Researchers recently studied the ways in which an infant's development is impacted by processing how their mother conveys emotions—such as happiness or anger—through their speech. While they have yet to arrive at a hard conclusion, the insinuation is obvious: science is clearly shaming us for losing our tempers.
I think we've already established that I'm screwing up my kid, and that my daughter will someday be forced to seek out therapy thanks to all of the ways in which I've failed her. After all, I inadvertently taught her the words "fuck" and "goddammit." She somehow managed to inherit my shyness. I allow her to drink too much milk.
But come on! Is there a mother among us who has never lost her patience in front of her child?
Still, I can understand the benefits of remaining calm in the face of pressure... especially in front of one's child. So to that end, I'm going to share with you seven tips for keeping your cool in front of your kids.
1. Recognize and avoid your triggers.
We've all heard that to avert a toddler meltdown we have to anticipate the things that might set them off—hunger, exhaustion, dropping their last raisin on the floor—and avoid them. Similarly, try to head off your own sources of agitation at the pass. For me, that means waking up early enough to avoid ever being in a rush, delegating tasks to my husband so that I don't feel resentful, and bribing the grandparents to get her the hell out of this house so I can get anything done ever.
2. Model appropriate communicate skills for your child when you're feeling angry or frustrated.
Show that you can process and respond calmly to a troublesome situation, rather than reacting from a place of irrationality. Or if all else fails, find new, angry exclamations, such as "poop," "shoot," "fudge," or "gosh darn it." Practice them so that they become second nature.
3. Walk away...
... so that when your head explodes, it does not alarm your child.
4. Focus on your breath.
Breathe in and out through your nose, focusing on the gentle rise and fall of your belly, or on the air as it passes the tip of your nose. Allow your exhale to become longer than your inhale. If you have trouble maintaining focus, try counting down from 100, matching each number with an inhale or an exhale. If you lose count, start again! Soon, you'll find your heart rate slowing, and your breath coming easier.
Yoga. Running. Meditation. Walking. Whatever allows you to lose yourself in its flow. And, no. Doing a YogaGlo video in your back room, next to the litter box, while your toddler uses you as a jungle gym does not count. Though sometimes, that may be all you can get.
6. Pick your battles.
If you find your personal pressure gauge inching toward red, ask yourself why. Why do you care? Could you possibly choose not to care?
7. Embrace the inevitable.
We all lose our temper sometimes. We all get frustrated. Upset. Impatient.
It's natural. Shit happens. We're human.
Cut yourself some slack. Show your tiny little bundle of innocent joy what it means to be human. And when they someday tell their therapist that you're the source of all their angst, you can rest easy knowing that you're participating in the circle of life.