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Why So Many Moms Have Short Fuses

Why So Many Moms Have Short Fuses

For me, this summer was all about traveling and moving. Everywhere I went I saw children playing, misbehaving and being corrected by their parents. It didn't matter if I was in an airport or a rest stop, by the ocean or a river; parents were correcting their children. Normal, right?

Some parents were loud and intense. Others were quiet and threatening. Some used a calm but insistent tone. Others ignored the behavior all together. And some never gave the child a moment's rest; they stood right beside their child correcting e-v-e-r-y-thing the child did as if they were on a mission to attain the impossible: perfection.

I believe that however you choose to parent is your business. No one should undermine your parenting decisions, of course unless there's physical or emotional abuse going on.

This article isn't about how you choose to parent; it's about parenting intensity. (I've touched on this topic once already in Stop, Look, Ask: 3 Tools for Raising Confident Kids.) The number #1 question parents ask me is "Why do I go from calm to e-x-t-r-e-m-e-l-y angry in 2.5 seconds? I don't really know that I'm doing it until I hear the words coming out of my mouth!" Circle of Moms member Michelle B.'s recent post echos this: "I'm so angry right now my stomach is in knots…I'm afraid I'll explode."

Most parents think that their child's behavior is what's causing them to react. They say, "If my child would just do as I say, then I wouldn't have to react!"

Here's a shocker: Your reaction is already in full bloom by the time your child misbehaves. Your child's misbehavior is just the place where your reaction gets dumped.

The reason I know this is because of how a reaction begins. Reactions begin when our fight or flight response is triggered. You know the trigger in the brain that told us to run so we wouldn't be eaten by a Saber Tooth Tiger. That was a very valuable function of the brain when we were cavemen and cave women, but it complicates things in 2011.

The pace of life is very fast now. Daily activities seem more complicated than ever. Most people get very stressed about all that's on their plates. They tend to think, so what, I'm stressed now; I'll relax later. But that isn't all there is to it.

When we're stressed we unconsciously release chemicals into our system that trigger the fight or flight response. That's how the roller coaster begins! For whatever reason, stress appears in our life. Then our fight or flight response gets turned on and we unconsciously begin to see everything in our world as a threat to our survival.

Our rational mind gets disengaged and our fears become exaggerated. We begin to misperceive that our child's misbehavior, something our partner said, or being stuck in traffic when we need to be somewhere, is a threat to our survival, not just a fact of daily life in 2011.

We become overwhelmed with all this stress and begin seeing our life as a series of short-term emergencies. We lose the ability to relax and enjoy the moment. We feel like everything we do pushes us over the edge, that it's all just too much!

When we live from crisis to crisis, with no relief in sight, parental burnout is inevitable, and we go from calm to reacting in 2.5 seconds!


That sequence of events is what causes the angry reactions we dump on our kids when we correct them.

I am in no way saying that our children shouldn't be corrected, far from it. (Have you read my other articles?)

I just thought you'd want to know where parental intensity and exhaustion is coming from. It all stems from that pesky fight or flight response.

So the next time you're stuck in traffic, or begin yelling at your child, or say something uncalled for to your partner—stop—take a breath and remember, the way I'm looking at things is being skewed because I've lost my mind to my fight or flight response.

Sharon Silver is the author of Stop Reacting and Start Responding: 108 Ways to Discipline Consciously and Become the Parent You Want to Be, and the founder of Proactive Parenting. Her book and site help parents gain more patience by responding instead of reacting as they deal with the whirlwind of emotions created by raising kids ages 1-10. Find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Image Source: emrank via Flickr/Creative Commons

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

Join The Conversation
EngelaSmith EngelaSmith 5 years
loved this article made me think a lot!
kenrobinson kenrobinson 5 years
Single full-time father here. I've raised my son alone since he was 3 months old, he's 7 yrs.,old now. I find if I am using my bug voice its because I am tired- then I need to,step back and breathe. I find if I'm agitated in public its because I've lost sight of the fact he is 7 and he behaves when redirected with love & laughter. Instead I worry about public opinion. My child has a lot to learn and I have a lot to teach him.
TinaWagner TinaWagner 5 years
I love redirection, although at times when D is in the middle of an "ANGRY" TIME... it doesn't work. Time out for him can be iffy... he understands it, and hates it. Honestly? I don't think I have a bad child. He tests boundaries, he explores... I think we as parents, when we find our fuses short.. should think in terms of months.. my child is not 3... he is 36 months.. how much do I really need to expect from that short time? He's confidant, smart... knows his alphabet by sight, his numbers, he can count objects... hes taken on a lot... sometimes.. he just needs to be.. 36 months...
Why moms lose there Tempers... Good Topic.Is it a vary of things in the NOW NEW DAY IN AGE.. TIME GENERATION. ARE ERA IS OVER(babybombers)or PPL IN OUR 50's. The way these Parents parent is soooo different these Days. DO WE AGREE? Do We LIKE IT ? CAN WE COMPROMISE ?
Why so Many Mom's Have short Fuses .. I think at my age In Life Right Now This is A Wonderful Topic to Help Parents In All GODPARENTS,GRANDPARENTS,FOSTERPARENT,BABYSITTER PART_TIMEPARENT.
CindyJackson72211 CindyJackson72211 5 years
i agree completely .... i've been a stay at home mom since 1995, not by choice tho coz of medical issues but it's all the same!! when i was married 2 my 2 girls dad he helped allot but when i got with my sons dad he was NOOOOOOOOOO help at all, he thought that is was the womans job completely even if she had a fulltime job outside the home, she was 2 do it all well he found out differently, i had 2 MAKE him change his diapers especially when we were around his family & even friends coz he wanted them 2 think he ruled the home well i let them know otherwise ........ when ur in a relationship it's both that r in charge ....... i love the guy i'm with now wouldn't trade him 4 the world coz he DOES NOT think like that, he jokes but doesn't mean it, granted he doesn't do house work but that's coz i WON"T let him lol i'm a perfectionist so i do it myself so i don't have 2 correct him & make him feel bad lol
TiffinyMcCluskey TiffinyMcCluskey 5 years
i have been a stay at home mom for almost 8 yrs. 4 kids, just recently i had to get a job..... tempers do rise because ur home w/ the kids 24/7 and then hubby gets home and is like a 5th child , i deal w/ the kids all day and then work all afternoon until late evening and its very stressful , havn't eaten all day because u don't get a lunch at work, coming home to a screaming 2mth. old, and then not getting to bed until 1a.m. and getting up at 6a.m. to get son up and ready for school trying to get the house cleaned up and getting a nap in before work to do this everyday is very exhausting and so sometimes just the littlest things can set you off , not that its intentional but the stress of everything makes it all the worse
RoniqueBreauxjordan RoniqueBreauxjordan 5 years
I've always practiced patient parenting..."cave ma" parenting is so 1950's...redirection has been my preferred method for years!
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