Our family just spent a lot of time together over the Spring holidays. We had lots of good times and some not so good times. We all took turns being in a bad mood. After 15 years of motherhood it is still hard to admit that even adults (that includes me) get cranky and whiny.
I used to get very upset when things were not always running smoothly and everyone was not on their best behavior. I finally came to the realization that family life is like a winding country road. Sometimes even and flat and other times quite bumpy and hilly. The instances where everyone is levelheaded and satisfied should be cherished as a gift. The bad moods are annoying but normal and usually need to be dealt with at some point everyday.
It is not easy to remain calm, cool and detached when you are watching your toddler tantrum, your teen slam doors, and your spouse getting snippy. Unfortunately, bad moods can be contagious. Negativity breeds negativity. It helps if our bad moods and the bad moods of others are navigated with respect, empathy and acceptance.
Here are 5 ways to help you keep your family happy:
1. Cut yourself some slack:
Low states and feeling blue are an annoying but intrinsic part of life. When we are feeling “blah” or we see others acting poorly we tend to blow things out of proportion. We can become critical of ourselves and of our family members. The best way to manage our bad moods and the bad moods of others is to accept them at face value and acknowledge them without any judgments:
Criticizing: “Why do I always get so upset about everything? I am such a party pooper.”
“Why is she always whining about everything? She is so spoiled.”
Accept the low state and be kind to yourself and others: “Seems like I am having a rough day, I am in a low state, nothing to worry about, I will come around soon enough.”
“She is having a rough day today. She usually does not act like this. Once she pulls herself together she will get back to her cheery self.”
2. Be kind to others:
Bad moods can also taint our perceptions of our kids and spouses. Behavior that was considered normal one day may seem contentious and irksome when one is feeling down. Resentment can fester and the blame game starts. If we recognize that our bad mood is the cause of the negativity we can avoid conflict:
Blaming others: “Why do you kids have to complain about everything? You are so annoying and rude!”
Recognizing the low state: “I must be in a really bad mood, everything they do or say is bothering me. Even the things that they do regularly that I usually don’t notice.”
3. Talk about yourself:
Families who have healthy communication and coping skills will manage the rough spots more effectively. It is helpful for parents to learn ways to deal with the frustrations of everyday life with kids so they can act as role models. Children learn best by observing their parent’s behavior. If parents are calmer and less prone to bad moods, children will naturally follow suit.
In my classes I teach parents to use one of the most helpful, productive and effective communications tools, the “I” statement. Every member of the family can use this handy skill.
Instead of accusing:
“You are acting like a baby with all this crying and yelling!”
Speak about your feelings:
“I am getting frustrated with all this fighting.”
“I am having trouble holding onto my patience with all the loud fighting going on around me.”
Children can also be taught to use “I” statements:
Instead of accusing:
“You are so stupid!”
Teach them to speak about themselves:
“I get upset when you tease me about my questions.”
“I don’t like it when you touch my stuff without my permission!”
3. Don’t do anything:
Many health professionals recommend postponing any important decisions until good humor is restored. Discussions of a serious nature should be avoided as well, until everyone is feeling happy. It is fair for family members to say to one another:
“I am feeling overwhelmed right now. I need to let you know later if I can chaperone for your school trip.”
“I am not in the best of moods, can we have this discussion another time?”
4. Take a breather:
When emotions are running high it is the time for everyone to take a break from each other. When members of your family are not getting along, gently encourage them to find a quiet place to recharge. Parents can do this by role modeling:
“Boy, I am in a bad mood. I need a couple of minutes of quiet to pull myself out of this funk. I’ll be in my room if you need me.”
Family life is not always easy. Finding ways to cope can ease the tensions that arise.Treating others and yourself with respect when you are not at your best helps keep everyone on an even keel. To learn more ways to help you and your kids get along, join us for our Parenting Simply workshop: