“When parents have too-high bars for perfection and flawlessness, they feel they can’t walk out of the room, or give the kid five more minutes of screen time,” even if it would help the parent calm down, Dr. Sacks said. Don’t fall into this martyr trap.
Remember that kids struggle with impulse control. In my situation, even though my daughter is 8, she’s still got a developing brain, and knowing that I’m on the other side of the closed door is just too enticing for her. Dr. Sacks suggested putting a sign on the door when I really don’t want my kids to come in, as a visual cue that might remind them to stop, and help them resist opening it.
Dr. Alexa Mieses Malchuk, a family physician and assistant professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, said that a timer could also help my daughter. If she’s finding it irresistible to interrupt, I can set a timer for 30 minutes that can help her delay entering my room, at which point the urge might pass.
If your snapping is frequent, try to get help. With the caveat that there are so many situations in which this is not possible, if you find yourself irritable all the time and lashing out at your kids frequently, and these emotions are a marked change for you, you “need support or relief,” Dr. Sacks said. That additional support could mean extra child care, or seeing a therapist.
On the evening of the scavenger hunt, when I talked to my daughter after dinner about losing my temper, she was understanding, especially because I put it in terms she could empathize with. I said, “It’s like how you feel when your little sister interrupts you during your school day” — an event that happens a few times a week and causes my older daughter to absolutely uncork on her sibling.
I apologized to my kid, and I think we both felt better after. But I’m still planning to invest in a lock for my bedroom door.