I recently had a DuHa! moment. Duh, because I can't believe this didn't occur to me sometime during the previous, oh, 9 years that I've been a parent and Aha! because I think I've had a major realization of what my job as a parent is (maybe that should be Duh! also).
It's not about me.
When my kids "spill" baking powder all over the kitchen floor, it's not about me.
When my kids "decorate" their rooms (walls, blankets, toys, bed frame) with a sharpie marker, it's not about me.
When they have a total meltdown over cleaning up their playroom, it's not about me.
When they have a tantrum over doing their homework, it's not about me.
If it was about me, I'd be angry that they made such a huge mess that they were in no way capable of cleaning up themselves. I'd be mad that they ruined a new bed spread, and left me a lot of work to do with a magic eraser (praise be to magic erasers). I'd be frustrated and feel like throwing their toys in the garbage. I'd be ready to tack on some extra jobs, and maybe do a little tantruming myself.
But it's not about me.
So instead, I show them how to use a measuring spoon without spilling the whole jar (or I keep it out of reach of little fingers), and teach them how to use a broom. I keep permanent markers up high, and kid-friendly markers and paper down low, and get two magic erasers and teach them how to clean their toys. I provide places for each toy to belong, and teach them how to put each toy away before getting out new ones, and sometimes I put toys in time out (but I don't yell, because it's not about me). Finally, I sit down with them and show them how to make a to-do list when they're overwhelmed, and if it helps, we both eat lifesavers to get us through the work.
My Aha! moment was that it's not about punishment for things they do that make me angry or frustrated, it's about teaching them to take care of their belongings, and how to clean things up if they make a mess, and use their words to express frustration, and take a deep breath and take overwhelming tasks one step at a time.
It does my kids no good for me to yell and send them to time out because I'm mad. Time outs are for helping them to calm down and think about things. What I need to do when they do something they shouldn't, is teach them what they SHOULD do next time, and show them how to fix whatever it is that they did.
Seems pretty obvious, but it took me 9 years for the idea to occur to me.