Tag Archives: temper tantrums

Every little thing is gonna be alright

Be the example

Frustration, anger, upset, exhaustion, etc. These are all emotions of motherhood. (I know, there are the good emotions, too, like love, compassion, cuddling (that’s an emotion at our house), happiness, calm, joy, peace, etc.) But this is about the messy emotions that hurt.

I let those get out of control a lot when my kids were young. I didn’t have a good grasp on what it was I needed to keep those emotions in check. Turns out, that last one I mentioned in the list above, exhaustion, was the guiding emotion. He was the Big Kahuna, the one who basically set the tone for everything else.

When sleep was elusive with babies and toddlers in the house, Exhaustion moved in and took over. And when Exhaustion is in charge, Anger, Upset and Frustration are like groupies. They follow wherever Exhaustion leads.

It can be hard, for several reasons, for a new mom to recognize this. There’s the cute new baby that everyone is in love with—and because it’s so cute and cuddly, you’re losing sleep to stay awake and watch it sleep—or you’re wondering why everyone is so in love with this bundle that eats, poops and sleeps all the time, and these thoughts are keeping you up because you’re stressed because you feel like a bad mother. Then there are the constant loads of laundry. I.Mean.Constant.

And there are the expectations that you put on yourself. (OK, the expectations start with society, but we moms internalize them and they become our expectations if we’re not careful.) And these standards are high. We ran corporations, headed up major projects, hiked across Europe and made something of ourselves. This motherhood thing should be a cinch.

Haha. It’s not.

When we were doing all those other great things in our lives before kids, we did them in a non-hormonal state, without the responsibility for the most precious thing on earth—human life.

Turns out, becoming responsible for a new human life coincides directly with enhanced hormones and sleep deprivation.

So, what to do? Don’t let Exhaustion be in charge of you. He already has his groupies. Don’t be one, too.

If you’re a first-time mom, the solution is simple—not easy, but simple. Sleep when the baby sleeps and let your partner (or, if you’re a single mom, let anyone who is willing to help you with these things) do the laundry and cook the meals. Ask for help from neighbours, friends and family. Even better, accept it when it’s offered. There is no prize for doing it all. Seriously. No prize. (This hurt when I found out.)

Your calm, peaceful attitude will rub off on your baby. The less exhausted you are, the less stressed you are, the happier your baby will be. I’m not talking perfect bouncing cherub-faced baby all the time here. I’m just saying, deep down, your baby will be calmer when faced with upsets. Be the example, even at that young age.

If you are not a first-time mom and don’t have the luxury of sleeping when the baby sleeps because you have to make sure that the toddler doesn’t dump all the Cheerios on the floor and burn the house down, put the kids to bed at a decent hour (bedtime is between 7:00 and 7:30 pm in our house), spend some quality time with your partner (I’m talking a good solid connection but for a short period of time), then go to bed early.

I didn’t do this when my kids were little because I thought I had to do it all. And I wanted to spend a lot of time with my husband because, you know, he’s an adult and adults are really cool to talk to. But now that those years are behind me—and I suffer from terrible guilt attacks from how many bad emotions I consistently displayed in front of my kids—I realize that those years were short and my children and I would have been better served by lots of sleep so that Exhaustion could not be in charge.

Silver linings

There is always something good to come out of any bad circumstance. You just have to look for it. And the silver lining to my early years with my kids was that I had ample opportunity (more than I’d like to admit) to be an example of regaining control after losing it.

I wasn’t always good at it. Sometimes Exhaustion had me in its cold, iron grip and I just couldn’t squeeze out. And when I was very upset and Exhaustion was in charge of the upset instead of me, it often spiraled out of control and ended up in the most dramatic of upsets: the upset that I couldn’t seem to keep it together no matter how hard I tried.

But there were days of calm when things would happen unexpectedly and Upset and Anger would step up to the plate and I would reign them in by sheer will and my desire to be a better person and a better mom to my kids. (Those were days that followed nights of adequate sleep.)

So when I see that my children are tired and frustrated, my example is the best lesson for them. If you let yourself get frustrated at your child’s frustration, the situation escalates. Jan Blaxall, a professor of early childhood education at Fanshawe College in London, Ontario says, “Research shows that children learn how to regulate their emotions by watching their parents.” (Source: www.todaysparent.com/toddler/toddler-behaviour/how-to-deal-with-a-frustrated-toddler/).

So what did my angry outbursts and unhelpful self-care patterns teach my children? It taught them that getting upset and freaking out was the way to go when things didn’t go their way. It taught them that cooperating and helping each other was optional depending on their mood. And it taught them that when they couldn’t keep it together, they didn’t have to try harder, they could just fall down into a balling mass of tears and screams. (Yeah, I did that sometimes. I was that exhausted and unwilling to ask for help. Lesson learned.)

And this is a vicious cycle. The more upset I got, the more upset they got. We needed some peace in our lives.

And somehow, somewhere deep down inside me, I found that place where peace exists and I dragged it up into the lives of my children. And I saw an immediate change in their behaviour as it related directly to my behaviour.

And even now, with slightly older children and no babies in the house, sleep has to be a priority. If it isn’t, we open the door and invite Exhaustion in. And his groupies follow him. And they don’t make for a very nice family life.

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Insane … completely insane

Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

It appears I have something to learn from that.

Either that or accept that I’m completely insane and move on.

After a busy weekend and several late nights, I figured it would do my kids good to sleep for a bit longer this morning. I did attempt to wake them up at the usual time, but they were less than receptive. So I left them alone and got some stuff done around the house.

An hour later, I tried again. This time, they woke up and joined me for breakfast, but not without a whole hell of a lot of screaming and crying and whining about pajama bottoms being on the floor and too far away to reach from the warmth of the bed. (Apparently, my daughter was hot during the night and removed half of her pajamas in her sleep, flinging the unwanted bottoms across the room.)

Long story short, eventually everyone made it to the kitchen, consumed some breakfast then got ready for school/daycare/work.

Throughout the morning fiasco, I questioned why I let them sleep in at all. Every single time I let them sleep late, chaos ensues. The kids are upset, we’re all late, no one wants to cooperate. Some of it can be attributed to not eating breakfast on time. My kids, especially my oldest, can’t function if they’re hungry…and I pay for it—every time.

So I wonder, am I insane? If every time I let them sleep in, I get the same result (screaming, uncooperative children), why do I let them sleep in?

Because I’m insane. You’d think I’d learn from the results. But they are so cute when they’re sleeping. It’s hard to imagine them causing any kind of trouble. I suppose it’s nature’s way of preventing parents from abandoning their young. If they never looked sweet and angelic, we parents, exhausted, worn out and abused, probably wouldn’t hang around too long to care for the little screaming dictators. What do you think? Am I right? Maybe not right, but definitely insane. I’m going to let them sleep in tomorrow.

I’ll let you know how it turns out. (If you don’t hear from me after tomorrow, rest assured I’m enjoying my new padded cell…and the peace and quiet.)

P.S. The winner of the Apple TV from Staples Canada is Daniela Ferrante. Congratulations! I’ll email you.

Children are relentless

As I sit in my car at the school bus stop, waiting to pick up my daughter, my son screams repeatedly that he wants to “go in the seat”.

I can’t recall how it started, but it has been going on for about six minutes. (That might not seem like a long time to you, but please, allow me to trap you in a car on a freezing cold day with a screaming 3-year-old. Your perception of time will never be the same again.)

He has reduced himself to tears. He has had a coughing fit from screaming. I have tried cajoling him, distracting him, talking to him. Nothing works. He has resorted to alternating between a near deafening scream and the repeated mantra, “I wan go in yer seat!”

I had a headache when I picked him up at preschool. I have a migraine now.

And this afternoon started off with hugs and kisses.

What is a frazzled mom to do? Continue reading

On spoiling

If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them and half as much money.

I can’t remember who told me this, but it makes so much sense.

And so does the list below that I found on GoodEnoughMother.com. (The points in bold are from Good Enough Mother. She elaborates on her list on her site. I have chosen to make my own comments about each point below.)

  1. STOP HOVERING – they will figure it out on their own…eventually.
  2. DON’T GIVE THEM EVERYTHING – they’ll never learn the value of anything.
  3. MAKE SURE YOUR KIDS KNOW THEY ARE NOT THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE – if you don’t teach them this, someone else will.
  4. TEACH THEM LIFE IS NOT LINEAR – sometimes you have to go backward to go forward.
  5. LET THEM FAIL – it teaches them how to succeed.

And a little visual reminder…a cartoon that I quite like for its brutal honesty.

Screaming cartoon child

Boo boo Boo hoo

Waaaaaaa! Waaaaaaaaaa!

That’s me crying behind a locked bathroom door. It was the kids who had boo boos. But I was the one crying. How does that work? Continue reading

A trip to the dentist

The title of this post may lead you to believe that I recently accomplished another mundane parenting task. I took my daughter to the dentist. Continue reading

Rough morning exit

I got home very late. It was the company Christmas party. I was out enjoying myself with my colleagues while my husband enjoyed some time alone with the children. Continue reading