It was around 4:30 in the afternoon after a long summer day. My one year old decided to skip his only chance to nap, so we went grocery shopping instead. After unloading all the groceries and putting them away, I start to make dinner when I hear it….
THUD. Silence. And then, WHAAAAAAHHHH!
Of course, today was the day I had planned to impress my husband by making a pot of traditional gumbo. His absolute favorite.
You see, this new parenting thing has gotten us kind of out of whack and I wanted to do something special for him. If any of you are from Louisiana, you know the roux must be continuously stirred.
I put down the mixing spoon and turn around a little too quickly to get to my screaming son, who had been playing nicely in the next room. As turned, I knocked the brand new, open bag of flour all over the floor.
Sometimes life doesn’t always make calm parenting easy or natural.
Calm Parenting is NOT necessarily natural
I read the other day that one of the most important things we can do as parents is to teach our children to be emotionally intelligent.
Showering your kids with love, giving up your career to become a stay at home mom, or even putting them in the best private school is not enough to prepare them for the pressures of adulthood.
We have to teach our kids how to understand their own emotions so they can get past clouded situational thinking and be able to make clear choices. This skill will serve them as they navigate life.
As I walked through a cloud of flour that day, I would not describe myself as calm or emotionally astute.
Having a calm parenting style is the most effective way to lead your children by example. You can’t control everything that happens, but you can control how you react and respond. Your children are watching you.
Honestly, I haven’t fully learned this skill and I don’t necessarily feel guilty about that either.
Moms in this day are faced with all the old challenges that parenting brings- from having to be in a constant state of guard, to sleepless nights, and days without any personal time.
In addition to all of this, society hasn’t made it easy to survive and thrive on one income. Nowadays, seventy percent of mothers are in the workforce. (source)
All of our obligations can become an excuse to justify why we have just blown up when our kids are just being kids.
Strategies for calm parenting so you can raise a generation of emotionally stable winners-at-life.
I want to clarify one thing before we move on. Being a calm parent is not the same thing as being a perfect parent. There is no such thing and your kids don’t need you to be perfect. They need you to be calm.
Being calm means you allow your emotions to be present, but you don’t allow them to control you. To do this, you have to identify the emotion you are feeling. You have to recognize how that emotion could influence your behavior and then you have to quickly choose the behavior you want to emulate in front of your child.
This process will happen over and over as you go through your day. Sometimes you will win, but sometimes the emotion will win. Remember we don’t have to be perfect, we strive to be calm.
Here are some ways you can practice calm parenting in your day to day life.
1. Practice naming emotions out loud (or at the very least, in your head)
When you are in a frustrating situation, saying the emotion out loud is the first step in training your brain to recognize that you are feeling a strong emotion that influences you. This gives you the opportunity to make a choice about it.
I like to think about this concept of naming emotions in terms of a text message versus a phone call. When a friend asks you if you want to get together via a text, you have a moment to think about your day.
You may have to go to the grocery or do some laundry. You may be just plain tired. A text message allows you some time to consider the facts before you make plans instead of making plans out of excitement as you may do on a phone call.
Naming the emotions in a heated situation helps you identify what you are truly feeling. Maybe it is frustration or anger. It could be disappointment. No matter what is driving you, naming emotions helps connect these emotions to the control they possess over your behavior.
It is the first step towards conquering them, which will be beneficial for you as a parent and as a human.
Naming emotions not only helps you become a calm parent, but it helps teach your kids about different emotions.
Children come out as a blank slate. Studies have shown that babies as young as five months can discriminate between different emotions. They prefer looking at smiling faces verses grimacing ones. (source) This understanding is developed by interacting with their parents.
A three-year-old may be feeling jealousy when he perceives his sister gets more of mom’s attention because she is held and nursed throughout the day. He may throw a tantrum requiring you to get up in the middle of a feeding. Your baby then starts to scream because she is hungry. You are now stressed, frustrated, and your head hurts from all the noise.
The old saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a childI.”
An example like the one above is exactly why. In this day, we move away from our extended family for work and other reasons. Not all of us have the privilege of extra helping hands.
Instead of escaping difficult situations where emotions run high, we have to face them. Often alone.
If you can help your child understand his emotions, he will get closer and closer to learning how to control them. At the very least, a mom who can maintain a level voice and talk her children through a tense situation will get everyone back to baseline faster than a mom who loses control.
2. Before you react, take a deep breath
There is nothing more effective when practicing calm parenting than to stop and take a long deep breath.
A deep breath should take about five full seconds. That’s five full seconds that you can think about how you are feeling. It’s five seconds to plan your next move.
A deep, calming breath helps your body relax and expel bad energy. So before you go into the situation with guns ablaze, take a deep breath.
3. Stop filling your day with so many darn things
I am guilty as charged on this one. But seriously, it is ok to not be productive every single day. It’s ok to stay in your pajamas every now and then too.
I don’t know who wrote the rulebook for moms that say their kids need to go to preschool, music lessons, t-ball, and art class every single week.
We are running around like chickens with our heads cut off in this overstimulated society. Everyone is connected now by social media, snapping photos of their kids doing the latest and greatest. We are playing a comparison game and completely overscheduling our lives.
One of the best ways to become peaceful and calm as a parent is to give yourself permission to disconnect and just be.
Our kids deserve a mom who is rested and doesn’t feel like she needs to keep up with what everyone else is doing. In this online world, you will always know that someone is doing something at all times. I truly feel our kids need us to just slow down.
4. Do something for yourself every single day
Our daily life goes through a dramatic shift when we become parents. Sometimes when I really sit down and think about it, parenting overwhelms me. There is so much responsibility and personal time barely fits in the margins. Life can seem less about what I want and more about what is BEST for my family.
I am a nurse and I take care of very sick people at work. Sometimes I will go eight hours without eating, drinking, or using the bathroom. It is usually around three pm when my body will hit a wall. This is usually right before a new admission or some other kind of disaster that needs attending and I find that I just can’t function. I am running on fumes.
Like a nursing shift, if you don’t take small moments for yourself every day, you will find yourself running on fumes right before disaster strikes.
This can be something as simple as a morning coffee or an afternoon chamomile tea. Or even a few minutes alone to recenter yourself.
It’s ok to make all our kids go to their rooms for an hour every day. The quiet time is good for everyone.
My favorite way to sneak a few minutes for myself is to throw my son in the stroller. He loves looking around and I get to pop my headphones in my ears and zone out.
5. Lower your expectations of your children
Children need rules. They need to be taught how to follow them and listen to adults.
But we tainted adults can’t forget how beautifully ignorant our children are. They know nothing about the 40 hour work week, taxes, or how to overcome a really hard breakup.
They simply want to eat, sleep, and play.
Let’s allow them to be kids for just a little while longer.
If your child chews with their mouth open for the third time today, perhaps they just earnestly desire your attention. They are now sharing it with smartphones after all.
In the grand scheme of life having a flawless room or perfect manners isn’t what is going to ensure our children are productive, perfect citizens.
I am not suggesting we become permissive parents and let our kids get away with murder. But we need to stop trying to fit our kids into the mold society has created for them.
What society needs is adventurous dreamers who aren’t afraid to step over the line. People who know how to work hard and love harder. We aren’t going to raise these by stifiling their childhood with heaps of rules and regulations.
Our kids need to feel love from us more often than they need to feel instructed or scolded for misbehaving. If you find yourself constantly yelling, perhaps it’s time to really sit down and think if your expectations are unrealistic for your children.
There is not one specific thing you will do that will ensure you are a calm parent. Calm parenting is a day to day grind and a constant battle to win with yourself.
This battle is worth the fight. If you can conquer your emotions you will be on your way to not only being a calm parent, but also a happy one.
I hope these strategies serve you in your daily life.