The tipping point: Why are we so quick to condemn parents who behave badly?

Kinderling News & Features

Lots of people have condemned two Sydney mothers who got into a physical fight over a school car park this week. Police were called to intervene, and the school’s principal issued a statement calling their behaviour “extremely inappropriate” and apologised to any young children that witnessed their outburst.

Obviously physical violence in the presence of children (or anyone) is completely unacceptable, but why do stories like these always end with judgement?

Step outside the situation and apply some empathy and what else can you observe?

The tipping point

Watching the video footage is watching two women at tipping point.

While we don’t know the full story it’s plausible to consider that their fight was nothing at all do with the car parking space, but a reaction to a stressful day, unending tasks and everyday relentless nature of parenting and life. The car park could have simply been the final straw.

Most of us have been there. And while our own tipping point may never escalate to a public brawl, it's likely to manifest as a fight with your partner over the bins, yelling at the children for making a mess, or ignoring people who are close to us when all we want is their love and help.

Essentially, they're the same thing: a reaction to a life without adequate self-care. 

Prevention is better than cure

As parents we are eager to teach our children effective ways to deal with their own tantrums and aggressive behavior, but our lessons always take a two-pronged approach.

We tell them that violence and yelling is inappropriate behaviour, but our lesson doesn’t stop there. We also explain to them how talking about your feelings and giving yourself space can help prevent that behaviour happening in the first place.

The school car park incident could be seen the same way. 

Of course, the two women should never have gotten into the altercation, but what could have prevented it from happening in the first place? Well, the same things we teach our children: discussion, time out, self-awareness, and being kinder to themselves.

Listen to Amy on Kinderling Conversation:

Finding time for yourself in the jungle of parenthood

Kinderling’s meditation guru, Amy Taylor Kabbatz describes this as the “emotional juggle” of parenthood. And by juggle, we mean maintaining the patience for everyone’s needs - your children, your husband, your work, your friends, your extended family, etc...

Amy told Kinderling Conversation that it’s essential parents take any opportunity they can get throughout the day, to stop and think about yourself. Even if it’s just for three minutes.

“When you finally get the kids to bed, or whenever you get a moment where they’re done with needing you for a little while, it’s really important to stop and think about yourself. Because what happens is that once the kids are asleep we tend to go straight to the next thing on our to-do list. And by the end of the day we are completely 'touched out' with no head space for anything or anyone else.”

How can you avoid this? 

Before you get out of bed for the day, or even while you're having a shower, ask yourself: What do I need today?

“Close your eyes and ask yourself: What do I need today? Then wait for the answer," said Amy. "You can then ask what your husband needs and your children, and your friend – whoever it is that you will encounter that day. Simply asking the question and waiting for the answer will help you meet your own needs and those of your family in the most important way."

Stop making self-care so complicated

Amy says self-care for mums has somehow become tied up with going for a manicure or pedicure, instead of gaining an awareness of what you need before you get to the end of the day.

"Often when we end up snapping at everyone around us it’s because we have been going at such a pace, we haven’t even sat down and finished a drink of water, " Amy said.

"The time you need to devote to self-care can actually be really tiny. Every day you can consciously stop (even a three-minute meditation) to think about YOURSELF. Have a cup of tea, sit in the shower for a bit longer, being aware of yourself is something that you need to start cultivating when your kids are little. Otherwise we get ourselves into this habit of always putting ourselves last, and that’s when we burn out.”