Five Ways to Stop the Snap
by Christa C. Hogan
Bad habits can be embarrassing, they can be harmful and they can be hard to break. I recently realized that I had the habit of snapping at my son when my patience was thin. My yelling and threatening didnít improve his behavior and I knew that such a habitual negative response to his behavior would harm our relationship and his self-image. And I didnít like the way it made me feel.
The anger and frustration bubbling under my words had more to do with me than with his actions. I knew my son needed better from me, so I took a hard look at the situation and determined to make changes. While Iím not a counselor or psychologist (both of these can be very helpful), here are five ways I found that have helped me ďstop the snapĒ:
Talk to your spouse and a good friend. First of all, I needed to admit that my angry reactions to my sonís behavior were a problem, to myself, to my husband and to a close friend. My husband provided the support and forgiveness I needed. My friend offered perspective. I was able to see that I wasnít the only parent who yelled at her kids and that it didnít make me a bad mother. She also provided me with accountability. She loved me for who I was, but loved me too much to let me stay that way. Together, we were able to brainstorm about why I was getting so upset and what steps I could take to improve the situation.
Identify your hot buttons. When I looked back over the times that I lost my cool with my son, I could identify common patterns. Often one or both of us was hungry and tired. So we slowed down and made sure we were eating on time. And we stopped planning outings and play dates that interfered with his nap and meal times. I also noticed that what really sent me over the edge was whining. I began to address the reason behind my sonís entreaties and limit the whining right away instead of enduring and ignoring it until I snapped. He still whines but since Iíve recognized the effect it has on me I can handle the situation proactively without blowing up.
Take care of yourself. I also saw that I had let go of what made me, me, and I was resentful. And my son was bearing the brunt of it. I began to take better care of myself, setting time aside to do the things I loved, like writing and exercise, or drinking a cup of tea with a good book. Consistent ďmeĒ time gave me the energy and peace to be the mom my son needed me to be.
Learn to say sorry, then forgive yourself. Even after working hard to stop snapping at my son, I still slip up. Being a mom is tough work, inside and out. I try not to beat myself up when I donít get it right. I also take the time to tell my son, ďMommyís sorry she yelled. I didnít like what you did, but thereís a better way for me to tell you.Ē That kind of humility teaches my son about forgiveness and about taking responsibility for our actions.
Give it up to God. Breaking a bad habit takes time, commitment and accountability. In the end, though, itís through Godís strength that true change occurs. When I recognize that Iím forgiven, I can let go of the mistakes of yesterday. When I place my son in Godís hands, I can stop worrying about what effects those mistakes will have on his future. And when I rely on Godís strength and not my own, I can give today my best shot.