How I am Learning to Keep My Cool When My Child is Melting Down

How I am Learning to Keep My Cool While My Child is Melting Down by Jennifer Andersen
How I am Learning to Keep My Cool While My Child is Melting Down by Jennifer Andersen

Recently, I’ve been working on being a grown-up. I have stopped acting like real life will start next week or next month and realized that this is it. It is happening now. This has led to more thought, intention, responsibility, and the way I interact with people- including here on OMB. It has also extended to my children.

When my kids (mostly at this point my 7 year old daughter) melt down I remind myself: “I am the grown-up. They are the child. It is my job, my responsibility, to handle this well. It is not okay for me to have a temper tantrum at them because they are having a hard time. That is immature, irresponsible, and not at all grown up.”

It is right that my kids have a grown-up mother. Different things work for different people, but this one has been huge for me in every facet of my life.

Another thing that was a real game changer for how I interact with my kids is Peggy O’ Mara’s quote “The way you speak to your children becomes their inner voice”.

The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice. Peggy O'Mara
The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice. Peggy O’Mara

Reading that for the first time stopped me in my tracks. I have an influence over how my children speak to themselves? I knew I needed to handle that responsibly and with care. It remains a huge motivator.

Thinking of my daughter in a romantic relationship or professional situation as a teen or an adult makes me want to give her the strength, confidence, verbiage, and healthy boundaries to expect great things of those relationships. Thinking of my son out in the world contributing to society and being loved makes me want to know that when I am not with him he is offering himself compassion and loving self talk- not berating himself and reminding himself of what a loser he is.

Mostly what made me get better, and continues to motivate me today, is looking at my kids when I do lose it. (Mostly now) once a month when I act like a total jerk to them I cannot even handle what their little faces look like. God. They are so sweet and trust me so much. They believe every word I say.

They believe every word I say.

It is this truth that I call forth in my weakest moments- the ones where my daughter is being totally unreasonable and screaming at me. The moments that trigger me to fight back, show her who is boss, let my anger and anxiety parent her, scream back at her lack of reasonability… In these moments I (try to) remember that it is right now that I am showing her what love looks like.

It is this exchange that will show her how to resolve high emotion, problems, disagreements, and being wronged. In this minute I have the opportunity to show my daughter how to move through big feelings, uncertainty, and overwhelm. I can show her what healthy boundaries look like. I get to give her something I never had: the ability to cope, rise above, and react with intention and thought.

The thing that is awesome about becoming a grown-up in front of your kids is that they watch you. They see you commit to change and achieve it. They see you living the beautiful quote “at any moment you can decide this is not the way my story ends” and actually write it.

The best part is seeing your kids live it too. When they come to you and say “mom, I’m really sorry. I totally lost it and would like to start over. Can we hug it out?” you think “holy shit. I did that. I took responsibility. I overcame the worst parts of myself. I gave my children something I never had myself.”

What a gift to pass on.

Nobody else in the world could have made me face my worst parts. Not a single other situation or being could have given me the real motivation to be a  grown-up- even in the most challenging times.

I still have a long way to go. I have not hung up my hat, given myself a finishing medal, or decided that I have come far enough. Quite the opposite. This process has been hugely inspiring and empowering. This encourages me to go further.

Mostly what makes me want to keep going is seeing how my kids have changed and the relationship and life we have now. It is so. much. better. And for them, I always want better.