It is easy for parents to lose their temper with children. Especially after a long day at work, coming back to tantrums at home can be frustrating, mind-boggling and downright exhausting. Or perhaps you have just soothed a crying baby, but you turn around and find that your 5 year old has spilled his food all over the floor.
Let’s face it, being a parent is tough and none of us ever had lessons on “How to be a Parent”. When faced with difficult situations, it is almost second nature to react negatively – whether it is yelling, spanking or punishing them. However, did you know that shouting at your kids can be highly detrimental in the long run? Studies have shown that by yelling, shouting or cursing at your child, you may increase the rate of delinquency and psychological issues of your child in future. Research has also shown that hitting your child is not more effective than other methods of disciplining and establishing control. In fact, excessive spanking in the long run may increase the level of subsequent misbehaviour.
When faced with difficult children and waning patience, it is easy to lose our temper and to give in to shouting or spanking. However, this is not healthy for you or your little one in the long run. So here is a guide on how you can better manage your emotions and be a more patient parent.
Remember that your child is still young. There are many things that a toddler cannot comprehend nor understand. For example, he will not understand why he cannot have too many sweets, or why he cannot have that toy that he so badly wants.
Instead of getting angry, remind yourself that young children need time to mature in their thoughts and behaviour. No amount of shouting or spanking can rush this process. When you remember this, you should find yourself becoming more patient with teaching and coaxing your little one.
Deep breathing is one of the most effective ways in relieving stress. When you take deep breaths, your heart rate becomes more stable, your breathing slows down, and tension in your body is immediately reduced.
When you are calm, you are more likely to assess the situation more rationally and objectively. It also helps you to develop a more composed response to the problem.
When you are in dispute with your child, understand why your child is reacting in a certain way. Ask him how he really feels – e.g. “Can you tell me why you are angry?”. This will encourage your child to share with you his thoughts and feelings, and reassure him that his feelings are valid.
For example, perhaps your son refuses to go to school because he is being bullied by a classmate, or perhaps your daughter doesn’t want to eat dinner because she had a bad day at school. Listening to your child will help you to understand why he/she is acting in this way, and it helps you to tackle the root of the problem. By practicing listening, you are also making a mindful attempt to be more patient and less emotionally reactive.
Shouting may not always be the best way to get your child to listen to you. By raising your voice, you may cause them to be even more defensive about their actions. Shouting also further increases the tension between you and your child.
Practice giving instructions to your child using a firm voice without shouting. For example, you may say this in a slow, firm and no-nonsense voice - “Ben, I want you to apologise to your sister right now”. You may be surprised at the effectiveness of doing this as compared to shouting at your children.
Physical intimacy increases the feeling of love and closeness between two people, and it’s hard to raise your voice at someone you are hugging or holding. Research has shown that hugging and touching our loved ones can lower your blood pressure and reduce stress levels. This means that by holding your child close to you, you can immediately feel less angry, which reduces the likelihood of you screaming at your child.
This immediately improves the situation as tension is alleviated and both of you are in a calmer state to resolve things.
When you are feeling stressed out, overwhelmed and frustrated, it can be difficult to stay patient at a whining child. So take a step back and recognise that you need a break. Especially if there are other people around that can look after your children (e.g. your husband or your mother-in-law), let them take over for a while. Even a short 30 minutes break can help you to be calmer and less emotional.
When you are less emotional, you can then return to your child to resolve the problem in a calm and composed manner. Remember that we are all humans and it’s okay to take a break once in a while.
Practice self-reflection by reflecting on yourself too instead of focusing only on your child’s behaviour. Did your child really do something wrong, or are you yelling at him because you had a bad day? Do you apologise to your husband when you make a mistake? Perhaps your son refuses to apologise to his sister because he imitates your actions. Remember that even though we are adults, we are not always right.
By practicing self-reflection, you can identify whether the problem lies with you or your children (or both).
Lastly, be supportive. Instead of getting angry when your child cannot do a job well, help him to repeat the task again and again until he gets it right. What you should do as a parent is to explain to your child how to do something, why he should do it, and guide him in the process. Remember that everyone takes time to learn, what more a young child? So be patient with your child and be supportive when he fails to do something right.
Remember, you cannot control your child’s attitude and behaviour, but you can control your reaction to it.
If you find it hard to stay patient at your child, give yourself some time to improve your patience. We are all humans and we are imperfect, but what matters the most is wanting to change for the better.
HealthLinkBC. (2016, July 26). Stress Management: Breathing Exercises for Relaxation. Retrieved from https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/uz2255
Natural News. (2013, January 31). Hugging loved ones can reduce stress and lower blood pressure. Retrieved from https://www.naturalnews.com/038890_hugging_stress_reduction_blood_pressure.html
Straus, M. A., & Field, C. J. (2003). Psychological Aggression by American Parents: National Data on Prevalence, Chronicity, and Severity. Journal of Marriage and Family, 65(4), 795-808.