Last night I was in the middle of working on laundry when my youngest son came in and wanted my attention. He wanted me to call his friend for a playdate. It was just 30 minutes until dinner and I was busy and distracted so, without thinking, I told him no.
Saying no in my house right now is inevitably the catalyst for a massive power struggle/tantrum. Obviously, there are times that I need to say no, so I have been working hard on finding solutions that help me not fall into the power struggles as well as solutions that help me put a stop to the tantrums for when I do fall into the power struggles. Because let’s be real, it takes a lot of time, thought and energy to effectively avoid power struggles all of the time!
I wrote a whole 6-part blog series a couple of weeks ago on how to stop tantrums that include a handy downloadable cheat sheet of ways to stop tantrums. (Download the cheat sheet for ideas on ways to stop tantrums below. Or, read the full articles starting here.)
Now that you have the cheat sheet downloaded, let’s move on. Today, I wanted to talk about how to take care of yourself, as a parent, when you find yourself in the middle of one of these all-out battles.
Dealing with power struggles, tantrums, angry outbursts, meltdowns, and other behavior issues is exhausting. For me, it feels like a continual uphill struggle that is never-ending at times. I will calm one kiddo down and feel like I am getting my feet underneath me when another kiddo decides to go in for the kill – so to speak.
Finding ways to stay calm, present, loving, and effective in these moments is hard when you are just trying to keep your head above water. There is a lot of advice out there about what to do in these moments, but when things get heated, it can be hard to think straight and not lose your cool!
How to Care for Yourself When Parenting Feels HARD
It is hard to find the time and space to take care of yourself when you are in the middle of a tantrum, power struggle, or other behavioral issues. Of course, taking care of yourself outside of those moments helps somewhat, but for me, it feels important to find ways to keep myself calm, in control of my emotions, and able to stay present with my kids in the moments when they are struggling.
I have always loved the concept of taking a time-out for yourself. It used to work fairly well when my kids were toddlers, but those days are long gone!
These days, if I try to take a time-out when my kids are in the middle of a tantrum. They will often block my way to my room, stand at the door and continue shouting, or find some other creative and new way to ensure that I stay in the middle of the tantrum with them.
I have been lamenting this fact for many reasons (including that I often feel like I am losing my mind.) But mainly, it is frustrating because I want to model the concept of taking a moment to cool off when you are feeling frustrated and my kids aren’t letting me do it! I think I have found the solution though and it has been working like a charm.
The New Mommy Time-Out Zone
Instead of telling my kids that I need to take a quick break, or that I am going to go in my room to take a minute to cool down, I have been asking them if we could pause the conversation so that I can use the restroom. And it is actually working!?!
There is something so universal about the idea of needing to go to the bathroom. Kids get it. Plus, it is a neutral location and an unemotional request that is removed from the tantrum.
What to Do in Your Mommy Time-Out
So, now that I have found a place to escape to, the question becomes, what next? Because, in all honesty, if I just lock myself in the bathroom, my kiddo is eventually going to come knocking and screaming to get my attention again.
So, here’s the plan:
- Give yourself one minute to take some deep calming breaths.
- Think quickly and formulate a plan. (Again, check out the series I wrote on calming a tantrum as there are all kinds of ideas in there that you could try – plus if you download the Cheat Sheet, you can hide it in the bathroom for quick reference!)
- Open the door, re-engage, and stop that tantrum!
Last night, what really worked was Solution # 2 from the Cheat Sheet which is bringing in some playfulness to the situation. When I opened the bathroom door after I felt like I had a grasp on my sanity again, I walked straight out into the wall (on purpose.) My son stopped screaming and looked at me with a perplexed, half-grin on his face. I then spun around and crashed myself into a different wall.
The moment of silliness was enough to startle him out of the tantrum and bring us onto a level where we were able to connect again. And the amazing thing about this is that finding a way to connect with him in that hard moment carried through to the rest of our evening – no more tantrums, even at bedtime (which many of you know is a major accomplishment for us!)
Sometimes finding the space and time to formulate a plan is exactly what we need to feel like we are taking care of ourselves as moms. It’s not like we’re asking for hours of silence and empty rooms devoid of screaming kids. (Although, it’s nice to dream…) Just finding a place where you can have 1-2 minutes to calm down, regroup, and then be able to re-engage is enough.
So, the next time you find yourself in a Power Struggle, Tantrum, or Meltdown, excuse yourself for a little bathroom break!