Wait, your kids can be annoying? That’s so funny—mine, too! Seriously, though, we love our spawn like none other, but there’s no denying that they have a special talent for getting under our skin. The worst part is when they successfully get your goat and (oops) you follow up with a less than exemplary parental response. (Cue the mom guilt.) Well, you’re not alone, friends, which is why we spoke to licensed psychologist Dr. Bethany Cook and found out some ways to be less annoyed with kids. Read on for actionable advice that will make tomorrow (and every day thereafter) go just a little smoother.
8 Ways to Be Less Annoyed With Your Kids Every Damn Day, According to a Psychologist
1. Calculate Ages
Ever caught yourself treating your four-year-old like a grown-up who should know better? (Raises hand.) Well, the expert says that there’s a simple antidote for this very common phenomenon: “When your kid is starting to annoy you, one way to cope is to calculate how old everyone is. This gives you a few seconds to pause and try to recenter while you gain perspective and maybe shift expectations.”
And by calculate, we’re talking real math. (Example: I’ve been alive for 16,425 days while my 8 year-old has a mere 2,920 days of life experiences under his belt.) Cook maintains it’s a helpful way to focus your (aggro) mind whilst reminding yourself that, “kids are just that…kids. And they need to be given a little slack.”
2. Together Time First, Solo Time Second
It sounds like sanctimonious advice, but we’re not spouting off from the perspective of that (mythical) perfect mother who can spend the entire day building ‘the greatest train track ever’ with a smile on her face and not the faintest hint of fatigue. In fact, planning to spend a (small) portion of each day one-on-one with your child can go a long way towards securing the personal time you so need and deserve. Per the expert, “spending solo time with your children before doing a solo activity makes them feel seen, loved and connected. This means their buckets are filled and they’re far more likely to happily busy themselves for a while before they need to reconnect again.”
Even better, the, er, foreplay doesn’t have to be a huge affair. Per Cook, a mere 30 minutes of connecting with your kid is enough to “offer parents a stint of uninterrupted solo time, which will in turn help decrease feelings of annoyance.” As for what this looks like in practice—the doc suggests you ditch the screens and engage in basic activities (playing a game, reading a book) while striving for eye contact, kind touches and all the other features of a meaningful interaction.
3. Consider Your Triggers
A fiery mom rage is smoldering; you know it’s disproportionate to the situation, maybe even entirely unwarranted, but you still can’t seem to put it out. In this situation, Cook suggests you look inward: “Sometimes when we get annoyed with someone it's because they are triggering something within us and it clouds our perspective of the situation.” As such, Cook emphasizes the importance of asking yourself why your kid’s age-appropriate behavior is bothering you so much. (Does it remind you of someone else? Is it linked to trauma?) “Understanding the ‘why’ can sometimes be enough to help us move past the annoyance to a place of understanding and acceptance,” says Cook.
4. Let the One-Offs Go
Your kid insisted on doing a balance beam routine on the brick yard divider of your neighbor’s front lawn whilst eating a Klondike bar, only to fall, scrape a knee and muck up a perfectly good frozen dessert in the process. (True story.) The good news is that, going forward, said child will probably think twice before engaging in a balancing act with only one hand free and the other occupied with a treasured treat. Dr. Cook confirms that “as kids grow, they learn from mistakes…and it’s best to let the one-off behaviors that annoy you slide off your back.” In other words, don’t sweat the small stuff.
5. Talk it Out
If your kid has a habit that annoys you, the psychologist says you should go ahead and tell them. That doesn’t mean you should unleash the full power of your irritation, though. The fact that your child is smacking their mouth as they eat and it’s sending you over the edge, for example, needs to be addressed—but Cook cautions against getting mad or acting rude; instead, calmly explain to them that the behavior is one of your pet peeves (i.e., that sound hurts my ears) and nicely ask them to stop. Bottom line: “Kids are more willing to comply with requests if asked in kind ways and given explanations,” so steer clear of the authoritarian because-I-told you-so style, and you’ll see better results. Plus, the cool and collected approach has the added benefit of modeling good social skills, which ultimately means your kids are less likely to annoy you (and others) in the long run.
6. Leave the Room
Sometimes kids can just annoy adults by the mere fact that they are acting like kids (See #4 and #5). That said, Cook tells us “it’s important for children to have the freedom and space to act in different ways…so if your kid is doing something that irritates you, but is honestly harmless and appropriate for them to do, you can just (safely) leave them alone to do it.” However, she adds that it’s best not to make a big, exasperated to-do about your exit—namely because “it will influence their freedom to explore.” Instead, discreetly leave the space and wait it out until they change up their behavior or you calm down, whichever comes first.
7. Shift the Energy
Sometimes adjusting the ambiance can have a big impact and set the scene for a calmer time around your kids. Per Cook, “when you begin to feel yourself getting annoyed, check out the energy in the room and within yourself. The cause doesn't always matter, but how you shift the energy does.” As such, she recommends that you a) avoid shaming your child, as this just creates another set of issues and b) try to model calm and controlled ways to shift energy states. Some easy ways to do this include turning on (or off) music, burning a candle or going for a walk.
8. Tell it to the Toilet
Feeling irritated by your kids (or spouse) is kind of an inevitability, but Cook reminds parents that “not all annoyances need resolution, because sometimes the annoyance or issue is really yours to resolve.” Still, the need to vent those frustrated feelings is very real at times, and that’s OK. For this reason, Cook suggests turning the bathroom into a rage room for a sec when you desperately need some catharsis: “Say what you want to say, but go to the bathroom and say it to your toilet. I mean, are you really a parent if you’ve never flipped your kid off when they turned their back?”