Parenting in today’s chaotic world is one seriously tough gig. We are busy people, and our children have busy lives, too. All this busyness can and often does lead to stressed-out parents. Well, it certainly did for me. Out of all the jobs I’ve ever done, this parenting lark is super stressful, with me often losing my sh*t with anyone over anything.
Carla Naumburg’s book How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t with Your Kids: A Practical Guide to Becoming a Calmer, Happier Parent was a breath of fresh air, a gem that beckoned to me from the endless rows of self-help parenting books weighing down the shelves at the bookstore.
About the author
Carla Naumburg comes with good credentials. Her PhD is relevant, her clinical work means she must know what she is doing, she has produced two offspring, and this is her third book on parenting. Two things about this author appealed to me personally: I loved her no-nonsense writing style and the fact she has two totally insane cats.
Seriously though, her casual, chatty, and highly informative writing makes her work an easy read. She takes you through the book, building on one new point at a time. From the very start, you know this book targets you, the parent, not your child. Naumburg’s clear focus is on the adult and their learning to take responsibility for losing their sh*t. According to her, it can be done.
Understanding your sh*t
Initially, I found her stance on “bad parenting” quite challenging because, in my line of work, I have sadly seen the worst of the worst in parenting. Naumburg’s sage advice is to look at those we label “bad parents” as struggling parents who require support. This actually became reassuring because we all know that the overwhelming majority of want to do the very best for their children; they just don’t know how to do it.
I’ve always viewed parenting as a very leveling activity. Regardless of how important, special, wealthy, or amazing we are (or think we are), there are times when parenting sucks, and Naumburg acknowledges this. She recognizes the challenges and, most importantly, the fact that getting your sh*t together isn’t easy-there are
…no magic pills, no spa retreats, overnights transformations.
The author lays bare her personal attempts to get her sh*t together and shares the powerful words her cranky grandfather included in his congratulatory wishes:
It’s a crisis, but you’ll get through it.
This statement underpins the journey Naumburg takes us on and the lessons she teaches us, making us recognize our own responses to our personal parenting crisis and how we identify and deal with our triggers.
Getting your sh*t together and working out your triggers
It takes real guts to admit to yourself that life is spinning out of control, and you’re not handling this parenting gig, but to do it so publically, in a book, was something that impressed me.
In a few short pages, Naumburg details the difficulties she experienced as a parent, and I can quite honestly say she could have been writing about me. This is what makes the book so readable: it’s real, it’s provocative, it’s parenthood.
Among all these comforting words are some very clear messages that the reader can’t fail to take on board:
- Kids are still developing key parts of their brain (and losing your sh*t doesn’t help positive development).
- Kids push buttons.
- Find out which of your buttons trigger big responses and learn to manage these.
- Understand your triggers, all of them.
- Learn to recognize when you are triggered and how to minimize your response.
Rocking your BuRPS
The author even has cool acronyms for sh*t we need to remember. You can tell here that Naumburg knows her own sh*t. You can tell that once Naumburg the parent had calmed down her stressed-out body and nervous system, she used all those fabulous skills she had acquired in her studies and professional life to help us, the other stressed-out parents, deal with our struggles.
What’s even better is that the BuRPs (button reduction practices) are evidence-based. They do, however, require honest self-reflection, adjustment of your circumstances, and real (yes, she said real) practice because the more you practice, the more benefit you will derive.
Naumburg breaks down practice into four main areas:
- single tasking
At first glance, the list looks relatively easy, but as I pondered what each practice really means in the daily grind of family life, I knew there would be some challenges along the way.
Practice makes… life easier.
1. Single tasking
Yes, single tasking had me stumped. Even as I am writing this article, I’m checking other things on my computer, butting into conversations my husband is having with our son, and chastising my daughter for leaving her towel on the floor again.
It’s hard to be focused on a single activity in today’s world. We are now programmed to try and fit more into our day, with dire results on so many levels. There’s a surge in mental and stress-related illnesses within our communities, and much of it is attributed to the fact that we just do too much. If the community recognizes it, why are we ignoring it as parents?
Naumburg’s suggestions to single task are realistic, sensible, and achievable, so much so that I’m going to try and focus on one from tomorrow to make sure I get my dose.
I’m normally a very good sleeper, but circumstances in my life have affected my sleep. It’s an absolute nightmare to function on less sleep than you need, and it’s not actually possible to operate at full capacity without all your reasoning faculties in order, so take heed of this section.
A clean sleep routine is vital for functioning as a parent, and Naumburg nails it. If her strategies don’t seem likely to work for you, don’t worry: she points you in the direction of where to get help.
As much as I love my bed and a restful night’s sleep, I thrive on being part of a community. I’m not talking about a huge community, just my peeps, who I know have my back. Naumburg elaborates on this lot and includes in our support group:
- our parenting partner
- our pro team
- our crew
- our peers
Breaking down and organizing our support like this makes so much sense. Knowing who’s on my support team and what they are useful for is extremely reassuring. I know my husband is not the person I go to for advice on how to deal with my daughter’s lisp because, quite frankly, he doesn’t have a clue. While that example may be facetious, its purpose is to make clear that we have people in our world for different reasons, so we’d best deploy them to their strengths.
As Naumburg points out, these two words are not often seen together. We strive to be compassionate individuals, but not always to ourselves. We recognize that being compassionate is important, but we rarely show compassion to ourselves.
This section really is worth curling up with the book and savoring every word she writes because this sh*t is good!
Just because you’ve read the book doesn’t mean you’ll immediately stop losing your sh*t. This will not be the case, but once again, Naumburg extends her wisdom and offers you ways to deal with the challenges of getting there.
To be honest, I was skeptical about this book because it promised stuff that I didn’t think it could achieve. I was, however, proved wrong. I loved every single page. With brutal honesty, Naumburg welcomes us into her parenting world and shows us that it’s okay to be imperfect. More importantly, she shows us that we can strive to be more gentle to ourselves and in turn, become more focused, present, and connected friends, partners, and, above all, parents.
I loved the book, which is not something I say very often about books, particularly books that make big promises. Tomorrow, I’ll focus on writing my list of triggers and single tasking.
How to stop losing your sh*t with your kids
- Losing your sh*t with kids is not ideal.
- Getting your sh*t together is not easy, but it's important to work out your triggers.
- Be gentle with yourself as no one is perfect.
You need this if...
- You want to spot and reduce the triggers that set you off the most as a parent.
- You're managing everyday sources of stress and meltdowns with kids.
- You want to become calmer and less reactive.