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I would say one of my main parenting goals for myself is to be a peaceful and calm parent. Countless times I have told my husband that I want our home to be one of peace.
With four kids (currently between 2 and 8 years old) our house can get a little crazy. And for me, that is part of the fun of having so many young kids. Lots of energy, lots of laughter and lots of joy.
It can also mean lots of melt downs and arguments. But that is all just part of life and I’m ok with it. What I strive for is that under all the chaos of being a somewhat large family, we have a foundation of peace. I believe a huge part of that is dependent on adults choosing to be calm parents.
Why We Don’t Practice Calm Parenting
Calm parenting is an important concept to embrace but we usually encounter several opportunities to jump off the calm train throughout our day.
We get overwhelmed
When I get frustrated and start spewing out commands….usually this occurs because I feel overwhelmed. When I get overwhelmed, I am no longer a calm parent. I usually demand that my kids help me get the cleaning or laundry or homeschooling work done. I feel as if whatever is overwhelming me may just consume me and I lash out at my kids.
We get interrupted
I also leave my calm parenting path behind when I get annoyed at being interrupted. With the ages of my children, they are still very dependent on my help. They also just want me. One moment they want me to listen to their ideas or newest game they made up. The next moment they want me to look at the beautiful picture they drew or the fort they built. All good things. Great things.
But, I get very little time to finish any given task from start to finish. And so sometimes I get super annoyed that I’m constantly interrupted from whatever it is I have put on my agenda. Out comes a less than calm parent!
We have our own personal stuff to deal with
So often I flip out on my kids because my pressure point is ridiculously low due to my own issues I’m trying to sort out. A medical appointment I’m nervous about. A financial stress that is on my mind. A conflict I had with my husband that I wish would have gotten resolved better. There are always things going on in my mind and sometimes, when they are particularly stressful, I have less patience left for my sweet kiddos.
Also, if I choose to parent out of my own feelings and emotions, I will always be reacting. As Rachel from A Mother Far From Home states, “If feelings are your compass, you will always wander in circles.” How true is that? When I am going through my day parenting out of emotion, everything feels out of control. It becomes pretty impossible to be a calm parent.
Our expectations aren’t met
This can be a big one for me! All of us have expectations for our kids in regards to their behavior. When those expectations aren’t met, we can take it personally. Like their actions are a direct reflection of my parenting.
In some ways, I get that they are. But about 90% of any given situation is due to a child’s age and maturity level. We need to accept wherever it is that our children are, in that moment.
We must remember that self control skills aren’t organized until age 3 and not mature until age 5-6. There is then continuous development with another self control growth spurt throughout adolescence. Some experts estimate final self control maturation doesn’t occur until age 30! (source)
So often, children are punished for being human. Children are not allowed to have grumpy moods, bad days, disrespectful tones, or bad attitudes, yet we adults have them all the time! We think if we don’t nip it in the bud, it will escalate and we will lose control. Let go of that unfounded fear and give your child permission to be human. We all have days like that. None of us are perfect, and we must stop holding our children to a higher standard of perfection than we can attain ourselves. All of the punishments you could throw at them will not stamp out their humanity, for to err is human, and we all do it sometimes.”
― Rebecca Eanes, The Newbie’s Guide to Positive Parenting
Having realistic expectations about how our children will behave can help with being a calm parent. When we remember that testing boundaries as they figure out the world is part of growing up, we can respond with more grace and patience.
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What It Does To Our Kids
Another reason to work towards being a calm parents is because of what the opposite does to our children.
It changes them
According to Matthew McKay, Ph.D of Wright Institute in Berkley, CA, the effects of a parent who regularly expresses their anger in front of their kids end up with kids who:
- are less empathetic
- tend to be more aggressive
- are more depressed
- perform worse in school
He states that basically, when we are angry in front of our kids on a regular basis, we are undermining their ability to adapt to the world. (source)
This is because when they are little, we are the center of their world. And when that center is shaky and unstable because they aren’t sure how we will react at some point in time, that sends a message that they aren’t safe. But feeling safe is one of a person’s deepest needs. And our children are relying on us to meet that need. We can do this better through being a calm parent.
The great news for most of us in that when we melt down or flip out on our kids occasionally, the impact isn’t nearly what is described above. In fact, Robert Puff, Ph.D author and physiologist assures us that the normal ‘freak outs’ aren’t all that bad. They can actually be used to show our kids how to lose their cool, take responsibility for it and regain it. (source)
It changes the culture of our home and family
Mamas, it is really us who set the tone of our home in only the way a mom can. When we are in a crabby mood, it can definitely spill over onto everyone else. It changes the way we do our most important work of nurturing our kids and loving the members of our family. When we let our emotions dictate how we act and how we treat those most important to us, the restful is a home that feels out of control and often chaotic.
9 Tips To Be A Calm Parent
No matter where you are at in your parenting journey, I’m sure we could all use some tips on being a calm parents. If you want to join me in this goal, here are some tips to remember on your journey towards calm parenting.
Get some perspective
I am a pretty sensitive person, so this one makes a really big difference for me. I have been so incredibly blessed with four healthy children and did not suffer any miscarriages while growing our family. Is that not incredible? I feel it is! I’m SO thankful for those facts.
I also get to live with my children 100% of the time. There are families that are split apart by the choice of one or both parents. There are also families in which children are forcibly separated from their mothers. I get my kids all day, every day. All their whining, all their challenges, all their laughter, all their beauty. All of them.
I live in a safe, warm home that I love. There are mothers who are living on the streets with their children. Without enough food, clothing or shelter. I cannot imagine.
When I remember what I have and choose to be grateful, it snaps me back into focus. Back into how good my reality is.
The fact that my kids are healthy enough to cause a ruckus and run up and down the hall is music to my ears.
When they squabble with each other it reminds me how wonderful it is that I got to grow and birth four kids.
And when I get to help clean up their messes, it reminds me they are active and alive.
It’s all so good. And I want to be thankful for it. Gratitude helps me be a calm parent.
Take care of yourself
In addition to being grateful, taking care of yourself needs to be at the top of your list. This is because we you are healthy, you are more likely to be a calm parent and better able to take care of your people. Taking care of yourself can include:
- eating healthy, energy giving meals
- getting exercise in regularly
- going to bed early enough to feel well rested in the morning
- getting up before your children so you have an hour of quiet time to yourself
- getting ready on a daily basis so you feel like you are put together (if you are a stay at home mom)
- a date night with your spouse once a week or once a month
- coffee or dinner dates with girlfriends who breath life into you
- making time for a hobby you enjoy or a good book if you love to read
Realize that one day they’ll be grown
Think of your kids several years down the road. Someday they will need you in a different way…a less physical one.
Imagine the young adult you want your child to become. Parent from that place, which will be a calmer place than one in which you are constantly reacting to the demanding needs of young children.
Work it out
When I am having the most challenging time, if it’s possible, I angry clean. This is when I put in my ear pods and put on a podcast. I get the stuff done around the house that needs to be done with a little extra gusto. This pays off two-fold; I burn off some of my negative energy and my house looks better at the end of it! It’s really productive for me. The podcast always gets my mind going in a different direction, too. I’m usually inspired and thinking in a much more positive way.
Other options are getting a work out in if possible, taking a walk outside with little ones in a stroller or pumping up the music and having a dance party with the kids. These last two options can help everyone get in a better mood and it maintains your connection, even when times are a little rough. All in all, these activities can help you recover from a challenging time and come out a calm parent.
Reframe your expectations and household rules
Your kids are just that; kids. We have to remember that and have expectations that accurately reflect their age and abilities.
So, make your expectations more easily met. To ensure your children can comply based on their age and maturity, have simple house/family rules. This helps us mamas manage things more easily, too.
I find it easiest to have the fewest rules possible, really! And only the ones which I truly want to follow through on. When I set up a lengthy list of rules, I have to keep track of all those rules and discipline accordingly. I’d rather have a few simple rules that help us all live together more easily and happily. This really does help me be a calm parent.
Some examples of our rules includes:
- Treat each other with love and kindness
- Be a team player; do what is needed to work together as a family
- We love to share! (I have told each of my kids this since they were babies. It has actually made sharing easier. Not perfect, but they are much warmer to the idea because of it.)
- When there is misbehavior or disobedience, we choose natural consequences
- You have freedom until you lose it. Same goes with trust. (I really don’t like to micromanage my kids. I love giving them any freedom they can handle. It’s freeing for all of us!)
Another expectation adjuster is remembering that I am doing my very best and so are they. There are four of them and one of me. I’m trying hard to meet all their needs and maintain my cool. And when I remind them of this, they are so gracious with me.
I need to return the favor. They are doing their best, too, as they figure the world out and try to have some control over their little lives. When I remember this, I am one step closer to being a calm parent and treating them with a lot more grace.
Just because your child is feeling emotional or having a break down does not mean you need to join them. Reacting TO emotion WITH emotion will never bring about a peaceful situation. So, no matter how they are acting, you get to choose to remain calm, cool and collected. That’s the joy and challenge of being an adult.
The great part about this is that you get to remain in control of yourself so that you can help your child through their emotions. This sends a message to them that their emotions are not too big for you.
It also provides them with tools to get through their emotions so that they, too, can learn how to manage their emotions instead of only react to them. Separating your emotions from theirs can definitely help you be a calm parent.
This can be hard to do if we aren’t regulating our own emotions, however. When we are emotionally out of whack or unstable, we are more easily overcome by the emotions of our children.
Identify your triggers
It helps to realize what sets you off or pushes your buttons. Identify what they are so that when you feel your temper rising, you can determine if it is because you are feeling triggered.
Is it when things get too loud?
Maybe it’s when your kids are disobedient or act out in public?
Is it when they are particularly willfully disobedient?
Or is it when they make costly mistakes?
Is it when kids are bickering?
Or maybe it’s the whining. I’d bet whining is at least towards the top of your list like it is mine.
All of these things will happen. They are kids. And the less regulated we are to our own emotions and triggers, the more likely we are to react to the emotions of our kids. So, figure out what really pushes your buttons so you can come up with a plan to stay calm when it does happen.
Get the tools you need
There a lot of programs out there that teach parents how to be calm parents. They often teach mindfulness techniques that you can use in the moments you feel anything but calm. They will also work when you feel your triggers being activated or as precautionary techniques to keep you in a calmer state altogether.
These techniques include things like:
- Pay attention to your breathing. Take deep breaths in and out. This process brings your heart rate into sync with your breath. The result is that your brain releases endorphins, which are chemicals that have a natural calming effect.
- Become more aware of stress in your own body. Are you tense? Do you have a headache? Is your body telling you that you are stressed about something. Choose to deal with it instead of let it be an underlying issue that takes you away from being a calm parent.
- When you feel your ability to be calm leaving, take a moment. This is the moment you use to choose to thoughtfully respond to your kids instead of react. You do this by stepping out of the room (taking the baby or very young child with you if you need to remove them from the situation that is causing the problem or it would be unsafe to leave them). If stepping out isn’t possible, you could have everyone be silent for a minute.
- Use a mantra. This can be anything that helps you regain some perspective or reminds you of the calm parent you want to be. They can be something with a deeper meaning, something straight to the point or something like a Bible verse.
- Be present. Instead of reacting because you are annoyed with being interrupted or embarrassed by your child acting up in public, choose to be present. Engage with whatever emotion they are expressing. Get down on your child’s level, look in their eyes and be present with them in that moment. This will help both of you calm down.
Know what to do do when you lose it
We all lose our cool. These 9 tips are not going to stop that from every happening again. They are just equipping us to do things a little better than we did yesterday. And each day we practice it, we’ll get better.
One big step is to know what to do when you do flip out on your unsuspecting kiddos.
First, we have to own it. All of it. And not blame them one bit. We are in charge of our own emotions and how we react to anything around us. So, when you do a less than stellar job at remaining calm, it’s all you baby. And you just have to take responsibility for it.
Then you need to apologize. Let your kids know that the words you used, your tone of voice or the volume of your voice was not acceptable. Even if your message was correct, your delivery was not. Tell them you are sorry. It will go such a long way and sets a very good example.
Finally, talk them through how you dealt with the situation. You can point out what pushed you over the edge, what you did as a response that was not appropriate and how you calmed down. This teaches your kids and equips them with tools they can use to do the same thing for themselves.
Alright, mama. You know have 9 practical tips you can begin using today in order to become the calm parent you are wanting to be. Have patience and grace with yourself. You are doing a great job. And so are your kiddos.