The Stew Spiral

Whew. Hadn’t planned to write a post today, but sometimes it’s not about what you plan! This morning has been a test of my patience – the day started at 0430 and we had two timeout sessions before 0700. Yikes. Deep breath. Coffee. Deep breath. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee….

One thing that I’ve noticed about myself is I can get caught up in the “frustration spiral” (I tried to come up with a clever, alliterative name but couldn’t think of an ‘s’ word to go with spiral that aptly described how I felt). You know those days, when it seems like everything your LO does is with the express intent to annoy you? Every time I turn around, C was throwing his crayons, running over his train set, trying to steal the laptop, coloring on the table, kicking me on the changing table. And when I said no or asked him to stop, I was met with tears, a slap, an emphatic no, a tantrum or a combination of any of those. The timeouts helped him calm down and “reset” his behavior; that’s how I should have used them, too! Instead of doing something to calm myself while he sniffled in the corner, I stewed about how naughty he was being (so maybe I was in a stew spiral?). Letting frustrations build up like that without release is not healthy, especially when you’re on your own with an energetic, willful toddler!

I, like most moms, have a tendency to be too hard on myself. When we have difficult mornings like this, I can get really down on myself. Is he acting up because I’m a bad mother? Am I a bad mother for using timeout? The answer to both of those questions is NO, and once I gave myself a timeout to calm down and think about the situation, I soon realized that. Timeout works for us – it gives C a chance to calm down before we sit down and talk about why he was in timeout and what he needs to change about his behavior (listen to Mommy, don’t hit, don’t throw toys, etc.). We always end timeouts with a chat, hugs, kisses and “Love yous.” I just need to remember to use C’s timeout as a chance to reset my own emotions!

What do you do when you get sucked into the “stew spiral” and feel like your frustrations are getting out of control?

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