is laying on the floor crying. I put my hand on her back and asked her to sit up, but I used my very best Calm Mommy voice. She did, and she let me pick her up. I sat her on the counter so we could be eye to eye. And then I told her I was sorry I yelled. I told her I thought we both felt frustrated and that sometimes mommy feels that way, just like she does. Then I told her how much I loved her and how no matter how frustrated I felt, I always love her. Then I wiped her tears, I wiped my tears, and I asked her if I could give her a big bear hug. (She let me, and it was awesome!) And then we made chicken nuggets for dinner and we had a really good evening.
So here’s what I want to point out about this: It’s okay for you to get upset! Parenting is tough, and you have to do it even when you don’t feel good, or are tired, or just want to have the night off. But when you feel that way, you can model something important for your precious pumpkin. You can show them it’s okay to stop and take a moment to collect yourself before you react in a way you wish you hadn’t. I had a lot of guilt about my reaction at first. And then I felt pretty good about what I did. I taught her to stop and check in with herself. And I held myself accountable. I turned it around. And when I brought myself back down, she was able to match what I was doing. And then we both felt better!
So stop and take a second when you need it! It’s okay!
Walk away and collect yourself (make sure your little one is safe, though). When you do this, you help both of you. And you might end up with a surprisingly amazing night!
Written by Jennifer Willis, MA, LPC- Intern
Supervised by Jennie Fincher, Ph.D, LPC-S