I stood at my kitchen sink, looking at the shards of broken glass in the basin. I felt my heart thumping in my chest, my breath coming quickly, and the heavy weight of regret on my shoulders. I looked over at my kids across the room and through teary eyes saw the alarm on their faces. They just saw Mommy blow up. If only I could go back four seconds in time and start this moment over again.
As moms, it is painful to admit when we lose our cool around our kids. We are all conscious of being watched and judged as parents. It is scary when our frustration, anger, or stress cause us to yell, blame, or discipline unfairly. The truth is we will all disappoint our children, let them down, or make their lives hard. This is the reality of living in an imperfect world in relationships with imperfect people. The beautiful thing is, our ugly moments of weakness can lead to moments of profound learning and intimacy if we choose to use the aftermath as an opportunity to reconnect. Here are a few ways how.
Show Kids How to Recover
Our kids need to know how to recover from bad moments. Watching Mom throw a grown-up tantrum can be frightening, but it’s also a chance for Mom to model healthy recovery. Mom can take deep breaths, regain her composure, and reach out in love to those she may have hurt. Such examples of self-soothing and reconciliation can be encouraging to a young child. It shows them that bad things can be followed by good things; that hard feelings can be followed by happy ones. Surely it’s no fun to see Mom fall to pieces, but a child who watches Mom pick up those pieces and glue them back together learns that things that break don’t need to stay broken. We can take deliberate steps toward healing.
Give Them an Apology
As parents we teach our kids it is important to apologize, whether the hurt was intentional or accidental. When Mom is willing to apologize to her own children for things she says or does, the lesson becomes even more impactful. If we pretend we have a right to blow up and scare our children, we build walls of separation. But when we, as moms, model vulnerability by admitting our faults and humbly asking their forgiveness, we pave the way for intimacy and an even deeper connection. Such moments show deep respect for our kids and allow their respect and trust in us to grow as well.
Confess Your Weakness
I have noticed in my family that when I am weak, my children become strong. They are empathizing with me and stepping in to help. This would be an unhealthy pattern if it were the norm. Children should never be burdened with carrying a parent’s role in the family. But it is within the safety of a healthy family unit that children first learn to care for others. When a child responds compassionately to a mom who is overwhelmed, not only does Mom benefit from the help but the child benefits to give it. Each family member is strengthened when children learn to support one another in weakness.
Perhaps the hardest part of losing it in front of our kids is the knowledge that we may have scared them. As moms, we want to provide a safe place for our children. When we blow up in anger—when we are the source of their fear—we can feel like we’ve truly failed. But when we approach our kids with humility, gentleness, and vulnerability, we recreate that safe space. When we become soft, we become safe again. When we explain our negative feelings to kids old enough to understand, we become approachable again. They know we can understand their hard feelings because we experience them too.
Tell us! Have you reconciled with your kids since the last time you lost your cool in their presence?