Mommy needs a time-out: Seven things to try (and three things NOT to try) when your kids are driving you crazy
Taking a deep breath and counting to 10? Has that ever worked for anyone who’s pissed off? Or am I just immune to the cliche of calm-down techniques?
I have no problem admitting that I get frustrated with my kids. I feel badly when I lose my temper, and I try to think about it afterwards and see what we could have done differently. (The answer is that the kids should have turned on those freaking listening ears.)
When I’m about to lose my cool — or, as it often the case, I’ve already lost it — there are a few things I can do to get it back …
- Get the heck away from them. Obvious, right? It’s not always possible, but I do enjoy a good dash-away-from-the-kids when Darling Husband gets home from work, or wakes up from sleeping after the night shift. I basically say “YOUR TURN,” and stalk off to another level of the house. In these cases, I don’t listen to music or watch TV. I need total silence. After 10 minutes of flipping through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram on my phone — with no one grabbing my legs or whining at me — I feel calm enough to return. It’s basically a Mommy Time-Out.
- Wash the dishes. I know, it’s ridiculous, but I don’t mind hand-washing dishes. In fact, I find it kind of soothing. I turn the water to a hot-but-not-too-hot temperature, and tune out the kids with Songza on the iPad while I scrub away. It’s almost like a spa for your hands … almost? … and by the time I’ve simmered down, the dishes are done.
- Tidy a room. You must think I have the cleanest house in the world, based on my calm-down methods (I don’t). If the kids have made a mess of the toyroom, I’ll march the three of us downstairs and we’ll clean it up together. Four-year-old D is quite helpful, and two-year-old C mainly just plays, but I don’t mind doing most of the work. Throwing toys back into bins is wonderful for blowing off steam, and — you guessed it — I feel much happier by the time we’re done because the basement is clean!
- Run an easy errand. Sometimes I’m cranky because I feel stir-crazy, so it helps to get everyone out of the house. We’ll run to the mall or pop into a store — mostly because my kids are much better-behaved in public than at home — and then all is well with the world. I know some mamas who take a spin through the drive-thru at Starbucks, just to get out of the house.
- Read a book together. I like reading aloud to my kids, providing it’s a book that I’m not ready to throw out the window. Mommy’s Choice, kids! Gather ’round!
- Take them outside. The weather’s been horrible lately (read: January), and I’m really, really missing how easy it is to go outside in the warmer months. Even though I’m totally not an outdoorsy person, my kids LOVE it out in that damn backyard. The fresh air also helps my mood, I must admit. And here’s a pro tip: you can’t hear the thudding footsteps of two active kids when they’re running around on the grass.
- Bake something. This is something I do often when I’m annoyed with the kids. They seem to turn their listening ears on when we’re in the kitchen together, and baking usually goes smoothly. We have muffins for the next day, or cookies for a playdate, so I get to feel a bit productive. They help me up to the point where we get it in the oven, and then I shoo them away so I can wash the dishes in peace (see above).
But wait! There’s more!
I also keep a running list of things I do not do when I’m feeling on the brink of a meltdown:
- Tidy their bedrooms. Cleaning my kids’ bedrooms makes me ragey, so it’s best to avoid this. Our two-year-old daughter is in the middle of that terrible room-destroying phrase. (Actually, scratch that, it might just be a family trait, because many of my friends’ kids have never gone through it) When I walk into her bedroom and see a mountain of doll clothes, people clothes, books, toys, toilet paper, ripped pages from books, and pieces of my soul, it’s all I can do not to throw Elsa and Anna at the wall as hard as I can.
- Kiddie crafts. I have to have a lot of patience for complicated, messy crafts. Beads rolling around on the table and skittering all over the floor, glue accidents, and painty hands threatening outfits? They’re not kind to the OCD part of my personality.
- Take them to a Cranky Store. My kids love coming to stores with me, and I’ll take them anywhere. But there are a few places I try to avoid if I’m feeling impatient:
- Wal-Mart (something about the lines and the sheer size of the place just raises my blood pressure)
- Canadian Tire (no idea why, but they always act up there)
- Dollar Stores (I love Dollar Stores, but there’s something in the air that makes my kids whiny and annoying — possibly those 2/$1 suckers near the cash)
I’m always looking for new calm-down activities. What’s yours? Tell me, and we can both avoid the Cranky Stores together.