Loving when you want to scream

Parents… I KNOW I’m not alone in this. Picture, if you will…

scream and shout

Photo credit: mdanys

Your kid is acting up. Big time. They have lost their ever-loving mind, and are beyond reason. In the middle of a full-fledged tantrum, your little one hauls off and smacks you across the face. Your eyes fill with tears, you see stars, and then you see RED.

Now stop.

How do you react? Do you yell? Scream? Retaliate? Or are you able to find compassion? Empathy? Understanding?

I’ve done both. I’ve reacted badly, allowing my anger to color my response. Lately, though, I’ve been working very hard on reacting with love.

What makes a child freak out like that? What brings on that level of tantrum in the first place? I believe that it’s one of three things. Hunger, sleep deprivation, or fear. I don’t mean that kids don’t get angry, frustrated, or just plain grumpy, but when things reach a fever pitch, there’s usually one of the primary drivers behind it – hunger, lack of sleep or fear. Reacting with anger or frustration only exacerbates the problem. So, I’m trying to react with love, understanding and compassion.

I’m not saying that it’s OK for my kid to hit me. Absolutely not. But if I can reach her through the incoherent haze of fury, and let her know that she’s safe, she’s loved, she’s being heard… then typically, she will calm down and we can talk about what’s happening. If I react at her level, screaming and yelling, then I’m guaranteed an epic battle, and I’m not guaranteed a win.

Cuddle Time

Photo credit: ~Dezz~

So, exactly how does one react with compassion, while seeing red? It isn’t easy. I try to tell myself in the heat of the moment that whatever she is doing, it’s not by her choice. She’s reacting from instinct, and it’s up to me to bring reason into the situation.

I literally repeat to myself, “this isn’t her, this isn’t her…” and what I’m telling myself is that whatever is happening, my daughter isn’t in control. Remembering this really helps me empathize with her – how scared she must be feeling to be so far out of control.

Then it’s usually much easier to react with compassion and love. Sometimes I have to do something really off the wall to get her to snap out of the tantrum. I typically pretend to cry along with her, which she hates. She gets angry that I’m crying, and then I tell her that I’ll stop if she stops.

We both get a moment to compose ourselves, and there’s always a hug. I tell her I love her no matter what, and then we talk about what happened, why she got upset, and how she can react better next time.

Controlling my emotions in the face of her raw emotions is the one of the hardest thing I do these days. But I’ve seen the difference in how she reacts to me when I respond with compassion as opposed to anger, and it’s amazing.

How do you keep from overreacting when your kids are out of control?

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Grief, guilt, longing – working parenthood

Me with my Emma

Me with my Emma

Today I wanted to talk a little bit about one of the reasons I search for ways to change myself.  My husband and I have a young daughter, Emma.  She will be turning four in March.  Before we had her, I thought I wanted to be a career woman.  That feeling quickly evaporated once she was born.

I still love what I do for a living, but being away from her so much is really hard.  It hurts my heart to leave her every morning, and my soul dies a little on the occasions when I travel, and hear that she cried after I left, or that she had bad dreams about me leaving her forever.  No one could have prepared me for the depth of these feelings.

I spend as much time with Emma as possible when I’m home, and we have mommy-daughter dates on the weekends.  We go to the library, to the play area at the local mall, we’ll have play dates with her friends, and we do the weekly grocery shopping together.

But, there’s always this sense of, it’s not enough.  Like I’m letting both of us down by not being a stay at home mom to her.  I live with the guilt of a mother that isn’t available to her child 24/7/365.

I think that many working mothers (and fathers, too!!) feel what I feel.  I don’t imagine that I’m unique in this.  I haven’t yet found a way to lessen the feelings, though.  I plan to keep looking for the magic potion that will wipe away the grief, guilt, and longing that go along with being away from my “baby”.  That’s the thing I want to change about myself in this case.  I can’t stop working – that’s just not an option for us – so I need to find a way to live with this situation, and not have my heart torn in two.

Are you a working parent?  Have you found a way to cope with these feelings?