This is definitely something that I have not mastered yet, as evidenced by the following anecdote. Our daughter loves swinging. She will swing on things that one never knew one could swing on, and some that one cannot. One afternoon while I was busy preparing dinner she decided to try to swing on a blossom that was hanging down from a spider plant that sits on top of the seven foot high bookshelf in her room. She jumped up high enough to grab it, but her weight pulled the plant and its heavy ceramic pot down onto her head and then onto our relatively new beige carpeting where it broke and scattered potting soil over a five foot radius. Somehow I didn't hear any of this, and she didn't tell us right away what had happened. We normally keep her room closed to keep her younger siblings away from small toys, so I did not notice anything amiss until later when she told Daddy that, "Mommy has a big mess to clean up in my room." As he asked for more information more of the story as I have pieced it together came to light. He relayed information to me, and I began imagining which plant she could be talking about (there are several in her room) and started walking rather briskly toward her room. She rushed to my side and said, "Mommy, I need you to stay happy." Sadly, my child knows how messes like this are a thorn in my side. I am barely able to keep up with the cleaning demands of our household as it is, and if a mess is avoidable I want it avoided, it's that simple. She has seen a few too many times how I do not follow God's example of being slow to anger. Her simple request was like a laser to me. She already knew she had made a mistake. She didn't need me exploding to make it any clearer. In fact if I blew up over what I was about to see on the other side of that door, she would only see reinforcement of negative behavior. I took a deep breath and willed myself to remain calm as I opened the door. When I took in the scene it actually helped to remember that the plant needed a bigger pot anyway. I felt even better when I realized the potting soil was dry and would not set into the carpet. I had my child help in the clean up by picking up toys that were scattered in the mess so I would be able to vacuum more easily. I reminded myself how good it was that she had not suffered any major injury as she easily could have in such an incident. After a short amount of time we cleaned up the mess and talked about asking permission before trying new things. I moved on with our evening feeling much better than I would have if I had allowed myself to explode, but it took my daughter's simple request to "stay happy" to help me choose that outcome.
Here are some ways that I have found to "stay happy" in the face of upsetting events or behaviors:
1) Slow down. Take time to take a breath. Try to purposefully talk and move a little slower.
2) Detach. Literally put off the "mom" hat and try on the "teacher" or "psychologist" hat. Make mental notes about what is happening from as objective a viewpoint as you can muster. This actually helps to avoid or handle similar situations next time around, too.
3) Say a quick prayer. "Help!" seems to reach Heaven's doors just as effectively, and more quickly than long-winded soliloquies.
4) Take stock. Are you hungry, thirsty, tired, or do you need a bathroom break? Any of these can make me extra edgy. Take care of your needs so you are more available for your child.
5) If all else fails, step away. Look around for safety issues, keep children within earshot, but get out of view. Breathe, pray, think of ways to involve your child in the solution to the problem if needed. Decide what boundaries you're trying to enforce and whether it is worth the turmoil.
I would love to hear your ideas on how to "stay happy". Please leave a comment below.
Credit where it is due: I learned about this and other techniques I am currently using with my daughter from two wonderful people, Clarissa Montanaro and Robin Hauge. Please contact them at clarissamontanaro-AT-gmail-DOT-com for more information on this technique.