We all have them—bad parenting days. Days when tempers are high and patience is short. Days when our kids seem to know exactly which of our buttons to press, at exactly the right pressure required to trigger us into snapping mouths and slamming doors.
These days are not fun days. They’re not fun for us, and they’re not fun for our kids.
But they’re unavoidable, right? I mean, not every parenting day can be glowing and giggly. No, sometimes it’s hard. And the reason it’s hard is because we’re human. We aren’t infallible, we aren’t invincible, and we aren’t perfect. And that’s okay.
But just because you have a bad parenting day doesn’t mean you have to stay in that bad parenting day. Nope. We have the ability to reset a day, no matter how off-kilter it’s gotten.
Here are eight ways you can salvage a bad parenting day:
- Acknowledge it. This may seem like the last thing you’d want to do—admit that the day has been miserable. But by saying out loud, “Hey, this day has been a rough day for us,” you’re only verbalizing what everybody else is thinking. Acknowledging the truth brings it out into the open and relieves the tension everyone is experiencing.
- Create a symbolic restart. Think of a way to symbolically “restart” the day. For example, have everyone close their eyes and imagine their day as a piece of art. Then, tell them to mentally erase it. Or, have everyone change socks. Or gulp down a glass of water together. Whatever you do, declare the rest of the day a clean slate.
- Switch the location. As soon as you realize you’re caught in a bad-parenting-day cycle, get out of whatever environment you’re in. If you’re at home, have everyone put on shoes and walk out the door, even if you don’t know where you’re going. If you’re at Target, push the cart to the check-out line and get outta there. A change in scenery—even if it’s momentarily inconvenient—is a natural way to switch up the mood.
- Apologize. Most of my bad parenting days happen when I’m not at my best. In other words, on days when I’m irritable, anxious, or over-busy. Asking our kids to forgive us is one of the most powerful acts we can do as parents. Not only does it model humility for our kids, but it communicates the fact that we’re not perfect and we’re not going to get it right. That gives our kids permission to do the same.
- Laugh. When you find yourself in a bad parenting moment, tell everyone to stop what they’re doing and look up a few memes, videos, or jokes that they think are funny. Everyone has to share at least one. Laughing together reduces stress and lightens the heaviness of an off-day.
- Dance it off. You know where this is going. When you can’t take one more second of a bad parenting day, gather the family and turn up the music. Even if your kids act annoyed at first, chances are they’ll eventually join in the dancing and forget why they were frustrated in the first place.
- Get alone. Find five minutes to be alone. You can do this. Even if you have to use a screen to do it, your kids will not grow up to be robots due to those five minutes. Sit in as much silence and peace as you can and take a few deep breaths. In fact, look up calming breathing exercises and try a couple while you sit and recollect yourself.
- Call a sitter. That’s right—I said it. Sometimes what you need on a bad parenting day is to not be a parent. Well, temporarily, that is. Having an hour or six away from the kids is sometimes the most beneficial scenario for everyone. It gives you and them a break from the strain of the frustration, annoyance, or apathy that’s got your house sideways.
Look—we all have bad parenting days. That doesn’t make us bad parents. But as the parent, we are the emotional leaders of our home. Our energy and attitude will be mirrored through our kids. So, if the day is taking an emotional nosedive, it’s up to us to right it. That’s a big responsibility. But it’s so important.
Teaching our kids they have the ability to start over, over and over again, is one that will serve them well now, and will also serve them even more in the future—when they move from this phase to the next.