Has your child’s behavior ever gotten under you AND your partner’s skin at the same time?
Katie (aka my wife and Happily Ever Mom) and I have noticed a strategy that has really worked in these situations.
Let me describe a recent scene at Happily Ever Home (…see what I did there?).
The other day, Katie and I were doing our normal after-work “debrief.” (Remember the tips for coming home from work?) Well, during the short discussion, L was singing at the top of her beautiful lungs. Sometimes, this impromptu opera gets to the ever-multitasking Katie because she has a hard time tuning out her little girl. Katie kept asking Lil to go to another room to sing to her stuffed-animal audience or go play in the backyard just while she finished making dinner. Well, I started to notice Katie’s frustration, and I began to get frustrated at L because I couldn’t finish the story about something that happened to me earlier that day. Once again, Katie broke our conversation to ask L, a bit more assertively, to wait a minute while we debriefed and made dinner…then we were all hers. But, then L sang even louder, I SNAPPED: “L, you’ve got to give us just FIVE minutes. That’s all we ask!!”
And it began: the slow lip quiver.
You know what I’m talking about, right? L stopped mid-chorus, trying to hold it together behind her trembling lower lip and twinkly eyes… until she couldn’t any longer. She cried. Hard.
Besides the fact that I know this is the worst time of the day for all of us, I knew we shouldn’t have teamed up on her in that moment. Katie put a hand on my shoulder and told me to take over dinner while she took care of L.
She told L that she knew she needed attention but that Mommy and Daddy needed five minutes to check in with each other because I had just gotten home from work.
She told L that she was confident we could all get our needs met. I then came over and gave L a big hug, apologizing for snapping and asking her to sing to me in another room while Katie finished dinner.
What to remember when you’re BOTH upset with the kids…
- When both parents are getting frustrated at the same time, one of us needs to take the lead. When we both start talking, it’s bound to lead to one of us snapping at our child. The thing is, it gets to me when L isn’t listening to her mom because she’s my wife, who I instinctively protect. And vice versa, the person second to the conversation is often the one that comes in hot because he/she wants to help the other parent and is often upset even more that the child isn’t listening. Katie and I try avoid these circumstances; we try to avoid teaming up on our child. (Two against one never ends well.)
- But, when things (inevitably) get out of hand, we need to let the parent who’s lost it first step away while the other takes the lead with the kids. Our child needs the attention; the hot head parent needs the break. But, the hot head, once cool, needs to come back and finish the discussion and reconnect with the kids. This is where we tag team the situation. Hot head out, other one in. Other one out, hot head (now cooler…) in. Making sense?
It’s really easy for both parents to begin parenting at the exact same time –it’s what we do.
But, to a small child, it might seem like we’re ganging up on them.
Avoid teaming up and tag team instead.
Play off each other’s strengths and support each other as parents who care about each other and your child. And, just remember, in these moments, your child just needs something, and you need something, too. Tag team and figure it out!
Oh, and L…your Mom and Dad LOVE when you sing to us. Just saying 😉