Originally posted here.
Did you lose your cool with the kids today? Did you feel terribly guilty later, and then berate yourself over and over for it? Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. We’re not perfect parents, because those don’t exist. We’re human beings and we let our emotions get the better of us sometimes.
I have written about calming your toddler, but I realized that getting your child to cooperate is just half the story. As a parent, you have to model the behavior you expect from your children. You don’t have to do it perfectly, but often, your tone sets their tone. You may have read this quote:
The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice. -Peggy O’Mara
So it follows that, if we want our kids to be calmer and less prone to tantrums, we must learn to regulate our own emotions when dealing with them, and strive to be calmer parents.
These are five things you can do to be a calmer parent:
1. Recognize the anger
When your child does something ‘wrong’, it is upsetting from your point of view. Sometimes, you are fully aware that they are just acting their age, but the anger gets the better of you. That’s where you need to recognize it and stop right there. It’s okay to be upset about your child’s behavior, but you probably know from experience that anger doesn’t help things much. It only makes everything you say or do come out uglier.
2. Listen, before you speak
We naturally assume things before we allow our children to express their point of view. Sometimes, even the silliest and most annoying behaviors have innocent causes. Your toddler was really curious about the potted plant, or your older kid just wanted to experiment with how a scissor works. The end result may be a disaster to you, but their intentions usually aren’t to drive you mad. I have learnt from experience, even in the worst looking scenarios, to simply ask your child why they did what they did. Of course, you must then tell them why they shouldn’t do it again – but listening to it from their perspective may help subside your anger, and also prevent your child from being even more rebellious.
3. Defer your reaction
You can’t go from being angry to not being angry in just a few minutes. Take a deep breath and move away from where you are if you have to. Just don’t react when you still have anger inside you. Give yourself some time to assess the behavior, and decide how you want to respond. If you make a habit of this, you will gradually become calmer and will project a gentler disposition to your child. But do remember to lay down the rules. Set the limits that can’t be crossed and how you want your children to deal with the consequences.
4. Talk through your feelings
It’s not just for children to communicate their feelings. Parents should be open about how they feel about their child’s upsetting behavior. This must be handled in an age-appropriate way, of course. But talking about how you felt, even if you got angry, opens the doors to communication with your children. At times, I have even apologized to my toddler when I felt that my anger was way out of line for the cause. I did make it clear when something wasn’t acceptable, but I admitted my mistake too. You don’t have to do that, but it’s not a bad idea to express why something annoyed you in the first place.
5. Take time out for yourself
When you don’t have a clear head on your shoulders, it’s easy to snap at insignificant things. Some days are harder than others, and that’s exactly when you should take a small break from the routine and just calm down and relax. Your schedule may only allow you 20 or 30 minutes of alone time, but use it to think about how you can make your day better and de-stress. You may even want to change the routine a bit to make yourself feel better. Whatever you do, don’t lose focus on your well-being too!