Making it through a bad day

Making it through a bad day

If you subscribe to the Planning With Kids Weekly Newsletter you will have already read this. Each week I endeavour to create new content for the newsletter which only goes out to subscribers. I had such an amazing response to last week’s email that I thought I would share this one on the blog as it seemed to resonate with so many mums. 


In many ways I think I prefer the tantrum of a toddler than that of a teenager!  The teenager version is louder, often goes for longer and upsets the balance of the house in a far greater way than a toddler.

One morning after coming back in from a run, I said my usual good mornings, then set about my school morning routine. During this time I needed to ask the teenager a question about his after school activities so sought him out.

He was half dressed and on his iPad playing a favourite game. We have always had the rule, no TV/technology before school, so I requested he get off. This he did, but was incredibly unhappy about it and went into what I describe as a teenager tantrum.

As his tantrum unfolded it was evident that there was more going on than me asking him to get off his iPad. Logically knowing this did not mean that it was any less painful for me to endure, but it enabled me to handle it better.

My day didn’t get any worse than the way it started, but it certainly didn’t go down as one my best days. During days like this I find I needed to make a conscious effort to not let it spiral completely out of control.

Below I have listed some strategies that I use to make it through a bad day. While the examples I have used did not happen all in the one day, they did all happen!

Cry and regroup

After the teenager left for school, I went and had a shower. Alone for five minutes I took the opportunity to have a little sob in the shower. I really detest my day starting this way with any of the kids. I don’t cry a lot like this but I do find it allows for an emotional release sometimes that allows me to let go of the anger/hurt/disappointment that I am feeling. I can then regroup and not take those emotions through with me to the next stage of the day.

Not take it personally

Being online I am fully aware I open myself up for criticism. Thankfully I have a very supportive community of readers on the blog and the facebook page. But not everyone who comes across my work will like it. Some will just move on but the odd one will like to let me know about it.

Earlier this year I posted something on facebook and someone left a very critical comment. It was along the lines of it was okay for me as I was a typical middle class white woman, preoccupied with things that don’t really matter. Ouch!

I think that is the only negative comment I have had in a year compared to well over hundreds of complimentary comments. The comment came on a day which had been filled with sibling fighting that was driving me crazy so I wasn’t in the best of moods. I felt so personally attacked by the comment and immediately wanted to defend myself. I do however have a personal policy not to respond to any comment that upsets me for 24 hours so I can make a considered response.

Throughout the day this comment kept going through my head. I realised that I needed to make the conscious decision to not take it personally. I could understand the readers’ view, but the reader has only seem a small snippet of my life and is not really in a position to make such a claim. For all I knew that reader could have been having a bad day too and I was simply an outlet of their frustration. This was not about the reader, but about me and being confident in myself and happy with the life I lead and not allowing one solitary voice to bring me down.

Get outside

Some nights after school towards the end of the week, the kids can really start to get on each other’s nerves. This then gets on my nerves. At the end of a less than stellar day, this does drive me crazy. On a day when I allow myself to get so meshed into the negativity, I will rant and rave and things just get worse.

On days when I can step outside the negativity, I will encourage the younger ones to come with me to take the dog for a walk around the block. This works well for a couple of reasons – it separates the kids, it gives the younger kids a focus and release of energy and the fresh air and physical activity helps me calm down.

Choosing the timing of my battles

On the morning where the teenager already had the above outburst, I decided not to talk to him right then about his behaviour, volume or language. This didn’t mean I wasn’t going to address it, because all of it was unacceptable, but I realised that he was in no emotional state to have the conversation:

When someone is drowning that is not the time to give swimming lessons (Faber et al 1995)

To have the conversation then and there was only going to exacerbate the situation, make me feel worse and spread more negativity through the house. When he arrived home from school later that evening, we had the conversation and with many hours between our words and the events of the morning we were both able to reflect without anger on what had happened and how to prevent it happening again.

Making it easier on myself

On days where it all has turned pear shaped and I am running well behind, I will choose to scrap what is on the menu plan if it is going to take too long to cook. I will put together the quickest meal I can that I know the kids will eat without complaint. This might be as simple as pasta with cheese and steamed frozen veggies. By no means is this the most nutritious meal in the world, but they will happily eat it, feel full and they will not suffer malnutrition from evening meal like this!

Make amends

As the day finally winds down and I start getting the kids off to bed, I make sure they all go off to bed knowing I love them and tomorrow will be a better day. This isn’t just for them either. I feel awful if I go to bed with out making amends with any of the kids I may have had issues with. It is hard to start a new day with a fresh attitude if there is baggage from the day before.

Sometimes making amends means I need to apologise to the kids. If I lost my temper and shouted or yelled hysterically, as I tuck them into bed I will say sorry. I will apologise for shouting and tell them I will try harder tomorrow. What I love about this is on most occasions the kids will also apologise. Whether it be the youngest saying he is sorry and he won’t tip out all the shampoo in the bath tomorrow or the teenager who might be a little less direct and use humour but will let me know he realises his behaviour was out of line.


You can usually tell it has been a bad day at my house by the state it is in when everyone has gone to bed. So I have the best possible chance of not repeating the bad day again, I will work to reset the house to a state of organisation. I will have everything as ready as possible for the next day, so there is less chance for issues to arise first thing in the morning. You can see what sort of things I do at night to reset here – 10 Things To Do Before You Go To Bed.

Go to bed

I find days that have issues like teenager tantrums and the like in them very emotionally draining and tiring. It takes a lot of energy to hold in emotions and if I haven’t held them in, I waste energy on feeling guilty about how I have behaved. The best thing I can do to make the next day is better is to get to bed as early as possible and recharge myself.

How do you cope with bad days? I hope this one has been a  fabulous day!


  1. says

    I greatly appreciate your very first point. Too often I try to regroup without having a little cry first, and then the emotions are still bottled up inside me and stay with me throughout the day. Letting it out and THEN regrouping is a much better strategy.

  2. says

    This is such a helpful post Nicole, I think all mums could do with this sort of advice. Too often I think we read blogs and just assume that the mum has it all together and doesn’t have her share of ‘off’ days because they are never written about. Everybody raising kids has to have some days where it’s extremely hard going and to share these, as well as tips for dealing with them is extremely helpful.

    For me, saying sorry and forgiving is so important for making amends and moving on. I think having it said on a daily basis by all members of the family when we upset each other is paramount for a harmonious family life. I’ve also found making a conscious effort to forgive the kids as soon after they have done something to make you upset as you can makes such a huge difference. Sometimes this is really hard but It means you are not harbouring ill feelings toward them and you can rescue a day from spiralling into a really bad one.

    • says

      Such a good point Lynda about forgiving kids straight away. It never helps to hold a grudge and it sets a great example for kids about forgiveness.

  3. says

    Hey Nicole,

    Thanks for some great ideas here for coping with a bad day. One thing I’ve started this month is to listen to a relaxation audio track just before sleep. It helps me to relax, put the bad day behind me, get rid of any negative feelings I may still be holding on to and clear my head ready for sleep. Maggie Dent has an excellent free relaxation track you can download and it’s just for Mum’s. Here’s a link:


  4. Frew says

    Nicole, I have followed your website for a while and enjoy your posts as I also have 5 children, work full-time as a Senior school Counsellor and can Sooooo relate to a lot of your posts. I have a fantastic hubby who does the majority of the cooking and works 3 days a week so pretty much holds the household together! I love that you are honest, motherhood is hard, kids have meltdowns regularly, regardless of their age and you have to pick your moments for discussion or challenge. We all have bad days and I think by admitting that we make mistakes and sharing with other mums makes us all feel better (normal!). If I can get that second coffee in before heading off to work and all kids have shoes on, hair done and no more squabbles once in the car- I can start my day feeling reasonably professional and happy about my day as well as the kids! Hubby gets a gold star most days :)

    • says

      Having a partner who contributes is so important not only for us I think, but also in the example it sets for the kids too. Hope you had a second cup of coffee today!