I recently read about a survey of a thousand children with parents that worked both inside and outside of the home. The children were asked who in their life “lost it” the most, when they made them angry. The results stated that moms received the lowest score, when it came to keeping their cool. Since I am a mom, this does not surprise me. Generally speaking we are the ones who spend the most time with these little “button pushers.” It seems as if there is a self-control gene handed out at conception to some women; you know the mommas who are always calm, cool, and collected (you’re thinking of them right now) – this was not me.
My oldest daughter is getting ready to turn 22 years old, and many of those first years were spent with a stressed out, yelling mom. One day I was listening to my Pastor’s wife teach a lesson about parenting and she said, “It takes 10 attaboys to make up for one outburst of anger.” It’s possible that I started trying to work out the math in my head; how many attaboys was I going to need? This was an eye-opener and the first time that I ever considered the idea of becoming intentional about self-control; about setting a goal to not yell at my kids.
Have you ever seen a young child in the check-out at the grocery store? With temptation on all sides you can see their little wheels turning; they are trying to figure out how to get their hands on that sugary goodness. Sometimes when mom says “no” all control is lost; you all know what I am talking about. For my son this was extremely difficult, I could tell when he was about to completely loose all control and his emotions were about to transition into wild animal mode. He was responding to the stress of things not working out the way he wanted them to. We started talking about how he feels right before a meltdown and then what he could do in order to regain control; sometimes he would count to 10 and sometimes I would hear him saying to himself, “just breathe.” I had a few choices; give him what he wants (uh no!), respond with equally out of control emotions (been there, done that), or put some tools in his toolbox.
No one is going to argue with the fact that life can be stressful, but our homes should be the one place where our families come to find peace and safety, and it is up to us to deliberately begin creating these atmospheres. Here are just a few ways that you can become intentional about your responses to the stresses in your own life.
- Don’t take things so personally. Sometimes we interpret the words and actions of others as a personal attack. Most of the time people are not thinking about us as much as we think they are.
- Change our expectations. Life is going to throw curve balls so we have to learn to “roll with the punches” a little.
- Express our needs! STOP RIGHT HERE! Your family members, friends, spouse, co-workers… are not mind readers. It is up to us to get our needs met and no one will know what they are better than us. Take this a step further and begin looking for ways to serve the needs of others, our needs then become less important.
- Be quick to apologize. If we mess up, even if we have an outburst, simply apologize; yes, even to our children.
- Practice Self-Control. Instead of reacting to a situation, take a moment and decide how you want to respond. This response could leave a lasting impression on your children.
- Choose what you allow your mind to ruminate on. “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9 (NKJV) Prayer is the number one place that I “get my mind right”
It’s important to know that constant stress in the home can become toxic and affect every part of our child’s emotional, cognitive, and social development. If you have any good tips as to how you manage stress in your life please share, I know we have some very experienced moms out there.