You see it everywhere: Parents pushed to the limit.
At Macy’s, a dad mocks his sobbing child. “Wahh wahh, I’m being such a baby!” he says, winking at me as if to say, “Aren’t kids ridiculous?” The boy cries even harder.
At the library, a mom yells at her child, “Be quiet! We’re going home now because you can’t remember to be quiet in the library!” She drags her out kicking and screaming.
On the sidewalk I overhear a dad saying to his boy, “Man! It’s only 8:30 in the morning and you’re already annoying me! I seriously can’t handle you right now!” His boy looks defeated.
You can tell I’m an eavesdropper from this post. Sorry-not-sorry! It’s partly an HSP thing– this hyperawareness of others’ emotions. It’s almost impossible for me to pass over a parent and child in conflict without taking it all in.
Trust me, I’ve had my meltdowns, too! I’m not really hot-headed or prone to anger, but when I reach my limit, I tend to get cold. I shut down. I might roll my eyes and give a guilt trip. I think that kind of coldness is just as hurtful as a full-blown mommy tantrum.
But fortunately, I’m steeped in enough awesome parenting resources that remind me over and over to be calm. Breathe. Be cool. Your kids are people, too, even when they are acting crazy. It’s normal for them to act crazy. They deserve to be treated with respect all the time, not just when they are angels. I repeat these things like mantras almost every day.
Janet Lansbury calls it wearing your superhero suit like a shield. I love that image. Because to your child, you are a superhero. You are your child’s fearless leader. You are bigger, stronger, wiser than they. You are their role model for how to handle overwhelming feelings. We add fuel to the fire when we are anything besides calm, consistent, and compassionate.
It’s so very hard to exude this zen attitude when your kid is crying and flailing in the frozen foods aisle and you have to leave your cart full of groceries in a hurry (I speak from experience.) But you’ve got to fake it til you make it. You’ve got to exercise those zen muscles until a chill response is second nature.
Here’s what it looks like for me:
Your child hits another child in public. You are mad, embarrassed and panicked. Breathe, walk over, and calmly but sternly say, “I won’t let you hit.” Hold down his hands and look him in the eye. If he hits again, repeat “I won’t let you hit. We need to go home now.” Pick up the kid and go home. As he throws a royal tantrum in the car, say “You sound frustrated and mad. You wanted to hit and you wanted to stay at the park, but I am taking you home. You can cry and let it all out. I’m here if you want to talk or cuddle.”
Calm, cool, empathetic. I guarantee, this strategy works better to simmer kids down than a mommy tantrum or that cold passive-aggressive thing I do. Promise.