E+E column: Keeping calm

I’m feeling a bit more serious this week I’m afraid. The last month or so has seen me becoming more irritable and short tempered with the kids and I’ve been quicker to resort to shouting when their behaviour has been challenging. After a particularly shameful episode on Friday at bedtime, I was doing some remorseful thinking and got stuck on the question, what do I want them to remember? As adults, reminiscing about their childhood, what do I want to be the overall atmosphere that they recall?

We’ve all seen ‘memes’ about not worrying too much about mess and although I agree that it’s unlikely that they’ll recall fondly a clean house, I’m thinking more of the emotional side of things. I don’t know how far back they’ll remember things, but I hate to think that some of their earliest memories could be of me shouting at them. I want them to remember their early years as being full of love, laughter and spontaneity – cheesy but true. There are also a million and one articles and blogs out there urging parents not to be so hard on themselves, to recognise our own needs and feelings as important. And this is undeniably true. But at the end of the day as an adult, I should have better self control than they, as children possess. Even if it requires all my inner strength, I should be able to refrain from releasing by frustration through shouting and to parent them calmly. Because when I do, lo and behold, they shout less. Their behaviour is intrinsically shaped and moulded by mine. They copy me more than I’d care to admit (I think many parents have a funny but embarrassing story about a young children repeating words they probably shouldn’t know)!

And I’m trying to also remember that they aren’t trying to make me cross. They don’t want a grumpy, shouting Mum. They’re just testing boundaries, learning about what behaviour is acceptable and what finding their place in the world. There is no malicious intent behind their behaviour even if it does wind me up. So I’m going to try and remember that and hopefully gently lead them down the right path rather than dragging them kicking and screaming. So apologies for being a bit gloomy but really I’d like to think of this as positive as I embrace a less angry approach to parenting (again!) this summer. I feel a bit nervous sharing it so publicly but I thought that if I was able to even help one parent with the way they interact with their children, it is worth it.

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