I’m sure many parents will recognise that feeling when you’re on the brink of losing it and, while we have all been cooped up together during Lockdown, I’m sure that plenty of tempers have been more strained than usual.
The kids have forgotten to tell you about their urgent homework. Or there’s pen on the walls. Or chocolate. The cat has brought in something which was once some sort of living organism and left it for you to put your foot on as soon as you come downstairs in the morning or worse, there’s Lego underfoot.
It’s that feeling when you start to lose your temper and your irritation levels bubble up to leave you in a state where “the voice” takes over.
You know the one. The voice is a combination of your inner critical parent, a drill sergeant and a grizzly bear. And it goes on relentlessly. Heck even you hate listening to it.
The problem with this kind of reaction to your children’s misdemeanours (or your partner’s come to that) is that you will swiftly be tuned out and ignored.
And it does nothing to make you feel better or resolve any issues.
The usual result of entering what I call the “Circle of Grump” is that you end up feeling dreadful, guilty and even more irritated whilst whatever has been bothering you carries on anyway.
|Oh no! Mum’s entered “The Circle of Grump” again!
As parents, we need to recognise the warning signs that tell us the Circle of Grump is approaching and this means prioritising our own self-care through adequate sleep and exercise and great nutrition.
Relying on a deadly combination of late nights/caffeine/early evening wine is setting you up for long term exhaustion.#
It’s no wonder you can’t think straight to solve the problems thrown at you.
Because that’s really why you lose it I find – simply because you are being asked for the solution to a problem and you don’t, at that moment, have the physical or emotional energy to think around the problem and come up with the best solution for everyone.
I know I am about to enter the Circle of Grump when I
– Don’t listen properly to what is being said to me
– Feel my blood pressure rise and a hot flush start
– Feel my heart beat faster
– Feel a sense of panic
Actually most of these symptoms have much in common with those of a panic attack and it’s not pleasant when your darling offspring are looking at you wondering when you morphed into the Incredible Hulk and why you just don’t get Google Classroom or your maths is so rubbish.
Mindfulness and meditation will help but you need immediate solutions and something that will break the pattern – concentrating on your breath for example or going somewhere else for 5 minutes to calm down.
You need a holding statement you can use such as “mummy is going to take this to the kitchen to think about it” or “I’m not happy about xx behaviour but we’ll discuss it later when I’m calmer”.
That way you can discuss the problem calmly, logically and get the child’s input.
It is better to see that the child understands the problem and gain their co-operation by allowing them to suggest their own solutions than it is to browbeat them into doing something “because mummy says so” – we all know how well that one works.
The most important thing is not to play the blame game. Sometimes we expect ourselves to be paragons of virtue and patience. I am not the Buddha (although there is a slight physical resemblance).
It is the unique combination of our imperfections as individuals that often creates a strong family bond because we grow together and learn how to overcome them.
As the great metaphysical writer, Louise Hay said, we are all doing the best we can where we are at the moment.
And in any case, when it all gets too much I like to make myself a strong coffee and ask myself the eternal question “what would Mary Poppins do”?
That’s a pretty good starting point I reckon.
There is a way out of the “Circle of Grump”. Who knows, perhaps Sir Elton might write a song about it.
Note: it goes without saying that if you are really struggling you should seek help from your GP or visit the Family Lives website for parenting advice and support or phone their free parents’ helpline on 0808 800 2222. You can also download the NSPCC’s guide to positive parenting.