It started on a Monday morning. I had one of those cortisol-induced parenting moments. You know the kind, when you shout or otherwise lose control of yourself in the course of trying to go about your day. I am sure you also know the feeling of guilt and/or shame that often follows it.
I shouted at my son when he was procrastinating on the way out the door. We were rushed and he was babbling about riding his bike to school. As soon as I said it I regretted it, “why are you doing this to me?”
That one question gave it away – I was out of control and the situation had gotten out of control.
With sad eyes he said, “Mommy, I really like my bike so much. I just want to ride it to school.” I realized that I had been ignoring the conversation he was trying to have with me. The whole time he was fumbling around with his socks and shoes he was trying to explain his plan to ride his bike.
I was so focused on my goal of getting out the door I failed to really hear my child.
from conflict to calm
I quickly apologized and told him how very sorry I was for yelling. We hugged and I thought the whole ugly incident was behind us. We held hands and walked down the steps chatting casually about how annoying it is that our dog barks incessantly when we leave the house.
He opened the door and walked into the garage while I was looking for my coat. By the time I got to the garage he was wearing his bike helmet. He was so sweet and hopeful, “Mom are you going to follow me in your car?”
I tried to explain that it was raining and school was about 2 miles away. “Bud that is a really long ride in the rain.” What he said next will stick with me. He said, “Mommy its ok, I can peddle so fast the rain can’t get me.”
He had all the faith in the world that he could ride his bike so fast the rain couldn’t catch him. What kind of a dream-crushing monster am I? And why don’t I have that kind of faith? (In myself or him)
For the rest of the day I couldn’t get this exchange out of my mind. I decided that I needed to stop thinking my son was deliberately challenging me. I decided that I needed to actually listen to what he says in order to understand where his head is.
[bctt tweet=”In order to exert influence on my child I need to remain in control of myself. http://wp.me/p60iCk-1o” username=”HealthyADHD”]
I also decided to re-read one of my favorite parenting books, Parenting with Love and Logic. I have found this book to be extremely helpful when it comes to parenting with ADHD. Every time I read it I am reminded that I have to remain in control of myself if I want to exert any influence over my developing child.
Remaining in control of yourself when you have ADHD is not easy. Between the racing thoughts and impulsivity we can go from 0 to 100 very quickly.
Here are some of the strategies I have been using to calm myself during those less picturesque parenting moments.
1) Stop and Breath
When your child is arguing, pestering or otherwise making you feel like you may start pulling out your eyelashes, try to breath. On its surface this sounds completely trite. But when you get that tight feeling in your belly and your breath rate starts to increase, it is time to slow it down.
Count backward in your head, or close your eyes for a few seconds. I just did this earlier today and my son was like, “Mommy don’t go to sleep!” He literally stopped arguing to make sure I wasn’t sleeping. I started laughing and the argument was over. It works. ☺
2) Use Humor
When my son growls at me or stomps or yells or –fill in the blank–. I try to make it into something funny. The trick is not to humiliate him, but to make him laugh. Usually I ask him, “how is that working out for you?”
There is something about smiling, and using the muscles in your face that can change your mood. And humor almost always works on a kid having a tantrum.
3) Separate Yourself From the Situation
When I am about to lose it in any situation I like to separate myself. At home this means going to my bedroom. I have been known to calmly tell my son that he cannot be with me if he is going to yell at me. I then go to my bedroom and shut the door.
Now obviously, a very small child cannot be left unattended. With a small child you might place them in their crib, where you know they are safe, and then go to a different room. But with a child who is basically independent this action makes a point.
My son might cry and scream for a few minutes, but inevitably he comes to me and tells me he is sorry.
4) Have Faith
I don’t mean in the religious sense. Have faith in yourself and your child. When my son wanted to ride his bike to school he was asking in earnest. He was not trying to distract me or make me angry.
Your child will grow up and they will lose that sweet sense of confidence. In time our children will learn that the world is not always forgiving, the weather does not always cooperate, and sometimes you can lose your faith in yourself.
Your children need to know that you always had faith in both of you.
5) Ask Yourself, Is This a Big Problem or a Small One?
When you start to go into panic-mode and your palms get sweaty ask yourself, “Is this a big problem or a small one?” I find with my ADHD and anxiety I often overreact to a perceived problem.
I have recently been asking myself this question when I start to freak out. It has given me some perspective on my reactions to things at home and at work. When I decide in my head that something is a small problem I swear I can feel my blood pressure go back down to baseline.
I am still not dodging all of the raindrops but I figure my kid can teach me!
Any thoughts on calming yourself down when things get heated?