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Getting over a bad parenting day

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Regrouping, refocusing

Every mom has bad days, and some bad days are worse than others. The days that you raise your voice a bit more than necessary, can't seem to get a handle on the kids' interactions, maybe are a little harsher in figuring out consequences, not as compassionate as you could be. The days you get into bed at night and just feel like crap.

Stressed Out MomFor whatever reason, these days happen. They happen to all of us. We don't like to think about them, but they do. Sometimes you get into a not so great cycle and they happen, or they just happen out of the blue. Whatever the reason, it's important to recognize them for what they are, try to learn from them, and move on.

Think about what happened

When I have these bad days, as unpleasant as it is, I try to think about the circumstances that led to the raised voices, and whatever else - and without totally beating myself up. What were my actions that could have been different? What actions by others seemed to trigger less than stellar choices? Are there things outside the family going on that are contributing to this? Other stresses?When it comes down to it, I can only "control" my own behavior. I can guide my kids, love, instruct and discipline, but I cannot control their responses - only my responses to their responses. Even - no, particularly - those behaviors that seem to drive me over the edge. I can recognize reasons and figure out solutions, but I can't make excuses.I try to come up with some strategies to deal with those particularly irksome behaviors and situations, preferably positive ones. Whether it's removing myself for the immediate conflict, or trying to turn negatives into incentives, it's worth the time spent.Sometimes it's not easy. Sometimes I'm angry and frustrated. But if I want to teach my kids about constructive behaviors and constructive parenting, I have to lead by example. I have to keep working at it.

Talk about what happened

After thinking a while, I talk to my husband. He often has some ideas about what is happening and what to do, even though I don't always agree with him, and it can be hard to hear. Most often, he's as frustrated as I am over the dynamic in the house between and among us and the kids - these bad days typically are a culmination of a confluence of events. Bouncing ideas off of each other benefits both of us, as well as the whole family. Sometimes the kids are in specific developmental cycles and thinking about and understanding them helps us to handle the challenging days, and ultimately break a negative cycle.The day after a bad day, I try to spend some time talking to each of my kids. It's a time to reassure them of my love for them, express positive thoughts for the coming day, even recognize my errors - but also being careful not to contradict our basic parenting. Like I did in my own head, I try to talk about what the triggers were for all of us, and how we might have handled things differently, without throwing around plain blame. I emphasize personal responsibility and choosing responses and actions. I do all this age appropriately, as best I can.

Keep trying

My kids know I am not perfect. I admit it regularly. I admit that I sometimes do - and will - mess up. I don't think it makes me a worse or better parent to admit that. I do talk about always trying, always making the effort to do the right thing, even if I don't always succeed.So the point is that bad days happen. They do. We all have them, though we may be loathe to admit it. We need to accept them, learn from them, and move on.

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