When your 2-year-old throws a temper tantrum at the playground, are you ready to scream along with him? Some days, your kid’s behavior can push you to your limit. But, it’s important to keep your cool. Although it may seem like yelling will result in the child behavior you’re looking for, it’s actually counterproductive. It’s neurobiologically impossible for a child to be more regulated than their parent, so if you want your child to be calm, the first step is staying calm yourself.
Here are six ways to stay calm in the midst of behavioral chaos:
Take Care of Yourself
When you’re hungry, tired or overworked, your ability to calm yourself down in the face of negative child behavior will plummet. Our society sometimes implies that asking for help or taking care of yourself is unacceptable, but don’t guilt yourself out. That means getting enough sleep, eating healthy meals and snacks throughout the day and giving yourself some “mommy time.” Whether you’re sick, hormonal or just plain overwhelmed, request to tag-team with your spouse or friend, and return the favor later on.
Decide to Change
Reacting calmly to your child’s shenanigans is a huge challenge, and it won’t happen automatically. Any major parenting shift has to be intentional and mindful in order to be successful. Create a mantra to keep yourself on track, like “I will not yell,” “I can stay calm” or “I love my child.”
Stop & Breathe
If you feel yourself losing your cool try “stop, drop and breathe” – breathe deeply from your belly to calm your body naturally. Do it even if you feel an intense need to react. After all, your brain is telling you that the situation is an emergency, but you can remind your body, through deep breathing, that it is not an emergency at all.
Get Some Space
If you start to feel frustrated with your child’s misbehavior, take a break to calm down. That might mean walking to the other side of the room or leaving the room entirely (if your child is over age 5). You can continue breathing or visualize a picture of your child at a happier time — like when she had ice cream dripping down her chin and offered you a lick. It’s much easier to parent that child than the one hitting her sister right now.
Set a Limit Respectfully
Instead of yelling, whisper or get very quiet, which can get the message across while de-escalating the situation. It’s important to first empathize with your child by stating the limit: “I know you’re feeling angry because you’re having fun playing with those animals and don’t want to leave. We do need to go to the doctor, though. Let’s choose an animal to take with you to the doctor’s office.”
Find the Right Time to Teach
Teaching your child a lesson is best done when the situation is diffused and they’re on good behavior. If you child is misbehaving or throwing a tantrum, wait until things are calm, and then remind your child about what happened: “Something happened earlier today that bothered me. What can we do differently next time?”
Sure, sometimes it seems like your kids just don’t listen unless you yell at them. But yelling creates a fear and threatens to harm your relationship. Do you want to role model yelling as the right reaction to frustration? Your answer can give you the confidence to stay calm in the midst of the most frustrating child behavior that your kid can throw at you. Make sure you share your tactics with your nanny or sitter to ensure there’s a consistency in approach.
Want some more ideas to help keep your cool? Check out these 7 Tips for Teaching Calmness to Kids.