When stress makes you a bad parent and what to do about it

Preview: Do you ever feel like stress makes you a bad parent? We don’t mean to yell at our children but some days the stress of being a parent AND a person overflows and we react to our children in a negative way. Try a few strategies to prevent losing your temper and learn how to recover if you do.
When stress makes you a bad parent and what to do about it

As much as we would like the term “parent” to be synonymous with “superhero“- we are actually just plain old humans. Regular, fallible humans. On top of all of the struggles of parenting, we are still normal people who have to deal with bills, bosses, laundry, and unexpected disasters.

When things get overwhelming for us as parents, the stress of raising kids is amplified. For example: Jimmy always plays his music too loud after school but today Mom was late for a meeting and forgot to deposit money in the bank. Now the mortgage is going to be late, the boss is mad, and Jimmy’s radio seems to be blaring extra loud. What happens next?

WE ARE HUMAN. This bears repeating. We probably yell at Jimmy because we are under so much pressure and his music volume was the last straw. We may forget things, say things we don’t mean, even have some regrets. It will happen because we are human and “it happens”. There are a few things we can do to minimize these situations from reaching a fever pitch and correct them if they do.

Tips to avoid losing your temper:

1. Avoid extra stressful situations– When you know you are already having a bad day, avoid putting your children in situations that cause additional (and unnecessary) stress. Don’t go to the grocery store around nap time. Don’t drag them to the doctors office when they are hungry. Avoid playdates with that friend you know your chid likes play rowdy with. There will always be certain things we have take care of but it is not always worth the extra stress. Try these suggestions for running errands without dragging kids to the store.

2. Get a System– Things run much more smoothly when there is a system in place. This is just as true in your family as it is in huge corporations. Things just work better when everyone knows what to expect and what part they play. You are more likely to get stressed over trash that didn’t get taken out or a bill payment that was missed if you are just in reactive mode (“flying by the seat of your pants” instead of having a system). A system can be as simple as identifying who empties the dishwasher or as complex as set meal plans, chore charts, and assigned accounting duties. Do what works best for your family’s needs. Get started with the (free) Happy Mom System

3. Parent as if someone is watching– I know it sounds silly but it is kind of like “fake it ’til you make it”. When you start to feel as if you might lose your temper, pretend you are on camera. If we are being honest, we parent just a bit differently when other people are watching. This trick will give you a minute to gather your thoughts and take the gentle way out. When you are feeling calm again later, you can talk to your child about what happened and how a behavior could have been changed. This way it won’t be your behavior that was wrong!

When you have already lost your temper:

4. Apologize– When tempers flare and you know you yelled at Jimmy because of your own stress and not actually the music volume, apologize. This can be a hard thing as a parent. Admitting you are wrong to the people who you want to think your are always right- well, it’s humbling. At the end of the day, apologizing does three things: (1) It models the behavior you want them to display- i.e. you want them to apologize when they have made a mistake (2) It shows them that it is okay to make mistakes (3) It builds trust between your and your child.

5. Forgive yourself– If you have recognized your error and apologized- then move on. Carrying around parental guilt for every little thing we may have “done wrong” is not helpful to anyone. We want our children to acknowledge when they make a mistake, apologize, and try to do better next time. We need to do the same- for our children and for our own sanity.

Let’s be clear on something important- good parenting does not always mean good (well behaving) kids. Kids are human too! They are still kids. Their bodies and brains are growing. They are still adapting to social and cultural norms. Kids have bad days too and that will not change. What can change is how you react to it. You can yell at Jimmy and take your frustrations out on him, or you can chose to handle it in a way that lets him know the radio was too loud but also keeps your parent-child relationship intact. We tell our children that good behaviors are a choice- and that is just as true for us as parents. You can choose to give in to your own emotions or you can take a step back and decide how you want to respond.

A bad day does not make you a bad parent. If you take care of your kids the best you can and give them love- YOU ARE A GOOD PARENT! A bad behavior is a mistake. It does not make a bad person (parent or child).

Grace for yourself as well as your child is always a good lesson. Remember that one day when your are a grandparent, you will look back fondly on these days as you guide your children through these same conflicts.

Remember to Pin this article so you can refer back on the days when you need it most.

When stress makes you a bad parent and what to do about it

If you are struggling with yelling, try these 5 steps to stop yelling and get peace back in your home.


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  1. This was a wonderful post. This could prevent abuse and I think that its great! Also we all get stressed lol, I have a six year old and I get stressed a lot lol. My name is Brandy, and im new to the blogging community. Its nice to meet you. Have a blessed day http://whimsicalwolfblog.com/

    • HappyPlace Mom says:

      Thank you Brandy! We are all human and have emotions that we need to balance with our role as a parent. Welcome to the blogging community!!!

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