This week’s #TuesdayTip post: ways to keep calm when you really just want to punt something across the room.
We all have our bad days – and our kids are no exception to that. Whether they decide to disobey, whine incessantly, or engage in constant sibling battles, children express anger and frustration with their bad days in ways that can take a toll on us parents. Some days I have more patience than others, and honestly, a lot of it depends on how much sleep I’ve had and/or the amount of stress I’m under. As I explained in a previous post, How I Dealt With Mommy Burnout, meditation’s become my savior. The silence and “emptying” of my thoughts provides me with so much peace and relaxation that it re-charges me and sets the tone for the rest of my day. These few minutes allow me to remain patient and calm no matter what my kids are doing, while giving me clarity to respond rationally. And another benefit I’ve noticed – it calms my kids too. A frequent analogy I read on psychologists’ articles is “you are the captain of your ship.” And when the captain remains calm, so do the passengers.
If meditation isn’t your cup of tea, then here are other practical tips for prevention and in-the-moment solutions:
- Think about what’s helped in the past. If you got into a heated argument with a spouse, stranger, or friend, what helped you remain calm in that moment? Perhaps you can apply that technique as a parent. Or maybe you were able to remain calm a few months ago when your child was freaking out. Stick with what works.
- Identify your triggers and make a plan. Watching and hearing my sons fight all day long is one of my triggers. I decided when this happens, I will: repeat the mantra, “it’s not the end of the world”, talk in a calm voice, ask why each is upset, empathize, and provide them with the appropriate way to react/behave.
- Plan ahead. In my house, I know my youngest takes his time to eat and get dressed before school. We are now the “chronically late family”. But while that’s acceptable at our preschool, when my eldest son starts Kindergarten next year, it’s going to be a problem. For that reason, I plan an extra 10-15 minutes into our routines. This type of preparation prevents my blood from boiling.
- Have one-on-one time everyday. Receiving a little of your undivided attention will minimize your child acting out. They crave our attention – even if it’s negative. So if your little one is acting out and you’re responding with anger, you could be reinforcing the behavior. So try to get some face time and read a book together, build Legos, play Go Fish, etc.
- Be at peace with yourself. When were happy, fulfilled, and at peace, it’s much easier to respond to our kids with love. On the other hand, if we’re angry, unhappy, and stressed out, we may take it out on our kids . If you find yourself continuously yelling and impatient, take some time to ask yourself some questions. It may be a sign that you are experiencing some inner turmoil that requires some attention. Get to the root of your anger and find ways to resolve it.
In The Moment
- Remember they are kids. In the heat of the moment, I try to remember myself at that age, or think of a cute image of my son that reminds me he is just a kid. It warms my heart, calms me, and also reminds me that I need to act like the adult and model calm behavior.
- Remember the mantra- “It’s not the end of the world.” When I continuously remind myself that the misbehavior in front of me isn’t the end of the world, I feel more capable and in control. It’s almost as if I separate myself emotionally from the situation. My child is yelling and freaking out because his brother took his car? It’s not the end of the world. My son wants to whine for 20 minutes because he wants a popsicle before dinner? It’s not the end of the world. He can whine, and I can ignore him. My 3 year old takes 10 minutes to put on a pair of shoes? It’s not the end of the world. It can seem like a big deal at the time, but the world will not end.
- Don’t take it personally. Sometimes it’s hard for parents to think their child isn’t out to get them or trying to make them angry. While teens may intentionally dig at their parents from time to time, this isn’t likely behavior for toddlers and preschool-aged kids. Remember they love you more than anything and have a lot of emotions they don’t quite understand yet.
- Be empathetic. Empathy is not the same as sympathy. Empathizing means putting yourself in another person’s shoes and understanding his/her perspective. Try to put yourself in your child’s position. It can give you a different perspective and understanding for why he or she is misbehaving or acting a certain way. Consequently, you’ll find yourself more willing to respond in a calm, positive manner. The added perk? You’re modeling a very important and valuable skill.
- Use humor. When one of my sons is fired up, or if my kids are brawling, I use humor, appropriately. It diffuses the situation, calms them down, and can be very effective. And when the kids are calm, they are more likely to listen. However, do NOT direct the humor at the child. Here are tips from Empowering Parents to use it effectively.
- Sometimes ignoring is best. Mild misbehavior is OK to ignore. For example, my son’s whining drives me BONKERS and can trigger me to be impatient. Once I started ignoring the whining he would stop, and I would address the need. However, ignoring the need can escalate the whining, as pointed out to me by clinical psychologist, Dr. Laura Markham.