JOPLIN, Mo. —
If you pay attention to TV commercials, you might come to believe that your family is somehow unique in its imperfections. You might start to feel dissatisfied with the messiness of life -- with the spilled drinks and whining voices -- and wonder what you're doing wrong.
But it doesn't get much more real than this: No family is without its own brand of rough days.
It makes it really hard to be a good parent when you're competing with ideas, whether on TV, in blogs or on Facebook. The truth is that we all have days that make us want to curl up and turn in our resignation, or at least retire to a beach with an umbrella drink in our hand.
When that's not possible, there has to be something else to help us as parents as we cope with the frustrations of raising kids. Because I've got to be honest -- kids can be frustrating. You know this.
What you may forget, though, as I often do, is that you don't have to let imperfect kids ruin your day. Flawed families can still be parented by joyful adults.
Here are the best ways I know to keep calm when our precious offspring threaten to send us to Grumpville.
¥ Don't take it personally: That snarky response or rolled eye isn't about you, really. It's about something your child needs to deal with and your job is to teach them acceptable paths.
Instead of letting your temper flare up high enough to burn off some of their attitude (wouldn't it be awesome if that actually worked?), take a deep breath and push your hurt feelings aside. Focus on the single issue at hand, one at a time. Baby steps.
¥ Never fear: When your child is doing something wrong, avoid the pyramid of fear: "Oh, no. She's yelling at her sister again. I'm afraid she's going to turn into a bully. And the parents on the bleachers will think I've raised a mean girl! She'll never learn to compromise, and before I know it, she'll be yelling at me, and we'll have a terrible relationship!"
As dramatic as it sounds, our internal voices can sometimes lead us to such conclusions. Stick to one thing at a time, like before. Isolate the issue, and address it.
¥ Be the grownup: When we take misbehavior personally or start to parent out of fear, we also sink back into immaturity. Remind yourself to stay calm; you'll be mad all day if you allow every normal childhood hiccup to derail your temper. Instead of yelling and storming around like a tantruming toddler, solve the problem.
Don't like your child's tone of voice? Address it. Sick of picking up their messes? Designate chores. Running late again? Make a plan.
You're the adult, so you need to be able to begin the task of problem solving instead of merely railing against the status quo.
¥ Hang out with other families: There's nothing so soothing as being in the presence of other parents as they handle a crisis. If they're as befuddled as you are, there's consolation and relief. If they're calm and patient, there's inspiration and hope.
No matter what, you're bound to see the truth: Raising kids is hard work and its road is full of bumps -- sometimes giant, craggy bumps. But it's that way for us all. There's no shame in admitting the frustrations, especially if it helps us reach our end goal: raising good kids and managing to love them well in the meantime.
Sarah Coyne lives in Joplin. She writes about life and motherhood at her personal blog, http://thisheavenlylife.blogspot.com.