Emotions in Parenting
Parenting can be a super emotional experience. There are days when the emotion tides seem low and other days when they’re high. Our duty as adults is to ensure that we create a balance especially because the child’s development is highly dependent on our ability to handle such times.
A number of behaviours can warrant our often negative response patterns to such tides – Behaviours as those of the spouse, domestic helps and then the children. Situations such as financial struggles, lack of time, disorganized home structure, health challenges, etc can evoke hard behaviours from us. Learning to handle these externals, therefore, can help reduce our stress levels and those of the children added to the fact that it also teaches them to manage their own emotions. A skill they’ll be needing in every facet of life.
We look into a normal school day morning in Nigeria without a domestic staff to help:
The Bee family (A mother’s angle)
A nuclear family of 5 made of Father (Civil servant), Mother (Business woman), Four children aged 6, 4, 2, 5 months. Father has to be at work 8 am daily, mother, shop 9 am daily, Saturdays inclusive. The children, school 7:30 am.
Mother hardly sleeps through the night because she has to breastfeed two-hourly which also depends on the baby’s mood. Mother has to be unavoidably awake before 5 am daily to get the children set for the day. Of course, there’s the heavy traffic brouhaha that begins to sharpen up from 6:45 am. This means the school crew should’ve left the vicinity of the home before 6:45 am. Mother would prefer to drop off kids then head off to the shop since Father’s office is not too far off the home.
You must remember that this is a typical African family where the father is ‘Head’ and mother is a ‘help meet’.
The children wake up at 5:30 am to be able to ‘meet up’. Activities to be done with children between 5:30 am and 6:30 am include: Bathing, dressing up, brushing teeth, eating, moving to the car. Imagine yourself in this condition with a toddler! A male toddler!
Mother tries to meet up with time. Yes! Father helps with what he can help with. He sets bath items, helps feed those who will allow him, holds the baby if he’s permitted by baby, cleans the cars, tidies up the compound.
They soon all joggle off. Midway, a click in a member’s head reminds of a forgotten lunch pack. Mother in a state of helplessness seeks which child to blame causing the expected smooth ride to school to suddenly turn a bit sour. Children are dropped off and while driving away having made alternative arrangements for food for the owner of the forgotten pack, the parent’s guilt sets in.
Mrs. Bee gets to her shop, starts up all that is expected of the day, faces her struggles and in a few hours, it’s pick up time.
Home with the children, she joggles between lunch and homework, getting them set for the night and preparing for the next day’s activity. Bedtime is later than should be.
The next morning, Mother is up 30 minutes behind time…. CHAOS!
The emotions associated with chaos arise and begin to manifest.
Such a mother would need help. And this is where we find us, parents, oftentimes. Or is it a day at the office for the father having experienced some good traffic situation to and from work? Or a morning at home with an uncooperating domestic help? Or a day with a toddler all to a parent’s self?
We all need help in one way or another when handling matters associated with emotions. Studies show that when parents react harshly with emotional intensity, children’s distress tends to escalate and the problem is less likely to get sorted.
To be able to get this situation resolved, we can try the following:
Firstly, be sensitive enough to understand that lack of time is enough to make anyone unstable resulting in the loss of more time. One must, therefore, shift some of the many daily goals to a later date. Truth is, everything mustn’t be perfect (I try to remind myself of this many times). Where you fail to achieve, simply restrategize.
Secondly, try to remain calm. Take charge of the situation. When it comes to managing the behaviours of children, the parent or adult caregiver must be able to find out the root cause of the child’s behaviour to be able to effectively proffer lasting solutions. Finding this root cause takes time and patience. And one must remain calm to be able to give the required time and patience.
Thirdly, we are humans and will more often than not, in the course of the ‘emotions management journey’, flip! No! you haven’t failed. The moment you realize you flipped, recall yourself and take the better road. Often it may need apologizing to whomever you flipped on. Yes! As difficult as it may be. It helps the other person learn to manage feelings too.
Fourthly, take some time out to refresh you! It’s called Self-care, and it’s as important as parenting.
Managing one’s emotions as a parent can be a tough task. You need to understand that as difficult as it is, expectations on us to raise happy and successful decision-makers who can fit into whatever facet of life they find themselves in are high.
The reason we first need to learn to manage our emotions.
Remember, your child’s action + your response = Outcome