Why We Snap at Our Kids—And What to Do About It

Last week I had one of those conversations that challenged me to take a look at how I was handling some things in my parenting. My dear friend Heather has two adorable dogs, whom she treats as if they were her kids. We talked about how too often we quickly snap at our little ones for things that really aren’t a big deal. Heather noted that it’s not what her dogs are doing that she’s aggravated with; it’s the fact that what they are doing is pulling her away from what she is trying to accomplish in that moment. She’s taking out her frustration on her pups when they’re just being pups. I quickly realized that I do the same exact thing with my daughter.

best selfThink of the times when you’re most frustrated with your kiddos. Yes, we all have times when our kids are being downright rotten. They’re screaming, hitting, throwing things in anger, and being incredibly disrespectful. I’d venture to say, though, that many of the times they’re pushing our buttons, they’re simply kids being kids.

Kids make mistakes. They spill things. They get caught up in their emotions. They experiment and sometimes those experiments don’t go so well.

Don’t we all, though? We all make mistakes. We spill things. We get caught up in our emotions. We try new things and it they don’t always work out.

But do we go around berating our spouses and other loved ones for those things? Do we snap, yell, criticize, and condemn them?

Ok, maybe sometimes. We’re only human. But think of how much more likely we are to react negatively to kids, yet they have significantly less control over their bodies and their emotions.

When our kids mess things up or cause a commotion, they draw us away from whatever we are doing. They distract us. They inconvenience us. They are an almost constant demand on our time. And yes, that can get pretty frustrating!!

Let’s take a step back though, and consider what’s most important in these situations when our kids are driving us insane.

In these moments, when you’re ready to explode because all you want to do is finish washing the bakeware that has week-old lasagna crusted to it, which is going to serve you better: clean dishes, or kind words?

In the long term, which is going to serve you better: a spotless kitchen, or a healthy, well-adjusted child?

When we snap at our kids because they’re pulling us away from things, we’re conveying to them that those things are more important than they are as people. We’re putting our to-do lists above the needs of our kids, and they know it.

How would I feel being constantly nagged and scolded, especially for things that aren’t completely within my control? Pretty darn rotten, I’d say. And let’s be real—I feel pretty darn rotten when I’m constantly nagging and scolding my daughter.

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. (James 1:19)

When you’re tempted to snap at your kids, take a deep breath (or several), and ask yourself, “How can I be my best self in this moment?” It’s not easy, and it takes practice. In the end, you and your kids will both feel better than if you had snapped at them.

Don’t let the demands of your day keep you from extending grace to your kiddos. Slow down, simplify, and use every moment as an opportunity to connect with and pour into your kids. In doing so, you’re setting them up for healthier interactions, stronger relationships, and greater well-being.

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