If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve struggled on more than one occasion with losing your cool with your kids. I mean, who hasn’t, right?
Raising little people is hard and kids are kids. Enough said.
I personally struggled for years with anger, frustration, and yelling more than I ever wanted to at my kids.
It was through total surrender to the healing of my Savior, understanding what was triggering my yelling and anger in the first place, and learning to quickly gain a healthier and calmer perspective when I felt the anger and overwhelm rising up.
That’s where these questions come in! That’s where the questions on this list come in. This is not something you read and say, “hmm that’s nice to know when I’m in the heat of battle with my kids.”
No, it’s likely if you read this once, you’ll never remember a single question when you need it most. These are questions that are meant to reshape your thinking. Questions to reflect on daily or weekly or have posted up as a reminder.
All of these questions require practice and repeated attention to help train our minds to think and then as a result, ACT differently.
We have the power to train ourselves to both think and act the way we desire. If we yell and get angry, it’s because we’ve trained ourselves to react that way. These questions are designed to help you retrain your mind and thinking so you can retrain your actions.
“So many have a highway to stress and negative thinking and a dirt road to happiness.” – Tony Robbins
Let’s work on repaving our road to happiness and stop going the path of least resistance because we’d all agree that the old way isn’t working. And also know this is just a starting point. There are many hugely helpful resources available that I’ll share throughout this post.
1 – What does my child need right now?
When kids are acting out, not listening, or doing something that’s annoying us at that moment it’s super easy to feel like you’re going to blow. But one of the key indicators of our child needing something is their strange or even rude behavior. Kids at any age, really do have challenges knowing and articulating what they need and so when that need goes unmet they do the strangest things!
So when your son keeps flinging your couch cushions against the wall to see how high they can bounce and then when you tell him to stop, he moves to his real ball and starts bouncing it in the kitchen – it’s time for us to stop. We need to stop what we were previously focused on and get refocused on what in the world our little guy needs right now instead of getting heated before we blow.
Sometimes our child just needs some attention and one on one conversation. Sometimes they need a nap or a snack because tired and hungry kids can honestly turn into crazy kids. Sometimes they want a fun and quiet activity to do but don’t know how to get started. When we stop and do some digging, we get so much more time back and peace in return.
2 – What do I need right now?
There are other times when children are just being kids and doing just about anything can seriously wear on our nerves. Even if we realize they’re hungry and we get our kids some crackers to snack on, we can be annoyed by the sound of chewing. I had a day like that yesterday!
On those days, I’ve conditioned myself to notice when I’m really sensitive to the kids… and even my spouse. This is important because I used to not pay attention to what I needed and assumed it was always about the kids. When it’s not just that moment, but I’m feeling really edgy most of the day, I stop what I’m doing and do a quick self-evaluation. This is where I’ll go to the bathroom or take a shower if possible to collect my thoughts and grab a break in private.
Sometimes, that’s honestly enough… to just know that I’m super tired because I didn’t sleep well because of my restless toddler the night before. There’s a lie that rolls around our head that tells us when we get angry or frustrated that we’re terrible mothers and something is wrong with us.
No, you are just human, with human needs. Meeting those very human needs is so important to our overall well-being and our ability to handle momlife well.
3 – Am I feeling embarrassed or judged by others at this moment?
I know that nothing can set a mama off more than a public show of foolishness on the part of her lovely children. This can happen at any age, one of your kids decides to push your buttons in public at the store or at a family event with everyone watching.
Again, your child may be overly tired or stimulated which is often the case, but instead of managing our child’s need and calming our rattled nerves down, we instead go into a heightened state of embarrassment because we often feel judged like everyone is shaking their head in our direction. And making mental notes of how bad of a parent we are or how bad our kids are.
That’s why training your mind to ask yourself this question is so powerful. It makes you aware that though you may be aggravated at your kid for what they did or said, the added anger piling on top doesn’t have to be yours. You don’t have to sign for that package. Simply know that every parent in that grocery store line or at that family party has been there before with their own kids. And those who don’t have kids, simply don’t get a vote!
Just take it all in stride as yet another moment when your normally well-behaved child decides to act out in front of others like they have total manners amnesia. And just excuse yourself from that situation, address your child and their behavior, and move on. Let whatever negative feelings you do have be for that behavior alone and not all the judgemental stuff.
4 – Is my anger right now reasonable? Is it really that big of a deal?
This is a very important question to ask anytime you feel like you’re about to explode or have already let loose. This is also great advice for spouses too. I remember getting so mad, like extremely heated, at my husband because he made a comment about me feeding my toddler son chicken nuggets for dinner that night.
The comment wasn’t bad in and of itself but I as mentioned above was feeling judged and so that added to my anger in a major way. Let’s just say as the days went by (I needed several to get over it) I could clearly see that my anger was totally unreasonable.
And over the years I’ve also expressed totally unreasonable anger toward my kids too. It’s hard not to do because we are emotional beings but it’s necessary that we train our minds to think differently.
That’s because it’s even harder to be on the receiving end of someone else’s unreasonable anger. We owe it to our family to see the signs and stop it in its tracks. Often, just seeing that we are going overboard is enough to calm down. The problem is when we never take the time to look.
5 – What is the specific emotion I’m feeling right now?
Here is one of my favorite questions to ask myself when I’m feeling heated. What emotion am I feeling right now. Notice, I’m not asking myself “how I’m feeling.” Asking myself to name my emotion allows me to disconnect that emotion from me. To say feeling is something that feels a part of me.
You might be thinking, that’s easy, my emotion is anger. Nope, we need to go deeper! We are most often angry because we’re experiencing something else like disappointment, rejection, fear, or like shared above – embarrassment. This is where we have to be courageous to get really honest with ourselves in the moment.
6 – What’s really going on here? Am I offering them the benefit of the doubt or jumping to conclusions?
Oftentimes, we can jump to conclusions and consequently fly off the handle without having the full picture. Like when you’re super tired and go to your bathroom to wash your face before bed and see your two girls playing in your “mommy-only” makeup… which is now all over the bathroom.
Your instinct is to scream because now your make-up is messed up AND you have a bathroom and two more faces to wash! But what was really going on was your daughters wanted to surprise you with their own beauty makeovers. They wanted to put a smile on your face, but instead, they made you want to cry.
Sometimes when our kids do stuff that we don’t like, it’s just as we see it. But other times it’s not, and we need to learn to pause and hold back the screams and instead ask questions to find out what is really going on. When we jump right into scream mode, we often miss out on hearing our child’s perfectly sweet and innocent reasons for messing up your makeup.
When we go in too hot, they’ll reasonably cower and just apologize or shut down. Meanwhile, you missed a potentially sweet moment that while may be more work, is one to treasure.
7 – Am I trying to do too much in this moment?
This was a huge question for me to ask because I’ve always been a work from home mom and so juggling work, housework, and kids was my daily to-do list. I was constantly trying to pack-in too much in every waking hour.
And every time I tried, my kids would set me off. The funny thing is, most of the time they were just doing regular kid stuff yet because mommy was working I was expecting them to be robots. It doesn’t work well because for some reason kids have a sense about these things. It’s like when we’re on the phone, they suddenly have a lot of needs or have to fight with their sister!
If you realize that you’re being unrealistic about what you’re trying to get done, stop and re-evaluate. Can you move some things around? Can you get the kids to help? Or if you’ve really got to get your work done, would putting on a good movie for the kids be a better way to keep them occupied until you’re done?
8 – Is there any good in this situation that I can focus on – no matter how small?
This may be a hard one but it’s helpful in so many situations in life. Looking at the positive side of things helps to put our minds in a positive state which helps us make better decisions.
“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.”Philippians 4:8
For example, my girls are both getting older and so their friend time is getting less frequent as they start enjoying their own individual interests. So when I hear them suddenly running around and rough-housing and laughing upstairs, I force myself to calm my annoyed nerves at the loud banging coming through the ceiling.
When they’re being loud, but I hear laughter… I just let them do it and be grateful I don’t hear fighting!
9 – If I’m honest with myself, am I really letting fear make me angry?
Fear is such a funny thing because it’s so sneaky. When your toddler who’s on a hunger strike refuses to eat and you find yourself at your wits end, you’re not really angry at your toddler – you’re afraid.
You’re scared that if he doesn’t eat, he’ll get sick and need to be fed at the hospital, you’re afraid that this means you’re a terrible mom because you’ve never heard of any other toddlers refusing to eat.
When your teenager talks back, refuses to clean up their room, and brings home another D you’re afraid that you’ve missed something as a parent, that they might never turn out the way you hoped. That you just don’t have the answers to figure it all out.
It’s that fear and feeling of powerlessness moving beneath the surface that drive your fear. When you realize this, you can shift your anger to compassion. I know… just stick with me here.
Compassion is needed for you and for this situation. You feel stuck and need help. Feeling angry only distracts you from the answers and delays your progress.
Choose to treat yourself like one of your mom friends and give yourself some good advice and a good dose of understanding that none of us have all the answers.
10 – What was I doing before I got angry? Could that thing be adding to my stress?
In all fairness to children, they seem to have the worst timing ever! You might have just gotten off the worst 2 hour customer service call to the cable company that made you consider clawing your eyes out and your kids run into the room asking you to judge who’s turn it is to kick the ball next.
Literally, NOT a good time. In those moments it’s best to take a breath and answer the question quickly so they’ll run off and play or tell them to give you a few minutes. Say this calmly yet firmly because they’re likely to go into beg-mode if you don’t.
Taking a few minutes to breathe and collect yourself will help you better deal with the latest issue at hand without going ballistic.
In fact, this has happened to me with my husband. He’ll be working in the office and I’ll pop in to ask if he feels like hamburgers or fish for dinner. In response, I’ll get a very sharp answer that doesn’t feel good in the moment. He’ll then come back later and apologize for his tone and explain that he just got off a terrible call or something.
11 – Am I letting love and grace lead my words or my anger and disappointment?
Being angry and/or yelling usually doesn’t help but only adds to the problem, making things worse. We tend to say things we regret, tears start flowing, and we feel guilt the size of Texas. Understanding this in the moment (as hard as that may seem) challenges us to look for a more helpful way to respond.
And we do that by focusing on grace – which is what we ALL need. Grace is our ability to see that we don’t all do it, get it, or say it right all the time. And when we mess up, we want others to give us the grace and love we need.
And when we practice giving grace to our kids when they miss it big time, it teaches them to show grace and kindness to others. This is a lost art in our society and showing grace to our children is a key ingredient in raising kind humans.