I had a bad day recently.
Chances are you have too.
Mine blindsided me, and it threw me off so much I got almost nothing accomplished that I wanted to accomplish.
I don’t like days like that. (Does anybody?)
But they’re inevitable in life….and in parenting.
One of your children spills orange juice spills on a proposal that you had been working on all night long.
It’s your turn to carpool, but the car won’t start. And you have 6 kids in the car.
The dentist calls wondering why you missed your appointment that started 30 minutes ago.You forgot.
You open an unexpected bill.
Dinner burns. Again.
The kids fight over whose turn it is to clean the dishes, who gets the computer next, who was mean first. . .
When I have a bad day, it often costs me more than I care to admit:
I sometimes say things I regret.
I occasionally take my frustrations out on people around me.
My co-workers sometimes suffer if I allowed my mood to travel to the office.
Way too many parents allow bad days to undermine their family again and again.
So how do you deal with a bad day?
Here are six strategies I’ve learned to use that can help:
1. Ask yourself: “What would an emotionally intelligent parent do?” Emotional intelligence is all about developing a self-awareness of how your attitudes and actions impact others, and leveraging it to benefit others. As Daniel Goleman points out in his classic book, Emotional Intelligence, emotionally intelligent people rarely let their state of mind bring others down. They’ve developed behaviors that compensate for their emotional state so they don’t drag other people down with them. Your bad day doesn’t have to turn into your family’s bad day.
So quite literally, on my worst day, I ask myself, “What would an emotionally intelligent parent do?” I imagine what they would do, then I do everything I can to do it. Try it. It works.
2. Don’t act on your emotions. Emotionally intelligent people don’t act on their negative emotions. Ever been around an angry person? Not fun, is it? So when you’re having a bad day, don’t act on your emotions. Don’t do anything stupid. Don’t let your kids ‘have it’.
3. Don’t make any significant decisions. The worst time to make decisions is when you’re upset or feeling down. Your emotions will lead you to decide things you’ll regret. So just decide not to decide anything that day.
4. Divert to accomplish a short term win. Chances are you can accomplish something positive, even if you don’t feel like it. Even do something mundane like clean out your inbox. Or straighten your house. While your head may not be in the right space to slay any big dragons, divert yourself to something manageable so you can find at least one or two short term wins. You still need to earn your keep on a bad day.
5. Confide and pray. You should tell somebody about your bad day. Just tell the right person. Don’t trot your frustrations out on your Facebook page (one day your kids will read how frustrated you were with them). Chances are you are going to want to tell the wrong person. Instead, talk to a close friend or your spouse (appropriately). And pray. My prayer on bad days sometimes is as simple as “God, this is your family as much as it is mine. Get me through this. Help me to see my part in all this.” That’s a decent prayer on a bad day.
6. Get a great night’s sleep. Don’t dismiss this. Sleep is so important. Go to bed early. Shoot for 8 hours. You will feel so much better in the morning. Watch what happens to your emotions when you sleep for eight hours. They get healthier. You’ll be much better positioned to deal with lingering issues when you’re well rested. And chances are your funk will disappear.
Naturally, if your bad day becomes a bad week and bad season, you may have something else going on. Get some help and tackle it that way.
But for a normal “bad day,” these strategies help me (and my wife and kids) a lot.
What helps you get through a bad day? What doesn’t? Leave a comment!