We’ve all had those days. You know THOSE days! The days where the kids are just driving you absolutely around the twist! Everything they do seems to make you crankier and crankier, until you reach the point where something just has to give. Usually it’s your temper. Or uncontrollable hot, burning tears. Or that intense urge to just run away and join the circus…

But before you start searching online for a Ringmaster’s outfit, here’s five questions you should ask yourself on those days when the kids are pushing every single button you’ve got. 

1. What's the real problem here?

So your toddler and pre-schooler are having a massive fisticuffs over who gets to play with the Elsa doll / Tonka truck / random piece of plastic they found lying on the ground. But is this REALLY about the Elsa doll, the Tonka truck, or whatever the heck that bit of plastic used to be?

I always encourage people to look beyond “poor” behaviour – and back to the root cause. Why is my child throwing a tantrum, acting up, biting me, smearing shaving cream all over the shower screen? Are they exhausted? Over-stimulated? Bored? Jealous and seeking my attention? This is my number one tip for when kids start to act up. Have a think about the reason behind the behaviour – sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it isn’t, but usually you can pin-point a reason if you look hard enough. Which leads me to question number 2…

2. Am I expecting too much of my children?

Remember, kids are kids. They’re not just miniature sized adults. We live in a very fast-paced society these days, and life can get pretty hectic! Often we forget that little bodies and brains don’t process things as quickly as ours. Junior brains need a lot more time to ponder, reflect, dawdle and turn the exact same piece of Lego over in their hands, over and over again. It’s how their brain functions, and if we push them too far or too fast, they become overwhelmed – and then it’s meltdown city. Hence, why a five minute trip to the shops turns into a 30 minute ordeal. Remember to slow things down a bit. Always give yourself extra time, even for the simplest of tasks, and re-assess what you actually think you can accomplish in one day – with your kids in tow!

3. Is it their behaviour, or is it my tolerance level?

Have you ever had a situation where your child has done something completely innocuous, but it has seriously pushed your buttons? Are they doing something today that wouldn’t normally bother you? Have you snapped at them for doing something that’s completely within the realm of standard kids behaviour? Yeah, me too!

This happens quite frequently, and the important thing to ask yourself is “why aren’t I coping with this behaviour, when it normally doesn’t bother me?” Have you been extra sleep-deprived lately? Have you had a fight with your husband? Did you have an extra stressful day at work? I know we don’t like to think that we are actually the cause of the problem, but sometimes this is the case. By asking this question it can remind us that it’s not our children’s behaviour that’s the issue here – it’s our own stress levels or coping strategies. Which leads me on to question 4…

4. How's my self-care?

I heard a fantastic quote on a podcast (*) recently – “when resentment is high, self-care is low”. This really resonated with me, because I know that as Mums, we generally tend to put others’ needs first, which means we frequently skimp on self-care. Have you been able to get to your weekly Zumba class? Have you caught up with your BFF for a cuppa (sans kids) lately? Are you getting enough wind down time at night – or are you up into the wee hours doing laundry and housework? Self-care is essential because when we start to skimp on self-care, we feel like we have nothing left to give – and that’s when we become resentful of everyone around us who keeps taking, taking, taking. Repeat after me – “Self care is essential, not selfish!”

5. When was the last time I had a break from my kids?

You know – a REAL break from the kids? Not just a harried 30 minute walk around the block to cool off after hubby gets home. But a real honest-to-goodness planned break. Some purposeful, planned time where you can relax and enjoy yourself, without stressing about the warzone you left at home?

Those reactive breaks will only keep our heads above water for so long. These “Take the baby I have to get out of this house!” breaks are purely for survival! If we really want to thrive and be able to better cope with our kids on a day-in, day-out basis, then we need to have some more formal rest and “escape” strategies in place. Maybe it’s one morning a week where hubby takes the kids to the park so you can sleep in. Maybe it’s one night a month where the kids sleepover at Nana’s so you can have a quiet weekend at home with hubby. It’s okay to crave a little space from your children. And if you have the resources to make it happen, then make sure you take advantage of that!

(*) Just in case you’re interested in that podcast, it was an episode of The Health Bridge called “Connecting to the here and now”, with guest Dr Jen Land

Author

Sarah Hausler is a Women's Health Occupational Therapist and owner of Bloom Wellbeing. She is passionate about helping women to live their best life and adjust to the physical and emotional demands of being a new mum.

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