How to Parent When You’re Out of Patience


lose your temperLast weekend, I was a terrible parent.  I had to actively suppress my frustration with my kids almost all day, both days. I didn’t enjoy spending time with them as they whined about everything, asked me the same questions over and over, and bickered about inconsequential things. With the husband traveling for work, I let them have way too much screen time so that I could have a block of uninterrupted time alone (to do my “own” stuff like continue unpacking boxes in our new house and, say, go to the bathroom without an audience).  I eyed bedtime with the kind of joyful anticipation that used to accompany much more objectively fun activities, and then I promptly lost my sh** when – inevitably – the kids didn’t share my view that they should stay in their rooms and go the f*** to sleep at a decent hour.

So, yes, I engaged in some regretful parenting. I tried to be patient, I really did; I tried to stay calm and answer them and explain everything and keep the peace. But this weekend, that only went so far. So I did some yelling. I did some bribing. I may have done a little swearing. And at 10:00 on Saturday night, I made my wide-eyed 3-year-old watch as I reversed the doorknob on his bedroom door so that I could lock it from the outside if he kept getting up and going into his sister’s room to wake her up. (I highly recommend this little hack for unruly preschoolers.)

I know what you’re thinking: this is the last person who should be doling out the parenting advice. OK, I hear you!  But I want you to know that I recognize that I didn’t do a great job over the weekend, and I agree that I could use a little work! And usually, I’m a pretty decent mom (I think), with relatively well-behaved children who are – overall – pretty happy and fun.

So, I thought I’d make a list for myself to review the next time I’m having a tough time. Because there will be a next time! 

Think about why your fuse is so short, and whether there’s a way to get a few more inches of runway.

I don’t know if this is how most people work, but I feel like I have a maximum level of stress I can take before I lose the ability to deal with any of it effectively. It’s not compartmentalized, so if I’m having a rough work week, dealing with stuff breaking around the house, and not getting a lot of sleep, then I have very little space left in my brain to deal with kids who are fighting over the same old toy when they have 1000 other things they could be playing with. The tiniest infraction can make me snap! But if I’ve got low stress in other areas of my life, then I can calmly deal with crazy kids all day and night! So for me, it’s helpful to recognize when all my other life stress is getting crazy so that I can do what I can to plan/manage that and leave more space for dealing with the inevitable annoying parenting stuff.  

I really, really, really want to prioritize so that I can be the kind of calm, nurturing parent I always admired… so for me, that means clearing out some mental space any time I can.  Usually, that means staying organized, not falling too far behind on work, and carving out relaxation, time with friends, or my husband.

Take time to de-stress and remind yourself that these are children before you deal with your annoying kids.

It’s common parenting advice, maybe, but I need to remind myself all the time: don’t react in anger!  Kids (especially a 3- and 5-year-old working in cahoots) will do everything to drive you nuts.  They’ll promise to be extra careful at the table with the yogurt, then when you’re not looking will immediately run across the room and somehow trip and spill it on the couch, every time.  They’ll insist it’s too hot in their room, then complain when you turn on the A/C that they like a “cool breeze, but not a cold one,” and will wake you up at 2:30 a.m. to inform you that their blanket fell on the floor and they woke up a little chilly.  OK hold on Mom, don’t lose it just yet!  Remember that these are kids, they aren’t rational, and they have (knowingly or not) ulterior motivations when they do just about anything. I try and remember this so that I can turn accidents into teaching moments and address the root cause of otherwise inexplicably ridiculous behavior.

If you’re stressed, they’ll be stressed – so fake it till you make it.  

Have you noticed this?  When you are stressed and in a hurry, they’re unable to function like normal humans and will not be able to find their shoes and will refuse to wear a coat even though they’re complaining about the cold. When you snap at them to follow an order, they dig in their heels even further and disobey.  When you yell at them to stop fighting, they fight even louder. Daily, I have to push my stress way down deep and hide it away, so that I can slowly and calmly deal with the tiny human torture experts that I have birthed. With a smile! So far, they can’t seem to tell that I’m faking my good attitude most of the time, and usually, their attitudes greatly improve in response, which then makes me genuinely happy and calm(er). Magic.

If all else fails, know you’re not alone; somewhere out there, I’m probably bellowing out the word “ENOUGH!” and rocking myself in a corner.  Serenity now, insanity later.

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Lorrie lives in Cupertino with her husband, two small children, crazy dog, and obese cat. Originally from the Chicago area, Lorrie headed west in 2010, and hasn’t looked back. She loves exploring the Bay Area, and finds that even after six years, there is always something new to discover. Lorrie is a licensed and practicing attorney in both Illinois and California. She is proud to represent employees in all manner of work-related disputes, and partners closely as Of Counsel with Caffarelli & Assoc. Ltd., a Chicago-based firm. When she is not working or chasing her kids around, Lorrie likes to tinker with home improvement projects, walk around on sidewalks and trails, zone out on the internet, and “Netflix and chill.” She also likes to run, and aspires to one day make it to a yoga class.


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