If mom anger was in the dictionary it could be defined as any moment of anger, yelling, or heated frustrated on the part of a mother in the midst of any parenting-related interaction.
Based on this definition, I think it’s safe to say that mom anger affects us all in some way. Why? Because let’s face it, motherhood is hard. And while there are many other more colorful adjectives we could use to describe motherhood, I feel like hard encompasses them all.
If you’ve ever lost your marbles with your kids, chances are, on at least one of those lovely occasions you’ve blamed the kids for your mom anger. Umm…my hand is up. Anyone else with me?
Here’s the problem with that – in many of our stressed-out, on-edge, ready to lose it moments the root of that short-temper started with us, not our kids.
The truth is, yelling at our kids is more about us and how we’re feeling in the moment than it is about our kids and what they’re doing in the moment.
I lived for a really long time in that second mindset and I’ll be honest…it’s a miserable one.
I’m a recovering grouchy mom and have made so many mistakes as a mom and learned so much over the years and I want to share that wisdom with you. This is a no-judgment zone, just me sharing what I’ve learned along the way and what really works to save your sanity as a mom.
Here are three surprising reasons your mom anger has more to do with you and your kids.
1 – Our current emotional state sets us up for calm or chaos
Here’s a short illustration of the power of our mindset…
Amy was up two separate times last night because her 6-year-old son has been having bad dreams and is always too scared to go back to sleep without her snuggling in his bed.
She’s been second-guessing herself all week on whether she’s making the right choice to give in to his pleading to go into his bed night after night. She read an article last week that doing this creates a cycle of dependence that could have bigger consequences later.
Amy is a mom to 3 children ranging from a teenager to a 2-year-old and she homeschools her older kids while still wrangling the baby. She also works full-time from home as a virtual assistant for several clients because not working isn’t a financial option for her family right now.
Today she just got the news that one of her biggest clients had to make the hard choice to not use her services as his business had to shut down key functions as a result of the quarantine. That’s a major hit to her income and fear starts to settle in.
The spiraling force of what-ifs feels uncontrollable as she tries to just stay focused on keeping it together and feeling as normal as possible.
Suddenly, as she’s drafting her response email to her now former client, her 6-year-old starts laughing very loudly in the other room followed by crying shortly after.
She feels her heart beating from aggravation as she gets up to investigate. While turning the corner, her teenager starts pleading his case on why it was just an accident. Apparently, he was giving his little brother an innocent tickle fight, which was all fun until he got a little too aggressive.
Instead of taking a breath, Amy lights up the room with accusations about how her teenage son is always playing too rough and how sick she is of hearing all this noise! She demands they both just go to their rooms until she says they can come out.
Her youngest, feeling attacked, starts crying and her teenager responds by storming out and slamming his door.
She now feels like a total jerk…the guilt is real.
Let me stop here and point out a few things.
Her kids weren’t “misbehaving” at all. They were doing very normal (loud and maybe slightly annoying) but very normal kid things.
I want to point this out because it’s so easy for us to tell ourselves that we yelled because our kids did something to deserve our yelling and angry response.
Let’s rewind really quickly and paint another picture of Amy…
Amy woke up from a full night’s sleep for five days in a row! That’s a record! She’s on a roll and ready for the day like a boss.
After getting her kid’s breakfast and their morning lessons underway, she checks her email and learns that one of her clients is increasing her workload. She feels a little uneasy about whether she can handle more work with everything she’s already juggling, but is very excited about the increase to her bottom line.
Later that afternoon, while she’s working she hears loud laughter coming from the other room. She feels tempted to tell them to keep it down but decides to enjoy the sound of her kids actually playing together. That is until she hears the crying!
As she gets up to investigate she takes a few breaths and reminds herself that she gets to choose how she responds to the situation. When her son starts to defend his actions…she listens.
Amy then attends to her crying son and he quickly admitted that it was just an accident. He moved his head at the same time his brother moved his elbow and is totally fine. Her older son quickly apologizes and all seems well.
She grabs a tissue to wipe her son’s nose and decides to get in on the tickling action causing him to revert back to laughing again. Her oldest asks if they can watch that movie he’s been begging them to rent. Sure, why not?
Ok this all may seem like a total work of fiction…and it is…but this story could have played out in any one of our homes! Just switch out the cast of characters and situations and there you have it.
The obvious point I’m trying to drive home is that the reason we feel so ready to lose it all the time has more to do with us and how we’re feeling than our kids and what they’re doing.
And even on those occasions when the kids really are doing their best to step on your very last nerve – when you’re at your best it sets you up for closer connections every single time.
Do you fall into this trap over and over?
There is a better way. Amy was using my S.T.O.P. Method that is featured in The Happier Mom Toolkit. Want your own copy? Click the image below.
She reminded herself that she has a choice, she paused to take a breath, followed by practicing grace. This all resulted in a Win.
2 – Setting the right expectations is everything in parenting
We need to put our expectations to work for us in life and as parents. Unfortunately, there’s a dark side to expectations, which is why so many people treat them like the plague. It’s our fear of failure and disappointment that keep us from expecting good things to happen.
We rationalize that it’s better to have no expectations than to run the risk of being painfully disappointed when things don’t work out as we’d hoped.
Realistically, this is a tough one and it’s a struggle for most people, including myself, but here’s the truth. Most of us think we’re avoiding expectations altogether when in reality, we’re just avoiding the positive ones.
Sorry to break it to you, but the whole time we’ve been using the power of expectations, only they’ve been working against us instead of for us!
You’ve likely been telling yourself a story that might sound something like this:
“I’m never going to get a handle on this parenting thing. I wish I could get my kids to listen the first time just one day.”
“I don’t want to be like my mother was, but as the years go by, the more I realize I have the same temper as her.”
“I thought I’d be a great mom, and yet every day I wake up feeling like there has to be more.”
Those negative expectations keep us trapped in a cycle of where we don’t really want to be.
So, if you’re already intimately acquainted with expectations, don’t you think it’s time to make them finally work for you instead of against you?
Here’s the point, both the Bible and science have a lot to say about the power of expectations and they both agree that what we expect to happen is likely what will happen. Ever heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy?
The reason is that we subconsciously work to make our expectations right.
So, isn’t it better to set the expectations we really want? I’d say so!
It’s time to spruce up those old, tired expectations and get some new ones. Try these on for size:
“Just because I’m struggling with a short-temper or anxiety right now doesn’t mean I always will if I decide to do the work I need to see the change I want.”
“No matter what it feels like at the moment, my children are fully capable of listening without me needing to yell. They just need consistency over time from me.”
“I am not alone and I can do all things through Christ who gives me the strength to do them.”
3 – Our boundaries are either working for us or against us
One of the biggest components of getting our kids to listen consistently, and thus keeping our sanity intact, is setting up the framework of boundaries and consequences.
This step is crucial because it’s essentially setting you up for parenting success. We all need boundaries in life, and both parties (in this case, parent and child) need to be crystal clear on what those boundaries are.
When we aren’t clear with our kids on what’s acceptable and what isn’t, it’s nearly impossible for them to get it right!
If you never take the time to set healthy boundaries, you’ll be stuck in a very annoying cycle of reminding your kids on the fly every time they do something you don’t like. That’s a recipe for insanity and ultimately blowing up at your kids on a moment-by-moment basis which isn’t good for anyone!
Just like you naturally steer your newly walking baby away from the fireplace to keep her safe, our kids need healthy and helpful boundaries to keep them safe at every age and stage.
Some examples of healthy boundaries could be:
“When we go inside the store, we don’t touch anything unless I give you permission first.”
“All your dirty clothes need to be put in the hamper in the laundry room in order to be washed.”
“You can only ride your bike to the end of our street and back.”
“Before you eat a snack from a box, you have to eat first eat something that once grew (AKA a fruit or veggie).”
These are clear boundaries that give your child a clear path to follow. And if and when they jump off the clearly laid path you so nicely provided for them – you offer natural consequences.
In our adult lives, we’re very familiar with natural consequences. They’re not punishments but a closely related outcome that either works for us or against us. This helps our kids learn in a real-world scenario versus simply grounding them or sending them to their room.
Not putting your dirty clothes in the hamper means you either do your own laundry or wear dirty clothes for a week. Riding your bike beyond the indicated stopping point means you lose your bike riding privileges for a time period.
The consequence should be related to the behavior but feel free to get creative here. Lol, The point is for them to learn that all behavior has natural consequences both good and bad. And it’s a lot more fun in life to create consequences that work for us!
As moms, there are so many things we can do to set ourselves up for success and make parenting a lot easier. Yes, it’s a lot more work on the front end but it’s so worth it down the road.
When we learn to understand the power of our emotions and how to work with them, how our expectations either set up us to win or lose, and how our frontend boundaries raise self-motivated and better-behaved kids we won’t fall into the short-sighted trap of blaming it all on the kids.
The best part is, it’s never too late to start even though it’s clearly easier the younger your children are. Just remember that kids are resilient and are able to change and adapt much faster than us adults so keep at it and stay consistent.
Most importantly, deal with your children in a Kind and Firm way no matter what. They will respond positively over time. Do it little by little and step by step and you’ll do just fine!