Most mornings, things moved quickly in my house with five of us trying to get ready and get out the door to work or school. I was often tired and running low on energy and patience from a lack of sleep and having too much on my plate. As the clock ticked down and time grew tighter, tensions rose. Parenting triggers would surface as I hurried and became easily frustrated with the kids for moving too slowly or ignoring me. Additionally, if they fought or refused to do something, it often pushed me over the edge.

In these moments, I would often double down on my efforts to get out the door, fueled by parenting triggers. I would get more rigid, angry, and forceful with the kids. This did not usually help and instead ended with one or multiple kids in tears. Usually, I’d be in tears at some point too. Not a fun way to start the day. It wasn’t even 8 am and I’d be frustrated, overwhelmed, and angry at myself for not being more in control or finding a better way to respond to my kids.

In a talk she gave, Patty Wipfler, founder of Hand In Hand parenting, offered an idea, of just lying down in moments like these, acknowledging the impact of parenting triggers. I was intrigued by this idea. It flew right in the face of every instinct in my body. Considering my reactive behavior was not getting me the peaceful, sane mornings I dreamed of, I thought doing the exact opposite seemed like an interesting idea. 

Through my mindfulness practice, I had learned that my go-to move in times of stress was to push harder, effort more, do more, and become more rigid, exacerbating the impact of parenting triggers. This clearly was not working and only exacerbated all of the stress and tension for everyone. Not knowing what else to do, I was willing to try her suggestion. It went something like this: I’d ask the kids to do something for the eighth time, they ignored me or actively refused. I’d catch myself wanting to double down and recognize I was triggered and at a 10. Then I’d walk away to my bedroom. Lying face down on my bed or the floor of my closet, I removed myself, utilizing lying down as my pause button. I desperately needed to pause to slow everything down, starting with the churning chaos inside that was quickly spilling over onto my kids. Now that I had hit pause, I had given myself the time and space to remember Kristin Neff’s Self-Compassion Break. Mine sounded like this:

“This is a moment of frustration or anger.”  – Mindfulness 

“It’s normal to feel angry and frustrated when trying to get my kids ready for school by myself.” 

“Lots of other parents are trying to get their kids off to school and are likely feeling this way right now.” – Common Humanity 

 “I’m not failing. This is just a difficult moment and it will pass.” – Self-Compassion

 Then I’d pick myself up and take myself back out to get us all out the door.

Sometimes what we need is not monumental, not earth shattering. Sometimes a pause can be enough to help shift out of rigidity and back into a more flexible mind. A pause brings space for self-compassion in our most difficult and trying moments. Self-compassion brings our inner comfort and support system online.

Quick win:  Consider one of your most commonly trying moments with your kiddos, in the morning getting ready for school or daycare, dinner time, or at night during bedtime routine. Now consider cues that are a clear signal you are about to lose it, the ship is going down, things are spiraling, your pushed to your limit. Write out every cue you can think of which tells you things are spiraling. (rigid thinking – They have to go to bed RIGHT NOW!, catastrophic thinking – Bedtime is terrible! It always goes to s***!, your muscles feel tense and tight, your kids’ playfulness is PISSING you OFF, etc.) When you recognize one of these cues real time, use it as a signal to remove yourself and throw yourself down on your bed for a pause. (Trust me it feels good. It’s probably why kids throw themselves down.) Let me know how it goes and/or what your pause looks like.

Thank you so much for listening. Be Well!

This story was brought to you by the RAGE Break, a free guided audio pause for when you are about to lose or have just lost it with your kids and you need a moment to regroup. Find the audio download in the links.

A reminder: This content is intended for educational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for private psychotherapy services. Compassionate Heart Mindful Life does not provide psychotherapy services in any capacity.

I am a therapist but I am not your therapist and this is not therapy and should not be a substitute for mental health treatment. If you need mental health treatment please find a qualified professional in your area.

This is not a therapist referral service. Michelle Puster and Compassionate Heart Mindful Life cannot and does not provide any warranties related to the information contained in or resulting services from any of the mental health care providers (therapists, counselors, psychologists, social-workers, marriage and family therapists, and other health providers) or other links to other services provided.