I feel like I am yelling at my child all day long. I try my best to treat her like a person and be respectful, but it is exhausting! I worry that I am ruining her, please help me, I don’t know what to do.
A guilty momma
Dear Guilty Momma,
When our children are being children, when they are exploring and learning the world around them, when they are growing into their own selves and testing boundaries, it can feel like the most difficult job in the world to keep ourselves regulated and aware of our own triggers in order to be able to parent respectfully.
Here are five brief but effective strategies from Dr. Laura Markham that you can use to help yourself in your parenting journey, when things feel anything but calm:
- Stop, Drop, Breathe
Stop whatever you’re doing and/or saying. Drop your agenda (or whatever mental plan you have that you “need” to achieve), and take a slow and deep breath. Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) has said “Self-restraint during times of anger saves one from situations that lead to harm.” [Ghurar al-Ḥikam, Ḥadīth #10,151]
- Bring your mind into the present moment
Allow yourself to mentally become conscious of what you are feeling in your body. Where are you holding your tension and your stress? What do your body parts feel like – your shoulders? Your neck? Your arms? Your back? Be aware and be present. The key to mindfulness is self reflection and we are reminded of the words by the Commander of the Faithful, Imām ʿAlī (ʿa), “The fruit of reflection (thinking) is wellbeing.” [Ghurar al-Ḥikam, Ḥadīth #8057]
- Create safety for yourself
Mantras and affirmations are valuable in treating ourselves with grace and compassion. Some include:
- “This is not an emergency”
- “My child is not giving me a hard time, they are having a hard time”
- “All behavior is communication”
- “This is hard. Allah has given me the capacity to do hard things”
- “Children do well when they can”
- “I choose to raise my children with the mindful intention of achieving the pleasure of Allah (swt)”
It is helpful to take comfort in the words of Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ) who said “Treating people with leniency is a form of charity.” [Mishkāt al-Anwār fī Ghurar al-Akhbār, Ch. 5, Section 7, Ḥadīth #1664]
- Calm your body
As Imām Muḥammad al-Bāqir (ʿa) has said, “When a man gets so angry that he cannot be conciliated (and commits a sin) he will enter the Fire of Hell. If a man gets angry when he is standing up, he should sit down to fend off Satan’s evilness. If he is sitting, he should stand up. Whoever gets angry with a relative should stand up, go towards him and touch him, since by touching his relative he will become calm.” [Mishkāt al-Anwār fī Ghurar al-Akhbār, Ch. 1, Section 8, ḥadīth #1789]
Learn how to breathe deeply, in through your nose and out through your mouth, drink some water, sit down or stand up (the opposite of whatever position you are in), or take a step away into another room (as long as your child is safe).
- Shift your perspective
Try to understand your child’s perspective, see the situation through their eyes. Reconnect with them, apologize for your anger and your behavior during your anger, and ask for a do-over. Your child will appreciate your apology and you will have modeled for them how to remedy a situation when they are at fault. Imām Zaynul ʿĀbidīn (ʿa) has said, “The man who finds his clemency in the midst of his anger amazes me.” [Mīzān al-Ḥikmah, Ḥadīth #648]
Our role models are those who maintained respect and the greatest of akhlāq even in the face of the greatest trials, tribulations, and injustices. Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) has said, “One of the best actions of the powerful person is for him to show forbearance when he is angry.” [Ghurar al-Ḥikam, Ḥadīth #8136]
After all is said and done, we do our best as parents and pray that Allah (swt) guide our children on the path to Him and to maximize the good we do and minimize our deficiencies.