Mum channels her parental rage and becomes scary
I never thought I’d be the kind of person who’d need to deal with parental rage. In my mind I have this image of being a fair but firm parent, one who is able to calmly guide my kids when they need it and set a good example. Since becoming a parent five years ago I’ve felt my patience dwindle into almost nothing, my guidance and calmness severely lacking. I’m quick to snap and my scary mummy voice just keeps getting louder and louder until I scare myself as well as the kids.
Maybe this is a cumulative effect of sleep deprivation and having to find our way as parents to two very lively boys without much guidance ourselves. This is so often the case now, with families living miles apart and less of a social structure to rely on. But it’s not a good situation and I feel sad that my boys don’t have a more calming influence from me.
Mindfulness and parental rage
I don’t want to be a scary mummy so I made a conscious decision to handle my anger and become calmer. Since finding mindfulness, I’ve been able to step back and become more accepting that this is how I am – I’m not that perfectly poised parent and sometimes I will get angry.
Life isn’t perfect, far from it, but we’re finding more of a balance. By using mindful techniques for myself and the boys I’m finding I can handle those flashpoints with a little more dignity and less scary mummy shouting.
When the kids are pushing your buttons it’s too easy to lose control and unleash that volcano of anger. When I’m an angry parent I find it hard to be reasonable, to deal with simple situations and I end up feeling like a total failure as a parent.
Fight or flight mama
When your brain goes into fight or flight mode, it’s using the primitive, emotional part. It means you can’t be reasonable in that moment or make rational decisions. This primitive system is useful in protecting us from dangerous situations; the problem is when the system kicks in over minor things, sending us over the edge into irrational parent rage. It’s important to regain some control if only to set a good example to your kids. How can we expect them to behave well if we regress to being toddlers every time a bit of milk is spilt?
Diffusing your parental rage
Here are some tried and trusted techniques worth giving a go. Even if they only give you a couple of minutes calm that’s better than no calm at all.
Focus on the out-breath
If the kids are safe i.e. not about to dash across a road, focus on your breathing particularly your out-breath for the next several breaths. See if you can make your out-breath longer than then in-breath. A longer out-breath triggers the parasympathetic nervous system which has a calming effect. Try counting to 5 as you breathe in and to 7 as you breathe out. A few of these should be enough to nip any rising anger in the bud leaving you more able to handle the unfolding situation.
Pay attention to the physical sensations
When you’re feeling angry or frustrated your body responds in kind. Your heartbeat increases and your breath becomes shallow. This increases your emotional arousal leading to greater physical tension and a vicious cycle begins. I’ve found focusing purely on the physical feelings for a minute or two and not on what’s going through my mind, induces calm.
Do a starfish
You could even try this starfish meditation. Try it for yourself if you’re at home (to avoid looking like a nutter counting their fingers in the street). Also a nice exercise for the little ones when you’re out and about; apparently kids counting their fingers is acceptable in public. How to do it; find a quiet place away from the shrieking kids, as you breathe in slowly, trace around the fingers on one hand. Focusing your mind and breath helps calm you and stop your thoughts spiralling into a potential mummy-tantrum.
I know, hard to think happy thoughts when your toddler has just weed on the carpet for the tenth time in 2 days. Try to re-frame your thoughts. Your little one probably didn’t make a mess to upset you, he’s still learning and hasn’t mastered the art of getting to the toilet in time. Maybe he’s been ill and it’s harder for him to know when he needs the loo. This kind of incident usually makes me feel furious and depending on how many other things I’ve had to deal with that day, can be the last straw, leading to me totally overreacting. I have to remember that as parents it’s our job to guide our kids. How can they remain calm if we’re shouting at them and being unreasonable ourselves?
Finally, be kind to yourself. So you screamed at the kids today, maybe swore, or threw something, we’re only human – and parents trying to make the best of it.
I’m still battling my inner scary mummy but using these techniques calmer mummy is coming out to play a lot more. How about you – are you a calm mummy or a scary mummy? Let me know below.
P.S: though I have a background in psychology, I’m not a therapist or trained counsellor. The techniques I describe here are ones I’ve come across in my mindfulness practice and from positive parenting sites.