What to Do When You Lose It

I AM Mama said there'd be days like this...

Picture it: four kids, one of whom has the flu, two of whom need to be on a bus in approximately nine minutes. Lunches packed: zero. Breakfasts made: 1. Bedrooms cleaned: 0. Teeth brushed: HA! One child with hair that resembles some sort of nest, one child dumping a dog's full water dish onto the floor, one mom about to LOSE. IT.

Now, in my defense, I usually have the morning routine down. With a gang of children you need to be somewhat organized if you want to survive, but there are mornings, usually those spent up with a sick child or after a "late night" of ballet or lacrosse practice where things go...off the rails a bit. And I have to admit, it is during these times when my patience evaporates and mama bear might let out a little bit of a roar.

I try not to yell, unless it's a "HEY GET OFF OF YOUR SISTER" type of "emergency" or they literally cannot hear me unless I bellow down to the playroom. You know, regular yelling. Not angry yelling, just the "I have four kids and raising my voice is necessary to be heard" type of yelling. Functional yelling. But sometimes that might spill over into frustrated, end of my rope, "why is there Paw Patrol underwear next to the coffee maker where are your pants no you cannot have Cool Whip for breakfast OMG the baby just pulled a gallon of milk off the table someone help me" type of yelling. Venting, I guess. Loud venting of the motherhood variety.

And it's not right. I know that. I lose my cool, and I shouldn't. But it happens. And here's how to make things right after you have one of those stepped on a lego type venting sessions in with your kids.

First, right after you lose it, just take a step back. Maybe literally. If your kids are old enough to be left alone in a room, leave that room or area and tell them you just need a minute to take a breather. Remember that kids will model their own behavior after yours, sometimes that idea can be the wake up call to think "I don't want my kid to wind up being a yeller". If we model how to manage our anger or our stress, or how to recover after we lose our temper, we are giving them the building blocks they need to do that for themselves. After taking a few deep breaths, try to also figure out what in that moment was your trigger. Knowing what pushes you over the edge can help you prevent it from happening in the future if you see it coming. But right after the moment happens, take a few minutes at least to just calm down and re-focus.

Sometimes it can help to have a motherhood mantra. Something you can repeat to yourself to try to calm down, re-focus and re-evaluate. One quote I always tell myself is from Peggy O’Mara: "The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice". Do I want my kids inner voice to be me yelling at them? No. It'll happen, but I can make the calm and loving voice the louder one for them, the one they can focus on.

I AM(1)

Admit to your kids that you made a mistake by losing your temper, but that it happens, and you are only human. Admit this to them and admit it to yourself. Keep that idea in mind that "It's just a bad day, not a bad life". You are not a bad mom, it's just a bad moment. The real parenting can come in here where you admit your mistakes, you tell them you are sorry, and you tell them that you will try to not lose your cool again. Talk about the situation and what made you upset, but avoid placing blame on the kids with sentences like “…but you shouldn’t have” or “…but you should know better". Keep the focus on you and your behavior. Just because the situation went south doesn't mean you have to take it from bad to worse with more anger and yelling. You CAN take it from bad to better. We don't like to admit that sometimes it is easier to just go into the skid with losing your temper. You want to vent, you're tired, you're frustrated, and hell, sometimes it can just feel good to unload, and it is hard to turn it around, especially if you feel justified. But it will always feel better to take control, put those emotions aside, and move forward in a positive way.

Parents can sometimes take it personally when their kids misbehave. "I've asked you ten times to clean up but you don't listen to me". But the truth is, kids aren't trying to do anything to us, they are still learning how to handle themselves when they don’t get what they want or they get upset for some reason. Maybe they didn't clean up because they still wanted to play, maybe they forgot and got distracted. Whatever it is, it's not a reflection on you as a parent. If we remove ourselves from the equation, we can more objectively see what they’re going through and how we can help the situation.

Give yourself a do-over. The situation most likely isn't over because you yelled, so come at it from another direction, from a place of calm, and there again you are modeling that even if you lose your temper you can fix it and try again. Remember that parenting is a never ending opportunity for learning and for growing, you are never an expert. You WILL make mistakes, that is the only given in parenting. It'll happen. A BUNCH. So get over it. You may attain perfection with that birthday cake you saw on Pinterest but parenting perfection is not attainable so don't even try. Doing your best is the only thing you can shoot for, and that includes mistakes and how you handle them.

I have a reminder, a simple one, that I wear on my wrist. It's an $8 bracelet from Etsy, and it spells out the word "grace" in morse code. It's like my SOS when I just can't anymore. It reminds me that even when I am less than my best as a parent I have the opportunity to move forward in a positive way, and that I don't need to dwell on the mistakes. Learn from it, and move on. It is also a reminder that not everything as a parent will work out neatly, not everything with children will be easy, there will be tough times, there will be difficult times, and finding good enough can be good enough for right now.


If you have to, wait. If you can't handle the situation calmly, let your child know that you will address this situation later when you are both more calm. If your options feel like yelling or nothing, do nothing for the time being. The situation cannot be a teachable moment until everyone is calm and reconnected. Unless someone is in danger, you don't HAVE to handle it right in that moment, especially if you are feeling anger and frustration in that moment, so let it pass and address it when you can tackle it calmly and rationally.

I AM(2)

Remember, always, it's a work in progress. Just like your children are always growing, you are as well. If you feel stuck in a phase, just remember that it will pass, you can ride this out, you can do it.