Updated: Jun 22, 2021
It can be extremely challenging trying to maintain your composure while a child is berating you with their big feelings all day long. Between lack of sleep, trying to keep up on daily tasks, multiple calendars, as well as your own personal moods or ‘bad days’, trying to keep things calm cool and collected sometimes feel overwhelming.
Children are completely dependent on the adults in their lives. They look to them for basic needs like snacks on snacks on snacks, to deeper needs such as help managing conflict and navigating their own emotions. When these difficult situations arise every few minutes all.day.long, we as the adults can only be spread so thin and for so long.
It is only natural to become irritated and respond angrily. It is only normal to raise your voice, threaten no donuts for the rest of their life, and walk away from your crying child with no sympathy for them. Seriously, we all do it!
Give yourself the grace to know that you are only human (actually super human to manage these overly emotional and needy little ones) and can only take on so much at once without boiling over. It is also important to understand that our little humans look to us and rely on us to help guide them through their big scary feelings as well. They do not have all of the tools in their tool box to maneuver through life and need a safe person to help them with this huge task.
When children look to us as their safe lighthouse during a big storm, they need a stable and bright light to guide them into the harbor. This needs to occur over and over again until they are able to get there on their own one day. If we as their lighthouse are irritated, angry, burnt out, anxious, and touched out, it is challenging to provide the proper rout for them to safely be guided to the harbor. We end up missing ques and say the wrong things that only make their storm larger and more scary. They feel unsure and opportunities are missed to create the safe space that they need.
How to keep your calm
1. One of the biggest things can be to get your own personal therapy. So often when we become parents, we get triggered from situations that occurred when we were younger. This can be as obvious as repeating something your parents used to say to you as a kid (“toughen up”, “you’re embarrassing yourself”, or “no one likes a cry baby”), to more personal fears (“If my child continues to act shy and play by himself, he will never make friends” or “If he hits another kid again they will think I'm not addressing the severity of the problem and disciplining him well enough”). Personal therapy can be a way to deal with your past, your insecurities as a parent, and learn ways to embrace yourself as your best parenting self and gain the confidence to trust that you’re making the best choices for your family.
2. The next and in my opinion, hardest step to keeping your cool is to catch yourself getting upset before you react to your child. It sounds simple, however, being mindful to what feelings are rising in the moment before you open your mouth or roll your eyes is crucial. It takes lots and lots of *practice* to bite your tongue, look inward, and identify the feeling and thoughts that are trying to burst through. Especially during an epic tantrum from your 2.5 year old while the newborn is crying and dinner is cooking on the stove. When I say practice, I mean day in and day out for a solid year it took me to feel comfortable with this step. There are lots of times I missed the mark and the feelings exploded through. But with practice, you can increase your goal from catching your feelings 1 time a day to 3 times and so on. Set your intent and make it happen!
3. After you have mastered noticing and identifying those feelings, you must decide how to respond to your child. These can be pre-planned interventions such as having a consequence for when s/he rips a toy out of little siblings’ hand, or in the heat of the moment responses. Notice the word ‘respond’ being use instead of react. Moving forward, you will be RESPONDING to your children’s behaviors and needs instead of reacting. By taking a moment to internally decide how you will be addressing the child, you can better target what the child is needing in the moment as well as maintain your composure and cool.
4. When all else is failing and it feels like an uphill battle, stick to the basics. What is the environment like? Is the TV on and loud, are their toys scatter everywhere making it overstimulating for your kids and increasing your own anxiety? Maybe you’re rushing to get somewhere and have to go to the bathroom and haven’t eaten all morning so you’re not able to be your best parent in the moment. Maybe your kids are tired and just flat out need a nap in order to manage their emotions. By doing a quick check of these basics, you can adjust accordingly to help appease the situation. Tv off, check. Everyone fed, check. Calm activity like coloring or a puzzle out, check. Heck, maybe they all need to be kicked outside and burn some energy off on a bike ride, check!
Remember to breath and know that you set your intent which is a HUGE milestone! If all else fails, tomorrow is a new day.