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I lost my temper with my kids and my family took their side. Now what?

"Now I’m pretty upset with all parties."
"To make matters worse, my sister and stepfather took the kids’ side and undermined my parenting."
"To make matters worse, my sister and stepfather took the kids’ side and undermined my parenting."TODAY Illustration / Getty Images

Caroline Moss is an author and host of the podcast “Gee Thanks, Just Bought It,” which helps people find the products they need to make life easier, better and more productive. Now with this column, “Asking for a Friend,” she’s helping people with the advice they need to make life easier, better and more productive. To submit a question, click here.

Hi Caroline,

I totally messed up on Thanksgiving. I was stressed and exhausted and I lost my temper with my kids at the dinner table in front of my sister and her family and my mom and stepfather, which I’ve never done before. 

My kids (7 and 11) were acting like spoiled brats and I snapped, creating some really awkward tension for the rest of the evening. To make matters worse, my sister and stepfather took the kids’ side and undermined my parenting. I understand they probably did it to ease the tension, but for me it just created more and now I’m pretty upset with all parties.

My kids keep bringing up what happened things like, “even Aunt Erin agrees you were wrong!” Where do I even start for setting the course straight after that disastrous dinner?

Thanks,

Mean Mom

Hi Mean Mom,

A quick poll to some of my friends who have kids around the same age as your kids suggests that you’ve just completed a rite of passage for mothers and parents all over the world: You lost your temper and yelled at your kids in front of other people! 

One of my friends said your specific Girl Scout badge for this accomplishment is in the mail. Another said, “Ages 7 and 9 and this is the first time she’s yelled at them in front of extended family? That’d be a world record in my house.”

Look, you lost your temper. It happens! Your frustration, I’m sure, was valid. 

When I was a kid, and my mom would tell me I couldn’t do something, I would hightail it to my father and see if I could get a different answer. I usually didn’t get lucky but one time I was able I to take advantage of a lag in communication and I practiced saying, “but dad said I could!” over and over again. 

First, go to your kids. Talk to them during a time of day where everyone is usually on their A game. Maybe that’s first thing in the morning over breakfast or maybe it’s on a weekend when the stresses of school work are muted by a few days off. Something that I always found to be very compelling is the notion that my parents are human and not just put on this earth to be a mom or a dad. Apologize and ask for an apology in return. 

You’ve just completed a rite of passage for mothers and parents all over the world.TODAY Illustration / Getty Images

Then I would go to your sister but give her the benefit of the doubt. Tell her that yelling on thanksgiving wasn’t your proudest moment but now they have to figure out what to do because your kids are trying to expose a weakness in the system to get what they want. Maybe she decided to side with your kids as a way to try to diffuse the situation. But let her know that your children are trying to use her allyship against their mother. Remember the scheming of sisters and show your kids they’ve met their match. Explain how you feel. Ask for help course correcting. 

Everyone knows the holidays can be stressful for adults, but they can also be stressful for kids.

Sometimes kids act out and ruin Thanksgiving. Sometimes adults yell at their kids. Sometimes our families bear witness to some of the parts of ourselves we’re not super proud of. Everyone can find forgiveness in this situation. 

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