We know that comparing ourselves to other parents on social media is futile at best and toxic at worst. But it’s easy to think other families are living their best lives when you’re drawing conclusions based on pretty pictures and cheery status updates. Unfortunately, that perception can cause us to be very hard on ourselves and our parenting.

This is truest in our worst moments—like when you can feel your anger starting to boil over because your daughter is having a tantrum in the grocery store or your son is refusing (for the third time this week) to eat what you made him for dinner or your kids will not stay in bed and you’re exhausted. Real talk: Every mom and dad experiences these lows regardless of what they are posting. And that’s OK! So instead of scrolling through your feed, try these simple strategies to help you deal with your kids when you’re on the verge of losing your cool.

Take a deep breath.

Whenever you feel like you’ve reached your parenting limit—when you’re starting to feel anxious or frustrated—take a few seconds and breathe. Count for a couple of seconds while you hold your breath and then breathe out. Close your eyes if you need to while you do this. And don’t worry, your child will be there when you’re done. Just breathing can help us calm down and deal with the situation at hand without exploding.

Tell your child how you feel.

Moms and dads should not be expected to plaster a smile on their face and be stoic through every single parenting challenge. In fact, it’s important that kids understand that their actions and words have consequences for the people around them. Instead of trying to pretend everything is fine, talk to your child about how you are feeling. Start by saying something like:

  • “I’m getting tired of telling you this over and over again because…”
  • “I’m upset with you because…”
  • “It hurt me when you…”

Not only does this help take the emotional charge out of your own reaction to a situation, it will help teach your kid about empathy.

Real talk: every mom and dad experiences parenting lows, regardless of what they are posting on social media.

Ask for help.

It’s often the hardest thing for a parent to do, but asking for help can be liberating, particularly when you are on the brink of losing your cool. If you feel your anger rising, ask your partner (or neighbor, or friend, or grandparents) to tap in while you take a much-needed break.

Give your child attention.

Sometimes when a situation begins to get heated, all you need to do is stop for a moment and give your kids a little attention. You could say, “Are you tired of shopping?” and then agree. A quick hug also works wonders—not just for your crying kiddo, but for you.

Avoid the scenarios that lead to parenting meltdowns.

You know what they say: sometimes the best offense is a good defense. In this case, use strategies that help you avoid the situations that lead to bad parenting moments. Here’s how:

  • Set expectations. How often do we assume our kids just understand what is expected of them? Make a point of telling them what is on the agenda, whether that be the dinner menu or the afternoon of running errands you have planned. Then, check your assumptions about their behavior and tell them how you expect them to act.
  • Give them a choice. Usually when we’ve let our expectations be known and our kids are not cooperating, we just want to shut them down. Giving them some power allows them a little bit of control. These can be easy choices: “Do you want to put your boots on first, or your hat?” “Can you walk with me or do you want to ride in the cart?”
  • Work around your kid’s schedule. Sometimes this is impossible, but we all know if our kids have slept sufficiently and been fed, they tend to be much more agreeable. If you can work around your child’s schedule, do it. And if all else fails, bring lots of snacks.

Focus on self-care as a strategy to stay calm in the midst of chaos.

It’s impossible to completely eliminate getting mad at your kids, but if you feel like you’re on the verge of major meltdowns on a regular basis and the threshold for you getting there is getting lower, it may be time to focus inward. Here are a few places to start:

  • Take a look at the balance of household duties with your partner. It’s not uncommon for moms to take on the majority of chores and mental burden when it comes to managing a household. Evening out the chores with your partner can help lower your anxiety and lessen those moments when you angry or anxious.
  • Schedule me time. Moms are particularly good at coming up with excuses about why their families can’t possibly function without them even for a few hours. But if you’re finding that the small things are getting to you, it’s time to prioritize me time.
  • Set boundaries around social media. The easiest way to stop comparing yourself to the images you see on social media is to set clear boundaries around when and how you use it. Get real with yourself and turn off annoying home screen notifications, set daily time limits, and unfollow people.

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