If you’re a parent, you know the feeling of losing your cool. Kids have their ways of knocking us off our game. No matter how “on” you may be feeling, once kids bring the noise, the mess, the chaos, the demands and complaints, it’s just a matter of time – and usually not very much of it – until the return of ‘Mean Mommy’.
It doesn’t have to be like that, Rachel Bailey, M.A. told the ~100+ parents assembled at this December Lunch and Learn, and it all made sense when she explained it. We don’t have to lose our cool and yell. We can stay calm and in control of our emotions no matter what our kids do or say. Our behavior is always more about how we feel inside than anything that’s going on outside and, with Bailey’s help, we can regain control of that inner calm.
It all starts with “YUCK”, Bailey’s perfectly apt term for the stuff going on behind the bad behavior or mood. When you’re tired, hungry, frustrated, resentful or angry, you’re in YUCK. When you’ve had a bad day at work or school, felt shunned socially, have a lot of stress, you’re in YUCK. And when YUCK arises, it crowds out all other concerns. There’s no room for our naturally patient and supportive parenting; our minds are controlled by our YUCK.
Unfortunately, we all deal with YUCK in ways that tend to produce more of the same. We turn it out, yelling at and blaming our kids or spouse. We turn it in, knocking ourselves low with self criticism. And we tune it out, with wine or sugar, or TV or tech.
So managing YUCK, Bailey told us, is the key to keeping calm with kids AND the key to kids keeping calm with US. We have to fight YUCK before it appears, and we have to recognize and handle YUCK in the moment itself. And if we recognize the YUCK behind-the-behavior in our kids, we can be more patient with them, actually seeing the “need” behind the behavior.
A pre-emptive fight against YUCK means working to avoid the conditions that feed it. This means taking care of your biological needs by getting enough sleep, eating well, and getting the exercise you need. It also means taking care of your emotional needs! To fight YUCK, set boundaries that work for you and stick to them. Don’t be afraid to say no to requests that draw on your time and resources. Be sure to make time for hobbies you love or challenges you find meaningful.
Fighting YUCK also means pre-planning for a different response. Take a good look at which situations set you off the most, and come up with a plan for how to respond. For me, nothing will bring the YUCK roaring out faster than my kids’ bickering. I can confront this encounter with YUCK by deciding in advance how I’ll respond when the bickering breaks out.
Of course, no amount of planning can make a parent’s life YUCK-free. The second prong of the battle against YUCK is learning how to stay calm during those triggering moments. Be aware of the signs that you’re heading into YUCK, like a hot face, tense shoulders or shallow breathing. When you start to feel YUCK coming on, pause, take a deep breath, and try to let it go. You can repeat a mantra or squeeze a stress ball. Or take a look at where YUCK is pushing you and go the opposite way. If anger is making you want to run after your kid, take a seat on the floor instead. Use techniques that work for you to manage the onset of YUCK, thwart its growth, and limit the amount of time you spend in this destructive frame of mind.
Once YUCK is under control, you can begin to find your way out of it again. YUCK drives us to put walls, wedges and other modes of disconnection between ourselves and the people we love. Knock down those walls by seeking connection instead. Try to see your kid or spouse’s perspective. Share a hug or a fun game. YUCK pushes us apart, so you can past beyond YUCK by looking for a way to reconnect.