It’s a simple request. You ask your kids to get ready so that you can head out for their swimming lessons, but when your youngest starts to whine and writhe on the floor, you get annoyed. Your voice goes higher in pitch and stronger in volume.
According to a study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family in 2003, it revealed that almost 90 per cent of the nearly 1,000 parents surveyed said they’d yelled, screamed or shouted at their kids in the previous year. So, what’s the real issue?
According to Daniel Koh, a psychologist at Insights Mind Centre, most mums put their children’s well-being before their own (also known as the “martyr mum” complex), so it’s normal for mothers to feel frustrated as they have responsibilities and chores to deal with. Coupled with the lack of rest, sleep and a poor diet, her body has no time to recharge.
“All these may cause the mum to be less tolerant, and getting angry could be her way of coping with stress when it comes to disciplining her child,” he says.
If you feel that you’re going to lose your temper, Koh suggests several ways to “stay sane”.
1) Recognise your anger triggers and diffuse them
Then find ways to prevent it from happening in the future. For example, perhaps you were disciplined harshly for not attending music classes as a child. Take a moment to pause before you react and try to understand the reasons behind your child’s behaviour.
“Always tell yourself that what you’re going through is normal, and that all mothers go through the same thing. Learn to forgive and let go of resentment,” Koh notes. Next, focus on how to address your child’s behaviour.
“Always tell yourself that what you’re going through is normal...”
2) Be alert to your child’s triggers
Hunger, sleepiness, irritability and boredom are all triggers — spot the signs early and nip any bad behaviour that will require you to discipline them in the bud. For example, if your peewee is hungry or about to have a meltdown, try to distract them before they gets there: Give him a snack or ask him to look at the clouds.
Whenever her daughter starts to fuss, this signals that she needs a nap, says Sky Sek, 26, a property agent and mum to Scarlett, 9 months, and Veray, 2. “When Scarlett starts getting cranky, it’s her way of telling me that she’s sleepy. And before she has a meltdown, I’ll sing to her. This always calms her down and she’s asleep in no time,” Sek says.
Three more cooling-off methods to come…
3) Laugh it off
You can also use humour to ease tension or find an alternative activity that is more fun and engaging. This should reduce stress, allowing both parent and child to enjoy the rest of the day.
4) Use positive reinforcement
Your child may just be seeking attention by misbehaving — try to modify their behaviour with positive-reinforcement methods, Koh suggests. Since children aren’t able to apply logic to their behaviour and don’t process things the way adults do, engage them by using age-appropriate communication.
For example, give your tot a simple order using gestures and body language, says Koh. For older children, get them to repeat the request first to see if they understand your message.
“Sometimes, I’ll put on some upbeat music from the playlist in my iPad and do a silly dance. The kids love to dance along, so that buys me some meltdown-free moments!”
5) Take a break (with help)
Sek suggests taking a deep breath. “If I’m already in a midst of a tantrum meltdown, I just hold my breath and count to 10 — slowly. And I repeat this until I calm down. This method always helps me to clear my mind and allows me to be more in control to better manage my kids.”
Lim Mei Chen, 33, senior executive and mum to Janelle, 2, and Javier, 4, finds relief by venting to her husband about their offspring. “He’s always willing to listen to me! It helps me cool down after a while.”
Whenever lawyer Wong Yuen Ping, 35, who is mum to Sarah, 17 months, and Eli, 4, gets overwhelmed by mummy matters, she lets her helper mind the kids while she spends a couple of hours either window-shopping or decompressing in a cafe and “people watching”.
“Sometimes, I’ll put on some upbeat music from the playlist in my iPad and do a silly dance. The kids love to dance along, so that buys me some meltdown-free moments!” she laughs.