How to cope when you snap at your child

It is never easy to admit even to yourself that you might not be a perfect parent, but the thing is, no-one really is and that’s not the end of the world, we’re only human.

Just remember to take a deep breath, all of us parents are in this together.

snap, what, child, title

I am a snapper. I know I do it, I know my triggers, I know it is rarely, if ever, warranted. Yet I still sometimes do it and then I hate myself afterwards.

We all want our children to know without a doubt that we love them more than anything and that they are perfect to us. We want them to know we would do anything for them, that we love spending time with them and listening to what they have to say.

Sometimes though, I am afraid they won’t know this, because I snap.

Some days are not good days. If my toddler isn’t listening when I ask him to come put his shoes on, my tone of voice becomes harsh. If he tries to play around or move while I help get those shoes on, I let out frustrated mutters.

I hate myself for this. There is no easy way to say it, I’m sure that may sound overly harsh, but it is true. 


gray, angry, shunned, hiding

I know I am not alone, there are so many mums and dads out there who have knee jerk reactions to even the most innocent actions from their children; who really, truly love their children and feel ashamed for not being able to control those trigger moments.

It doesn’t make it easier but I have found myself slowly, baby step by baby step, making progress to control my snapping and keep myself from saying or doing harsh things I don’t mean.

If you find yourself getting impatient if they’re fighting for your attention while you’re just trying to finish the washing up, my post here could probably really help with that.

Maybe you don’t snap; maybe you yell or pull, or sigh or swear. Whatever your parenting vice, even baby steps towards bringing your triggers under control could make a world of difference.

So how do we do it?

Try thinking of a recent episode where you lost your temper, now write it down and deconstruct it as follows:

  • Do you feel guilty after the interaction?
  • Was it a warranted reaction? (Be as honest as you can be.)
  • Do you feel in hindsight that you overreacted?
  • Can you identify it as a knee jerk anger or frustration response?

Next, write out what you are going to do about it?

  • Do you need to learn how to recognise the moment so that you can manage it during, not after the interaction? (You might feel guilty the moment you say something you know you shouldn’t, here’s your cue, step back and consider the points above.)
  • Could you introduce a new way to cope when the kids are driving you crazy/you feel that breaking point coming on? (Perhaps you could remove yourself from the situation for a few minutes until you’ve calmed down.)
  • Do you need to try alternate ways to express your frustration like blowing out big breaths? (That can stop you from saying or doing anything while you focus on your breathing, it also gives the sensation that the anger is dissipating with each deliberate exhale, a good method!)

woman, meditate, calm, happy

I have learnt to remind myself that being a few minutes late is better than hurting my child’s feelings, or spending the rest of the day feeling guilty and self-loathing.

There is one more excellent tool that will help you:

Being held accountable.

I have started holding myself accountable, and it is making a huge difference to our interactions.

I apologise.

This is important: I apologise for being grumpy, I let him know that it is not his fault, that I am tired or hungry or feeling unwell and I overreacted.

I also ask him to hold me accountable.

One day Gray walked past me and instead of ‘excuse me’ I got a ‘get out of the way’ in an impatient little voice. Oh my God. He had to have gotten that from me! Where else? What had I done?

I felt like curling up in shame. Hearing that rude and disrespectful tone come out of his mouth was mortifying.

woman, mouth, tape, silent

It was that moment I took hold of his shoulders, sat down in front of him and did the only thing I could think of to fix it.
  • I told him that saying things like that were very rude and were not acceptable. We say excuse me, no exceptions.
  • I then explained that Mummy said things like that sometimes if she was frustrated or tired or hungry, but these things were still wrong and rude to say even if Mummy says them.
  • I asked him to tell me I should say ‘excuse me’ If I passed him rudely.
  • Finally I asked him to help remind me to speak respectfully, so that we can learn and behave better together.

Gray is like most toddlers, so eager for attention, recognition and approval. The thought of being able to actively do something so important like helping Mummy, really made him puff out his little chest with pride.

We haven’t had to test it yet, thankfully, but I’m hoping if we do he will make me proud. I am snapping less and less. I am apologising if I overreact.

Slowly I am learning to be respectful and mindful of Gray, as I have always expected him to be of me.

Our kids learn by example, they learn by watching us and by how we treat them and each other. If you aren’t happy with your child talking back to you in a certain tone, first ask yourself, where did that tone come from?

The answer might surprise you, but I promise you will fix it. You might even be surprised to see how much your relationship can flourish when you come to an understanding.

woman, child, baby, hold, together, love, happy

If you worry you might have a short fuse, be a snapper or yell too much or so on, just give these bullet points a try, you might find they work like a charm.

And most importantly, don’t worry. You are not a failure. You are not a bad parent. Do not look at Facebook and say ‘but my friend’s never have this problem’.

Facebook is a lie, you only see what people want you to see.

Think about it, if your day with your toddler involved tantrums, time outs and tears, are you going to post pictures to Facebook with the expectation of likes and ‘awww’s? Of course not.

Like I said, we are all in this together. Usually we forget that. Don’t. You’re not alone.

Hot Pink Wellingtons

13 thoughts on “How to cope when you snap at your child”

  1. I read an article somewhere once (I can’t find it now, irritatingly) which I found really interesting and thought provoking. It asked whether, when you say no to your child, you’re saying it for the right reasons or the wrong ones.
    “Mummy can I stick this knife in the toaster?” Well, duh, no, for obvious reasons. Similarly with eating stuff you find on the floor outside, or whatever.
    But this article also pointed out that sometimes we say no for our sakes, not for theirs-
    “Mummy can I watch this DVD?” – Not right now.
    “Mummy can we go to the park?”- No, not today.
    “Mummy can we play a game/do a jigsaw/paint a picture?”- No.
    “Mummy can I help you with baking?” No, but you can next time.
    I’m terribly guilty for fobbing them off just because it’s not convenient for me. In reality, there’s absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t do any of the above mentioned things, and the only reason I’m saying no is because it contradicts what I want to do, which is look at facebook/not have to get them dressed to go out/sit on the sofa and relax/get the damn things made in peace.
    And then I wonder why my kids are acting up or ignoring me when I tell them not to do something. The message gets diluted if it’s lost in a sea of ‘no’s. You talked in an earlier post about involving your kids with chores, and I think that’s a great way to spend time together while getting stuff done. I also wish I was less selfish and said yes more often.
    I’m going to try and implement change. If they ask to do something, I’m going to say yes, or at least think about it before just automatically saying no. If it requires a change to plans which affect them, I’ll discuss the options. Maybe we’ll all be happier as a result. 🙂

    1. After some extensive googling I just found a book called “Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason” by Alfie Kohn, which discusses what I’ve mentioned above.
      There’s a link here to page 134 with examples.–6bv7I-F2gak&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjAvYX3uNTOAhXnKMAKHVluD4gQ6AEITDAJ#v=onepage&q=saying%20no%20because%20it's%20inconvenient&f=false

    2. Thank you, this is an excellent comment. I am also so guilty of saying no for my own sake. I know I need to change, I think realising it is the first step, at least then you are, as i mentioned above, beginning to hold yourself accountable in some way! xx

  2. I’m so guilty of snapping. My 4y.o definitely pulls me.

    When she gets upset about something I tell her to take a few deep breaths. Now she reminds me to do the same thing too, and it helps! It always reminds that Damn! a 4 y.o can see I need to just take a breath!

    We’ve also introduced a slightly oddball way of dealing with things that breaks the tension – singing “its a hard luck life” from Annie the musical whenever someone gets a bit snappy! It’s so funny we can never stay cranky 🙂

    1. I love that idea! I may have to give it a try, we already sing ‘a spoonful of sugar’ from Mary Poppins to help tidy up time go smoothly! Thanks for the comment 🙂

  3. That’s really great , thanks for sharing. I snap all too often , I am aware. Taking a step back and a time out helps. If I feel I was in the wrong – i do always apologise, I think that’s important , they learn it’s ok to say sorry and also that parents make mistakes ! #stayclassymama
    Themotherhub recently posted…Feminist Friday: Red Carpet RouletteMy Profile

  4. Such an open and brave post! Both my children test me daily! My youngest is only 2 and he’s already displaying bad behaviour and repeating bad phases he’s heard such as ‘God Sake!’ which he’ll shout when he’s angry or trying to get a reaction. Its hard not to snap but I’m guilty of this too, every day. #sharingthebloglove

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you found it relatable. We all need another mum to say ‘yep, I feel you!’ sometimes! xx

  5. Wonderful tips here! I am definitely guilty of snapping at times, normally when I’m tired or unwell, but these toddlers know just how to push our buttons. I definitely find taking a deep breath, or removing myself from the room, helps, but sometimes that’s still not quite enough and I need to dig out the apology. Thanks so much for sharing this with us at #SharingtheBlogLove
    Katy – Hot Pink Wellingtons recently posted…5 Happy Things #24My Profile

  6. I am definitely guilty of snapping, its always when I have barely had any sleep. Thats not an excuse, but most definitely the reason. Great advice. I am trying really hard not to do, as my girls are getting older and they are such sponges I would hate to be passing things on. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove x
    Laura – dear bear and beany recently posted…Living Arrows 41/52My Profile

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