You’re not alone. Every parent has moments that we look back on and wonder why we lost our cool like that. Maybe it's an afternoon where you’re feeling extra irritable or “ triggered” by your kids' normal behaviors. Maybe it's a single episode of exploding at your kid when they make a mistake and then regretting it. Sometimes we find ourselves in a longer season of coming across as the “mad mom” or “explosive dad”.
I personally have an ongoing frustration with my oldest child who is now technically an adult, as he just celebrated his 18th birthday. For as long as he has been going to school, he has struggled with being ready to leave on time. I know he's capable of getting up and leaving on time because this fall when his football coach made it clear that arriving on time for school was a requirement for being eligible to play in the Friday night game, he did whatever it took to hot-foot it out of the house in time.
But now, the football season is done and that external motivator isn't there. We are back to frustrating mornings of poor time management. I've tried many approaches to help him succeed. The most recent approach has been letting him choose to be late for school and explain it to the teachers himself. The end result was that he was late for school everyday for a week! I'm not seeing him learning from his mistakes quite yet
Today he was late again, and I became a “mad mom.”
Can you think of your last angry parent moment? What led up to it? Usually it's a combination of factors. Something in our kids' behaviors, what they do or don't do, what they say or don't say, gets under our skin. But how resilient we are to these frustrations and our ability, in the moment, to pause and think of the response we want to have rather than reacting on our first impulse has a lot to do with how well our own basic needs are being met.
When we have unmet needs we are going to feel more irritable, frustrated, impatient and inflexible, just like our kids feel when they have unmet needs.
So the next time you find yourself feeling like the “mad mom” or “explosive dad”, consider these possible unmet needs and how you can meet them to help you stay more balanced and regulated.
You might have an unmet need for:
Food or Hydration
Rest ( physical or mental)
Quiet or downtime
A sense of accomplishment
I'm sure you can think of ways to meet most or all of these needs, but let’s talk about some specifics.
Unmet need for food or hydration:
If you realize you're hungry or thirsty, take care of yourself and give yourself the nutrition or hydration you need. Grabbing a quick snack with a combination of protein, carbohydrates and some healthy fats will go a long way. You could try something simple like a meat and cheese stick, avocado spread on toast or peanut butter and banana on crackers.
Unmet need for physical or mental rest:
Prioritizing sleep can't be underestimated. As parents, we know it can be easier said than done to get to sleep we need but if you're chronically sleep deprived, you'll find yourself on the tipping point of anger with your kids much more often.
Mental rest could be a few minutes spent listening to a peaceful song, doing a meditation, or putting your work aside and taking 5 slow, intentional breaths.
Unmet need for movement:
Our bodies weren't designed to sit at a desk all day. Building in short movement breaks like standing up and stretching or walking around for a few minutes on break can make a big impact. Bonus, drink lots of water during the day (which you need anyways) and then on each bathroom break take time to do two stretches.
Unmet need for connection:
Sometimes in our parenting journey we can find that most of our interactions are with children and it's hard to find time for adult connections. My friends and I have found a huge value in being able to stay connected with video messages on social media platforms like WhatsApp or Marco Polo where we can stay in touch even when we don't have time in the day to talk in real time. Who do you want to stay better connected with? Reach out to that person today.
Unmet need for quiet or downtime:
In my book Parenting Marathon: The 10 Step Guide to Navigate Parenting Challenges, I talk about a practice of taking three pauses during the day. The book’s free resource guide gives you tons of ideas on what you might do during these pauses, but the basic idea is that you are intentional about taking 5 to 15 minutes of downtime, three times a day. Perhaps you take a 5 minute pause before starting your car and leaving work so that you're able to return home to your family feeling more centered. Perhaps you carve out 10 minutes before the kids wake up to start your day in a peaceful way.
Here’s a link to get Your copy of Parenting Marathon
Unmet need for mental stimulation:
Your brain is an amazing machine! You were gifted with all kinds of abilities and intelligence that demand to be utilized. No matter what ages our kids are, we won't be fully satisfied if we're not utilizing our brains. If you want help making a plan to meet any of these needs, reach out to me.
Unmet need for a sense of accomplishment:
It feels good to accomplish something! If you are a checklist person, you can get a sense of accomplishment from crossing off tasks on your to-do list. Maybe your sense of accomplishment comes from a project, craft or other creative outlet. Maybe iit comes from your work or the impact you have in another person's life. As a parent, you are accomplishing one of the biggest tasks given to humans, raising up another human being! But it doesn't always feel incredibly satisfying. If you're struggling with a lack of a sense of accomplishment, remind yourself of the incredible and important job you're doing.
Unmet need for physical comfort:
This unmet need could come in the form of your own body's temperature regulation. I remember winter days when my kids were little and in complicated five point harness car seats. One particularly cold day I felt so frustrated and mad when the process of coaxing them in and buckling them up took longer than I wanted. When I finally got into my own seat and cranked up the heat I realized I was so out of sorts because I was freezing! My two toddlers were bundled up to their eyes to stay warm, but I had neglected to put on enough proper warm gear for myself. My hatless head ached and my ungloved hands throbbed. It was a good reminder to me that I also need to take care of my own needs for warmth while I'm taking care of my kids.
Maybe your need for comfort includes putting on comfortable home clothes after work to settle in or taking care of physical symptoms you might be tempted to ignore.
If you could use support in this season of your parenting journey, grab a copy of my book Parenting Marathon: The 10-Step Guide to Navigate Parenting Challenges.
You can also schedule a one hour parent coaching session with me to talk about your specific situation, get new ideas, and get a feel of what parent coaching can offer you. This “Parent Coaching Brainstorm Session” is offered for a limited time for $60 (one session per family, and if you find it beneficial we will find the right parent coaching package for you)