Do you often feel frustrated and just want to hide from the world? Parenting on any given day can be tough. Sometimes, out of nowhere, those well laid plans and routines seem to fall apart. It can be as simple as not getting out the door on time, forgetting to pack a lunch box, siblings squabbling or battling to get homework done and, all of a sudden, that frustration you’ve been bottling up erupts like a volcano and you lose patience with yourself and the people around you. And then you start feeling like the worst parent in the world.
In the heat of the moment it can be hard to think of alternatives. It might feel like you are failing your kids and you aren’t cut out for this parenting gig. The “I’m not good enough” start creeping in and you start feeling worse. But the truth is, all parents get frustrated at times and everybody makes mistakes – it’s called being human. The trick is learning how to let the frustration pass before you get to the eruption phase so you can choose the response you give and get the results you want.
Now, more than ever, parents are under pressure to perform and perform well, to always be perfect and never make mistakes. There is pressure from the multitude of (often conflicting) professional advice as well as from social media, keeping up with the Joneses and the ever-ready flow of less-than-helpful feedback available online and from friends and family.
On the flip side, parents now have access to more learning opportunities, support and parenting materials than ever before. That means when those stressful times hit, you have multiple choices for how you can respond, to handle the emotions and direct the outcome you really want.
To help get you through and add to your toolbox of techniques and skills I’ve put together some breakthrough-frustration exercises. Practice these mind calming and settling actives as often as you need to, when you are relaxed as well as when tension is building, to really get a handle on your emotions and strengthen your ability to respond to challenges and overwhelm in a positive way rather than to react in a negative way.
As an added bonus every time you win and turn your frustrations into calm solutions your kids get to see this and model this great behaviour to use throughout their lives.
Be open about your emotions
We sometimes place labels on emotions as being good or bad, or on ourselves as a good parent or bad parent if we think or experience certain feelings. This can mean that emotions like anger, sadness or frustration get shoved aside because we believe they shouldn’t be allowed. The truth is, they are all just emotions and all of them are natural. What you feel is perfectly normal and safe. Pushing emotions down or hiding them because you think they might be bad will only mean they pop up suddenly and explosively.
Solution: Let each emotion you experience come up and be felt, regardless of what they might be.
When an emotion pops up, leave the labels behind and simply notice that it’s there. Take a few breaths, perhaps you might even say out loud, “I feel very (name the emotion or feeling) right now.” Make sure you use the word “feel” instead of just saying “I am…” – because you are not the emotion, you are just feeling it. You may need to go to another room, somewhere quiet and alone to feel it completely and let it pass, however, expressing your emotions in front of your children is a great way for them to learn emotions themselves and see that they are normal.
All emotions have a limited lifespan
Often people hold onto feelings of anger, sadness or guilt instead of letting them go, whereas feelings of excitement, joy, or surprise are readily allowed to leave us when they are over, and we can get on with doing what we were doing before the emotion came up.
We hold onto those emotions because we are not willing to experience them, so they can’t get their job done. Emotions have an expiry time, and it’s less than two minutes from when they started. Once we allow an emotion to come through the maximum time you will experience it usually 90 seconds. Less than two minutes! You can handle that. After the 90 seconds it is the story and meaning that we have put to the event that we hold onto.
With every emotion you have, trust that it will go and allow it to leave. Let go of any stories that follow it. If you do that, what follows is a feeling of calm or at least a feeling of neutralisation and you can go back to what you were previously doing. The more you practice letting your emotions go, the faster and easier it becomes.
Giving yourself 90 seconds to get to the other side of emotion will exercise your patience and get you back to a place of calm quickly and naturally.
Embrace your child’s differences
One of the most amazing things about children is their uniqueness, not only to each other, but also to you. It can be a surprise to new parents to see that, even as a little baby, their child comes preloaded with personality traits that are all their own.
Frustration can often occur when there is an expectation for children to be different. They are not going to be more like their siblings, more like their parents, more like the child next door; they are who they are – their own unique personality. As a parent, of course you have their best interests at heart, but the path you carefully planned out may not be the right one for them, or the milestones set out in a parenting book may not be the right time frames for your child. Ignoring uniqueness can come across as ignoring the child, so acknowledge them, accept them for who they are and they will be less likely to look to negative behaviour to get a response from you.
Solution: Express that you love your child when you notice a clash, it will remind both of you to look for feelings of love and connection, rather than drifting apart over your differences. Enjoy getting to know your child and learning who they are.
All you can do is love them unconditionally, even if the child you have doesn’t meet your expectations or responds in ways you didn’t expect.
If you don’t know about the power of love languages read up about the benefits of learning different love languages or take the quiz here.
Everything we do is a choice
When choices feel limited fear and scarcity raise their heads and we can act on frustration instead of love and compassion. Actively opening our thoughts to see more choices can be achieved in multiple ways in a matter of minutes. One way is as easy as adjusting the words we use in everyday sentences.
We often say things and express ourselves in limiting ways without even realising, simply because it’s how other people talk, or what we’ve always done. By saying the limiting words or limiting thoughts we have and actively putting effort into turning them around we erase some of the negatively impacting restrictions we put on ourselves.
Solution: Ban words from your vocabulary like, I should, I have to, and I must do, and instead replace them with, I’d like to, I aim to, I get to. The difference is incredible, especially around the time you get to spend with your kids.
In seeing that you don’t really have to take them to their sporting practice, you chose to do that. You don’t have to read them a story, you do it out of love. When you remind yourself of these choices and your options whenever you think or talk about time with your kids. Doing this will help you get to enjoy the experience and your time together.
Be grateful every day
Gratitude is the cure to just about any internal conflict we experience. By looking for something we are grateful for we can stop a negative cycle in its tracks and turn our thoughts to a place of positivity, creativity and love. Once our thinking is turned to positive, solutions are easy to come by, or the issue that seemed overwhelming suddenly doesn’t matter any more.
Practicing gratitude not only helps create great parents, it also improves all aspects of our lives, from our ability to learn and make impacting decisions, to better sleep, greater empathy, better physical health and better mental health.
Solution: When you are frustrated with something your child says or does think of the positives and find something to be grateful for. I might be you are grateful she can stand up for herself if your daughter is being stubborn, or you are grateful he trusts you when your son is being clingy. It enables you to empathise with your child and find new ways to handle a situation rather than getting frustrated and losing patience.
If you haven’t practiced gratitude in a while then it might not feel like a natural activity at first. Make finding things to be grateful for part of your daily practice and soon you will be tuned into gratitude and finding the beauty in all things.
Be kind to yourself
Every day as a parent is an opportunity to learn. Every day is new and different, bringing new challenges and experiences. No parent ever has an exact handle on it, no matter how many kids they have, because every child and every experience is different and unique. Confident parents are simply ones who allow mistakes to happen learn from it. They are kind to themselves, learn from the experience and move on.
Solution: Take notice of negative ideas you have, like, I’m a bad parent, or I’m not very good at this and find ways to rephrase the way you express these thoughts so they give you more choice and flexibility. For example, I can practice this more, I don’t know how to do this yet. Instead of saying something like, I don’t have time for myself, ask, How can I make time for the activities I love?
Learning a new lesson won’t guarantee you won’t make a mistake, but it will equip you with the knowledge and skills you need to make great decisions and turn any experience into one of happiness and love.
When you get a lot of lessons all at once or discover a whole new aspect of parenting you hadn’t realised was there then you will experience overwhelm or frustration for sure. A great way to look at this is from a learning point of view. Wow, I have so much I can learn about this.
There are so many opportunities for you to learn, and you can and will, as long as you go at a pace that works for you, trust in your ability to grow and take each day, and moment, as it comes.