Taking care of a baby had its challenges, but you didn’t expect it to be so exhausting parenting a three-year-old. This is normal, says DR RICHARD C. WOOLFSON.
Most days with your three-year-old are good, some days are great, and a few (hopefully, not many) are downright atrocious – don’t worry, though, these things happen to everyone.
So go easy on yourself; it’s okay to allow yourself to break down. Feeling guilty will only lower your confidence and reduce coping skills.
Parenting a child this age isn’t easy, and you’d be superhuman if you took everything in your stride without ever experiencing a blip. Usually it’s a combination of small child-related events happening all at the same time that turns a good day into a bad one.
You can normally cope with all these minor hurdles individually, but when they cluster, that’s when you start to break down.
Suddenly, the plate that he drops on the floor, the tantrum he has when you thought he was settled, and his lost pair shoes that you need to find very quickly, all combine to overwhelm you when they occur simultaneously.
And if you’ve not been getting enough sleep recently, the accumulated tiredness has increased your stress levels.
Parenting your three-year-old has its peaks and troughs, no matter how hard you plan, no matter how confident you are.
When you have meltdown – whether it’s crying helplessly, screaming at your kid, or furiously slamming the door – be patient with yourself.
Accept that these things happen, and that having a bad day doesn’t mean you have a terrible child or that you are a terrible parent. It simply means you are having a bad day, nothing more. Reassure yourself that you’ll have a better day with him tomorrow.
And when you have calmed down and have a free moment to reflect, think about the events that led up to your mini emotional collapse. You might not even realise what happened until you have time to think about it. Then ask yourself the following questions:
What could I do differently the next time I face these challenges?
Maybe you could ignore some of your little one’s constant demands, instead of confronting him every time, or maybe you could distract his attention quicker when his frustration builds.
Learn from your experience of this bad day to build your resilience for managing a stress crisis.
Is there anyone who could help me if I start to break down again?
You don’t have to deal with everything on your own. If your kid’s behaviour starts to overwhelm you, don’t be afraid to ask for help. For instance, perhaps your friend could look after him for an hour, while you regain your composure. That’s not a sign of weakness.
How often do I have a short break?
No matter how much you love your child, you need to have some time to yourself. Try to avoid spending every waking minute with him.
Set aside out a few minutes “me time” each day – for instance, when he has a nap or when he watches children’s TV shows – so that you can relax, take a deep breath, and regain your composure.
Have I discussed my bad day with anyone?
A trouble shared is a trouble halved. There is nothing like a good moan about your child’s behaviour to someone you trust.
Even if they just listen and say nothing constructive, you’ll feel better sounding off to them. That’ll also help you remember that your child is wonderful, and that things just got on top of you today.
Have I managed to put this bad day into perspective?
Okay, so you had a horrible day and you feel annoyed with yourself that you lost your temper with him. But you have plenty of other good days with him ahead of you. Keep things in perspective and try to stay positive.
Accept that these things happen, and that having a bad day doesn’t mean you have a terrible child or that you are a terrible parent.
ILLUSTRATION CHENG PUAY KOON