Today I was pushed to the edge . . . by a crayon. Not over the edge, thank goodness, but I am still disgusted with how I handled a simple parenting situation. As a mom, I know there will be times throughout the upcoming 18+ years in which I will lose my patience and respond in a way I’m not proud of, but I certainly don’t want my outburst today to become my typical reaction. I want to be a role model for my children on how to handle emotions and behave appropriately.
My toddler is a wild and crazy kid, like a number of two-year-old’s are. Every day can be a battle of wills between us. One of my biggest struggles as a parent is trying to determine what battles are most worth fighting. Today as I was dressing the baby, my two-year-old was entertaining herself by coloring ALL OVER THE WALLS with a blue crayon. This was just after
we I discussed keeping the crayons on the paper.
When I realized what she was doing I lost it. LOST IT!! I snatched that crayon right out of her little hand and yelled, “What were you thinking!” Then continued to lecture her about drawing on paper, cleaning the walls, now we’re late, etc, etc. I slammed the crayon down on the nearest surface and rumbled “grrrr” as I stomped out of the room – just like a toddler.
Why did I behave this way? Is it because my four-month-old is in a sleep regression and I am getting very little sleep? Is it because this winter has kept us cooped up in the house forever? Is it because my kid is my polar opposite in terms of temperament? No excuses, I need to get myself together.
The sad part is I taught parenting and child development classes. I’ve read tons of parenting books. I know how to handle these situations. I understand that I should remain calm, use short sentences, and get on (or better yet below) the child’s eye level. I’m well aware that a toddler pushes limits to learn boundaries. I also know that blue crayon easily comes off walls with the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. But knowing and doing are not always synonymous.
When faced with a toddler who laughs every time you put your “serious” parenting face on, your blood pressure may rise. A kid who says “snack” 50,000 times a day but never eats her dinner. A girl who throws everything out of her crib that she demands to sleep with in order to get us to come back into her room. These are behaviors that make me go berserk.
I need to “calm my body” before I can ever expect my toddler to calm hers. It is time to remind myself about simple ways to parent better and find my calm when reacting to a negative scenario.
1. Prevention is Key – Prevention is such an easy concept I need to utilize more. If I had just put the crayons away before leaving the room this morning’s blowup would never have occurred.
One major issue we had previously been dealing with was every morning our toddler would come tearing into my bedroom. She would slam the door open waking both me and her sister up (not a great way to start the day). My genius husband decided to put a baby gate in the bedroom doorway so she couldn’t get in and boom, problem solved.
2. Stress Relievers – I need to find some stress relievers to help me be a more patient parent. Yoga, coloring, playing Play-Doh with my kids, could all help me chill out. E-mails can get sent during nap time. Laundry can be folded later. I need to release my self-inflicted strict schedule and long daily to-do list in order to go more with the flow.
3. Partner Checks – I give props to any single parents out there. Dealing with discipline all by yourself is not an easy feat. It is so nice to have another parent step in when you are about to lose it. Maybe think of a code word you and your spouse can use that means you are not handling this parenting situation well, let me take over.
4. Time Away – If you are a stay-at-home parent, schedule some time away from your children. After missing your kids, little things like crayon all over the walls won’t seem like such a big deal.
I overheard two moms talking at the library this week conversing about how they thought they were better parents because they worked outside the home. They mentioned that being away from their children during the day gave them time to miss their kids and appreciate them more. I get this. Being a stay-at-home parent I am around my kids 24/7. Although I handle many tantrums and behavioral issues in the best way possible, there are definitely times when I don’t.
5. Breathe, Just Breathe.
But seriously, what I am going to do when the girls are old enough to gang up on me?