I got a call from a girlfriend of mine the other day. "Tell me how to stop yelling at my kids," she said desperately on the other end. I smiled to myself because that same topic had been following me around the entire week.
A few days prior I was being coached by one of my peers. "I have no control over my son," I confided in him. "He doesn't listen, and he is constantly wrestling with his brothers. It's like WWF around our house as I'm trying to get them out the door for school."
"And how do you handle it?" my coach asked me. "I ask him to stop, and then when he continues to act irrationally, I start to yell," I said. "Inevitably I start making threats of consequences, but he doesn't seem to care either way."
My coach asked me why I get so angry with my son to begin with, as if it wasn't perfectly obvious. "You know he is just being a kid," my coach said. "How do you think he should act?"
I realized then that a lot of my anger came from believing that my son should be more well behaved. That he should be able to reign in his energy, follow instructions, and communicate maturely. The fact that he did not act like act made me feel like I was a bad mom. A bad mom who had no control of her kids.
"You realize you only have control over yourself, and how you show up as a parent?" my coach asked me. Yes, there was the truth, and it felt empowering rather than helpless. I am in control of myself. Of the boundaries I set with my kids, how I enforce them, AND how I showed up emotionally to them. Did I really want to be a raging, impatient mom who looked and felt out of control around her kids? How does that help anyone?
No, I want to be the kind of parent who sits down and communicates what the boundaries and consequences are, when everybody is in a peaceful place. Then I want to act out of that same calm space in my mind and enforce those boundaries when there is an issue. I do not have control over my kids, their choices, or even their ultimate happiness. But I do have control over my own. And that thought is very freeing.