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Have you been thinking, “my kids are driving me crazy” lately? You’re not alone. Try these tips for coping when parenting feels hard.
My shoulders tensed. My head throbbed. I could almost feel my blood boiling.
Then, for what seemed like the hundredth time that day, I heard elevated voices, followed by a thump…and a wail. My two boys were at it again.
They both sounded furious, and I was furious, too. Hadn’t I asked them 100 times to treat each other the way they wanted to be treated? Didn’t I already encourage them to play separately if they couldn’t get along? Hadn’t I told them that I needed to finish the project I was working on by lunchtime?
I jumped up—ready to head down the hall and lay down the law.
Our kids can push our buttons better than anyone else, and especially when we’re home with them all the time, keeping our cool can feel impossible.
There are some simple, actionable steps you can follow, though, when you’re thinking, “my kids are driving me crazy!” Some of these steps will help you with them, and some of them (most of them) will help you fix YOU.
What to do about them
There might be an easy fix to make your kids’ behavior a little less crazy-making. If your kids are driving you crazy, try one of these.
Check their triggers
Could your child be hungry, thirsty, or tired? My older son, like me, gets super-cranky when his blood sugar is low. His little brother has started calling him out on being “hangry”. If we can get a snack in him in time, we can often avoid problems.
Do your kids always act up at a particular time of day? 4:30-6:00 p.m. has always had the potential to be the most miserable time of the day in our house. If I’m not careful, I’m scrambling to finish up work and cook dinner while my tired kids scream at each other.
I’ve learned to prep dinner early and choose some calm activities that the kids can do so that we’re not all complete basket cases when Daddy comes home from work.
Pay attention to any behavior patterns in your house, and try to fix the problem before your kids have the opportunity to make you crazy.
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Connect with them
Often, our kids are acting up in order to get some attention from us. Although they’d prefer positive attention, even negative attention is something.
Consider dropping what you’re doing and giving them some quality time. I can almost hear my fellow SAHMs saying, “MORE attention? I give them all of me already.”
But do you, though? Or are you giving them the scraps of you while you’re busy with something else? I know I can often give a distracted, “that’s nice, honey” while I continue to type on the laptop.
Our kids know the difference and will get more out of a few moments of “all of you” than they will out of several hours of “half of you”. Try connecting.
Hit the reset button
Sometimes, it can help everyone to feel better if you just hit the reset button. This might involve going outside, having a group hug, or doing a dance party.
My family has a silly ritual for hitting our reset button. We make a silly sound effect, do a goofy gesture, and everyone knows that we are starting over with new attitudes.
Are you over-scheduled, rushing to get someplace at the last minute, or hurrying through an activity that your child would prefer to savor? Consider cutting activities, leaving your house a few minutes early, or going at your child’s pace whenever possible.
Life with kids is never going to move as fast as life before kids. It drives me crazy, too, but that’s just the way things are, Mama.
What to do about you
If the actions of your kids are making you crazy, I’ve got a little secret for you. This is more about you than it is about them. Fixing this problem long-term is going to involve doing some work on yourself, too.
Don’t feel guilty
I am on a quest to eliminate chronic mom guilt from myself and my friends. If you’re feeling guilty, it’s a sign that you need to change something. Feeling continually guilty without making the corresponding change is a complete waste.
You’re not a bad person because your kids make you crazy sometimes. No one expects you to be a Stepford Mom. And if you mess up and yell at your kids, you are part of a VERY large club.
Apologize and do better next time.
Check your expectations
Even really good kids can act like feral little monsters sometimes. I’m not sure its really realistic to expect two-year-olds not to have tantrums, to expect siblings not to bicker, or expect tweens not to throw a little shade now and then.
If we treat this behavior as par for the course rather than holding our kids to an unreasonable standard, we’ll feel a little less crazy when “bad” behavior presents itself.
Choose your battles
Your kids might be in a season where simply everything they do seems to require a correction. If this still seems to be the case even after you’ve checked your expectations, I encourage you to choose your battles.
Help them to change anything that directly affects their health and safety and consider letting the other stuff slide for a bit. Remember, if everything is important, nothing is important.
Raising our kids is one of our most important and vital projects in life, and the stakes can feel really high when things aren’t going as we hoped or imagined they would.
Rest assured that your child will eventually learn all of that stuff you desperately want him to learn regardless of how much you stress or don’t stress about it. Potty training, anyone?
Your kid won’t necessarily grow up to be a serial killer just because he likes to bite his brother sometimes. You’re not a terrible parent because your child threw a tantrum in the grocery store.
Whatever is happening now is temporary, and no matter how trying it may seem, it’s not the end of the world.
Make Sure You’re Getting What You Need
Are you meeting your own needs throughout the day? Just like your children, you might get cranky if you’re hungry, tired, or overstimulated. Ask yourself why your children’s behavior is triggering you to feel so angry, and if the answer is something as, “I need a sandwich”, make that a priority!
This ‘getting what you need’ thing goes a little deeper, though, Mama. If you’re not taking time for self-care or doing things every day that make you feel fulfilled, you’ll have a shorter fuse and be more reactive when a stimulus (like your son shooting a Nerf gun at his brother’s eye) happens. Remember:
We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.
Here’s the part where I remind you that you’re a human being that deserves to enjoy your life. You’re not doing anyone any favors by being a miserable martyr.
Make sure you are taking time every day to both attend to your basic needs and to do extra things that make you feel great. And if you know you get hangry, restless at home, or touched-out, it’s your responsibility to take care of yourself so that you can show up for your family—even if your needs conflict with theirs a bit.
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Do you need help?
Would your kids be less likely to drive you crazy if they hung with a babysitter for a few hours a week? How about if you had a house cleaner come in occasionally to help clean up their messes? What if your husband took over breakfasts on Saturday mornings so that you could go for a run alone?
Moms are often the primary caregivers and homemakers, but we don’t have to do it alone. If your budget is tight, there are all sorts of creative solutions to get help.
For instance, my next-door neighbor and I used to exchange child care. I’d watch her kids one day a week, and she’d watch mine. The kids loved having 2 weekly playdates, and we loved having some time to do whatever we wanted child-free and free of charge!
If you need help, find a way to get it. You might have to think outside the box, but there is always a solution.
Give Yourself A Timeout
Remember my story at the beginning? As I put my hand on the door handle and took a deep breath to scream at my kids, I stopped instead. I took a few more deep breaths. I said to myself several times, “I am calm and relaxed. I am Supermom. I can handle anything these kids throw at me.” (cheesy, but true)
Then, I opened the door, got them to take some deep breaths, too, hugged a crying kid, reminded his brother that he needed to keep his hands to himself even when he was REALLY angry, and helped everyone find a missing Lego piece. Problem solved without any craziness.
Remember, you are the parent. It’s your job to remain calm and model what you want to see in your children. And as I said above, NO GUILT. No one, least of all your kids, expects you to be perfect.
You are the perfect Mama for them. Do your best to empathize with them, and your best to take care of you. Your best is good enough. Before long, I suspect that you won’t be saying, “my kids are driving me crazy” nearly so often anymore.
Feel like you’re about to blow up? Try this now:
- Pause. Take ten deep breaths to center yourself.
- Check yourself. Why are you so upset? Are you hungry, tired, overstimulated, etc.? Would a small fix help you feel a lot less irritated? Unless your kids need you right now, fix yourself first.
- Check your kids. Are they hungry, tired, or overstimulated? Would a small fix make them a lot less irritating? Try to solve the problem at the root rather than responding to the behavior.
- Use your Mama’s Intuition to decide if the kids need something else—to slow down, to grab a few undivided moments of your time, or to get a little silly. If so, do that for them…and you.
- Listen to your inner voice to see if you need to take a little more time for self-care. If your inner voice says, “yes” than it is your responsibility to do it. No excuses.