I find myself getting more and more frustrated with my kids. How can I manage it so I’m not so irritable and impatient with them?
In my clinical practice, I often encounter parents who love their children so intensely that they also feel intense frustration when things aren’t going so well. When it comes to matters of the heart (and parent-child love is the biggest matter of the heart that exists) no emotion is tepid. Emotions are big and strong and at times overwhelming. Parents frequently feel large rushes of emotion and frustration is definitely one of them. Temper tantrums, power struggles, and misbehaviour can all cause a great deal of parental frustration. So, when it comes to managing this kind of frustration, I have found one simple strategy that helps A LOT. It basically turns things completely around.
I suggest that parents resist from thinking: “My child is giving me a hard time” and instead turn it around to “My child is having a hard time.” This transform a moment of parental frustration into deep empathy. The parent understands that the child in this moment lacks the capacity to self-regulate. The child does not yet have the capacity to self-regulate consistently. Understanding this helps the parent respond from an empathic place, rather than an irritated one.
Our job as parents is to help our child grow up through good, bad and deeply frustrating times. If you strive to see the tougher times through this empathetic lens, and you resist the urge to take the behaviour personally, it makes the job of being a parent feel a lot easier.