We can’t say this enough: parenting is tough. Absolutely nothing will prepare you for what will be the most challenging and chaotic chapter of your life. Yes, parenthood is hugely rewarding, but it is an emotional rollercoaster riddled with anything from hair-pulling frustration and seething anger to mental exhaustion and overwhelming despair.
On those days, it is easy to lose sight of the joys that come with being a parent. In an ideal world, the kids would always be well-behaved, obedient angels who never made things difficult, much less throw massive temper tantrums. And we’d be the perfect parents who always knew and did the right thing. There would be zero self-doubt or guilt (“Did I do something wrong? Why is my child always the one going out of control?”, “I’m a terrible mum. Why do I always flare up at the kids?”), and every parenting moment would fill us with joy and gratitude.
For parents who are constantly struggling with feelings of anger and negativity, you are not alone. No matter how picture perfect other families seem on the surface, we guarantee they’ve had their fair share of trying moments. So instead of struggling to achieve unrealistic ideals, learning how to deal with challenging situations and how to alleviate some everyday stressors will not only help keep the anger away but also allow you to enjoy each precious moment with your child – the good, the bad and the ugly.
Identify your triggers
Not getting enough shut-eye, having to deal with the kids on your own for days on end, staying indoors for too long, not having enough time for yourself… these are common triggers that may lead to having less patience, lower tolerance and more angry feelings. Much like how some people stay away from coffee because it triggers migraines, knowing what pushes your buttons can help you to plan in advance and avoid potential pitfalls.
Similar to a weary soldier on the battlefield of a long war, parenting is a 24/7 commitment that drains out even the most hardened of parents. Yes, some degree of sacrifice is called for, but there is absolutely no shame in prioritising self-care whenever possible. Be it getting trusted family members to watch the kids while you take a day off, putting the kids to bed early so you can Netflix and chill, or carving out time to pursue a personal hobby, figure what recharges and brings you happiness. Your family will thank you.
Do a reset
Kids are unpredictable. So naturally, there is no one-size-fits-all parenting solution, and it is normal to find that the strategies you painstakingly implemented might require some tweaking after awhile. But if you realise that the kids are slowly spiralling out of control – disregarding the rules, manipulating certain situations, frequently throwing temper tantrums, etc. – then it may be time for a “reset”. This means evaluating your parenting rules to weed out any irrelevant and unrealistic ones. Explain your expectations and be consistent in enforcing the rules (and the consequences of breaking them). It is a tedious process, but the results are well worth it.
Reappraise the situation
According to research, we are able to shift our emotional responses by changing how we appraise situations. For example, it is easy to get worked up when someone is lashing out at you. But would you get angry if you knew that the opposite party was going through a difficult personal crisis? You definitely wouldn’t be as ticked off.
“Reappraising” the situation not only makes it easier to resist anger, it also changes the emotions you feel towards that very exact scenario. As such, during trying situations such as having your toddler meltdown in the aisles of a busy supermarket, regulate your emotions by reappraising the situation. The goal is to turn your viewpoint of a negative situation (such as having a red-faced three-year-old about to scream their way to an expensive toy) into a positive one (focusing on this opportunity to school your toddler on why tantrums won’t work with you).