It happened while we were doing math today. “Just look at the beans and count them! Quit staring off into space! Write the number down!” I saw his sweet cheeks turning pink, and then moisture coming to his eyes. Sadly, I ignored it to start with – those signs that I was breaking his heart. Clearly, I was having a huge moment of frustration. As I pulled away to help his brother with a problem, he said, “you’re not yelling at him, only me.”
This was a Bad Mom moment! I knew it, but like a snowball rolling down a hill it was in motion and out of my reach to start with. I’ve been here before, I’m not proud of this kind of mom behavior. I think, however, we’ve all been there before.
There’s something about parenting … we absolutely love these little creatures, but they frustrate us to no end! I don’t know about you, but they make me cuss, in my head … honestly, it always stays in my head!
What is Frustration?
Simple Definition of frustration (Merriam-Webster)
: a feeling of anger or annoyance caused by being unable to do something : the state of being frustrated
: something that causes feelings of anger and annoyance
: the fact of being prevented from succeeding or doing something
Looking at this definition, we can see why parenting can be the cause of so much frustration. In that moment, when I was speaking unkindly to my son, I was annoyed. You see, he was delaying me from being able to move on to something else. I wanted to get his schoolwork done. I wanted to go do some writing, check my email, help my other children, etc. And his delaying tactics were blocking that.
There are many other times I get annoyed with my kids. A common one is when they are all tucked into bed. Teeth are brushed, pjs are on, I’ve spent an hour reading to my little guy, lying with him awhile, then reading to the others and I finally get a chance to come downstairs and have ME time.
You know how that is. I’m enjoying my little bit of peace and quiet (okay, watching This Is Us) before I go to bed, but it starts to happen; someone comes down and interrupts me. What do they want? Usually nothing important, but the point is: they’re interrupting me. They hear me sigh (loudly). And, the message they get? They’re not important.
That’s not the message I want my children to get from me. I want them to know they mean the world to me. That I value them and enjoy them, and I’m available. That I’m a safe place to fall. I want them to always remember that they are important to me.
Frustration is a totally normal, human emotion. There are a myriad of reasons to get frustrated every single day. And if I want my kids to internalize all those messages I WANT them to get, then I better learn to manage my frustration. But, how?
Looking at that moment with my son, here’s what I would do next time.
- Recognize the frustration building – Clearly, if I can’t see what’s happening, then I can’t do anything about it. So, in the moment be aware of my emotions. It was obvious that my frustration was amping up.
- Stop and think – Why am I frustrated? What is my unmet expectation? I wasn’t going to be finished in the amount of time I expected, which meant I couldn’t move on to what I thought was important.
- Adjust my expectations – This math is going to take longer than I hoped. It is important, though. That’s the reason I homeschool – to give my children what they need, and that does mean allowing extra time.
- Take some time – I may need a time out for myself. Take a breath (or a couple), move on to something else.
- Come back and do it differently – This time remember my adjusted expectations. My little guy’s head was somewhere else, he needed more time to settle into school for the day, and even a little exercise so his brain could focus. Speaking calmly and clearly will get better results. Once I took a couple of breaths my head was clearer and I could see what was more important.
One More Step
6. Grace – Lastly, I give myself grace. Forgive myself here, again.
Without this last step, we just beat ourselves up over and over, always feeling defeated. You see, it’s normal to get frustrated and angry, we fail and mess up, but we can fix it and move on.
My mama heart broke a little when I saw those pink cheeks. “I’m sorry, Son. I was not nice, and you’re right, I wasn’t being kind to you. Please, can you forgive me?” I snuggled up with him for a moment and he forgave me, as he always does when I blow it. That’s grace, and it’s a beautiful thing.
I pray, that tomorrow I do it better.
Where are your greatest frustrations? Have you figured out how to head them off a little quicker than I did today?