We all have bad days. And for me, on days that I have planned fun activities that my kids apparently don't think are fun, or my kid thinks listening to me is optional, or I am about to ask my kids for the 1000th times to stop messing around and brush their teeth because we are borderline too late to even attempt to go to church, I tend to let my frustration get the better of me. And while I am not great at recognizing the consequences my reactions, or overreactions, will cause right away, I have learned two things that can make a bad situation into an enriching one.
First, we use the anger iceberg. My therapist was the one that first introduced me to this resource from The Gottman Institute and I've found it helpful for not just myself, but for my kids. When we get upset, anger isn't usually the primary emotion yet it is the one most visible, or, in iceberg terms, it is what we see on the surface. What we don't see though, is that the iceberg is much bigger underneath the water. In the same way that there are so many other emotions, typically more than 1 at a time, that are the reasons we lash out.
While not all of my kids can read the emotions listed under the water of the iceberg, after we've talked about it enough, they begin to remember some of the common ones. When I get angry because I am about to ask my kids for the 1000th time to brush their teeth, I am more frustrated, annoyed and feel disrespected than just angry. I like that this begins a conversation about feelings and helps the kids open up more about other emotions running through them.
The second thing I've had to learn is I need to apologize. When one of my kids takes a toy from their sibling or accidentally lands on their sister after not watching where their cartwheel will land, I ask them what they can do to help the other person feel better. We ask if they are okay, see if they want a hug or high-five and apologize for hurting them, whether it was intentional or not.
When I get angry with my kids, I hurt them emotionally. No one likes to be yelled at (although sometimes it seems like they do since they keep doing exactly what I have told them NOT TO DO so. many. times!!...) and I certainly don't want my kids to look back on their childhood and remember that mom was always so mad. So I say I'm sorry. And I remind them that I love them and that I will work harder on reacting better to the situation and ask them to try to listen better the first time. I avoid sentences that include "but"...like, "I'm sorry I yelled BUT you were being rude." Or, "I'm sorry that I got frustrated BUT I told you 10 times to clean up and you didn't". Instead I try, "I'm sorry that I spoke to you that way. I will definitely try harder to not get so angry and can you also try to do what I ask the first time I ask you?" Adding a "but" in the middle of your apology can seem like you are taking it back and I truly do want my kids to know I am sorry.
I'm not perfect. I know I will end up yelling about something soon that I will probably regret getting so upset about, yet with these tools in place I hope I can make progress on myself while also helping my kids work through their own feelings, too.
Hi, I'm Rebecca
I’m a wife, mom to 5 kids, former choir teacher, Christian and advice giver? I can honestly say I never expected to be the one giving advice when I so frequently ask for it, but the advice I’ve received is so valuable and must be shared! Here are some of the things I’ve learned so far!