By Diana Ballon
From the print edition, March 2012
The three-year-old won’t stop whining about her sweater being itchy. The kids are bickering endlessly over whose turn it is to choose the bedtime story. And every time you go to the store together, they beg for something not on your list. Although my kids are no longer preschoolers, I still remember being frustrated by situations just like these.
Children can wear down even the most Zen parent, but it is important to distinguish between misbehaviour and behaviour that is age-appropriate but still annoying to us, explains Sara Dimerman, a Thornhill, Ont.-based child and family therapist and author. “When a child purposely misbehaves, it’s likely because of the attention that the misbehaviour receives,” she says, but sometimes our negative reactions are not the child’s fault. “We may be tired, hungry or irritated by something else.”
Frustration Is Normal
Parents don’t like to admit to losing their temper with their children; however, it’s important to be aware of how that anger is expressed, says Dimerman. “In other words, it is okay for parents to be angry and to express anger but not to express it with violence, ridicule, put-downs or name calling. And along with the words parents choose to use, they also need to monitor their body language (e.g., finger wagging) and overall physical demeanour.” If you raise your voice and shout at your kids, “they’re learning that that’s how you relate,” adds Vancouver parenting author and speaker Kathy Lynn.
How to Stay Cool, Calm and Collected
You’ve Lost Your Temper, Now What?
When to Get Help
If all these practical strategies don’t lessen your frustration, and you’re not enjoying your children the way you’d like to, you may need some support, whether it is talking to a friend, having your partner take over some of the times that are problematic or going for counselling. “If you’re angry many times during the day, it’s not healthy,” says Lynn. “If you’re angry many times during the week, that’s parenting.”