It’s been hot here in London. I do not especially well in the heat – and neither does Frida. Being too hot is definitely one of my triggers for feeling grumpy and impatient, so this topic has been at the front of my mind for the last few weeks. I hope you find it useful, whatever weather you’re having at the moment!
Some ways to help you keep calm during tricky times:
- Breathe. Take some deep breaths, counting slowly to ten, before reacting. It’s amazing how effective just pausing for a moment is when it comes to helping us respond empathetically and peacefully.
- Remember you are the adult. If you’re finding a moment hard, how do you think your child feels? I don’t put this in to make you feel guilty, or to say that as parents we’re not allowed to feel crappy (we are). But I have found that at times that I feel my frustration building, giving myself a firm, loving talking-to can often help me to remember that I’m the parent, and it’s my job to take care of my child and hold the space for her feelings. She’s three; burdening her with my stresses and frustrations and taking these out on her is not cool.
- Text an understanding friend or partner. If it’s not cool to take out your frustration on your child, does this mean you need to bottle it up? No! I find it really helpful to text a friend or my husband if I’m finding a moment challenging. The very act of offloading can help us feel better and calmer (and reminds us we are the adult), and if we are lucky, the adult connection and empathy we receive back further supports us to stay calm and gain some perspective on the situation. If you don’t have support to turn to then you are always welcome to post in my Facebook group, a gentle, supportive space for like-minded parents.
- Make sure everyone is fed, hydrated, well-rested, and a comfortable temperature. It’s amazing how tensions and frustrations can be eliminated with a well-timed ice pop, slice of buttered toast, or glass of warm milk.
Despite the above, and with the best intentions in the world, sometimes as parents we loose our cool. Here’s what you can do immediately if that happens:
- Take a moment. This isn’t always necessary, but if you feel out of control, take a time-out for a moment (always making sure your child is safe of course). Scream into a pillow. Drink a cup of tea. Eat some chocolate. Whatever you need to do to be able to return to your child calm.
- Apologise. Say sorry to your child. This is so important and so powerful. Being able to admit when we are wrong and give our child the respect of a heartfelt apology is one of the most important things we can do and model as parents. We will all mess up from time to time (don’t believe anyone who says otherwise!), what matters is how we deal with it when we do. It doesn’t need to be complicated: “I’m so sorry for snatching that pen away and being cross – it wasn’t right and I wish I hadn’t done it. I love you.”
- Re-connect. Once you have apologised, you can find ways to reconnect. This might be through physical means, such as a cuddle or some rough-housing, or by doing something together such as reading a book, playing a game, or going for a walk. During this time, it’s worth trying to keep other distractions to a minimum if possible (I know it isn’t always). Focus on your child, give them your attention, show them with your actions that you love them and care about them and that they are safe.
- Forgive yourself. You are only human. It’s easier said than done, but try and see this bad moment as just that, a moment. It’s easy to let it cast a shadow on the say, or to start thinking “I am a terrible parent, I’m such a failure, why can’t I keep calm” but try and recognise those thoughts and then nip them in the bud. You are trying your best, tomorrow is a new day, and each time you lose your cool you can learn from it.
Once the situation has passed you can think longer-term about how to address the way you respond to triggering situations:
- Take some time to reflect. What could have triggered your child’s challenging behaviour – were any needs not being met? Were they hungry? Tired? Too hot? Over stimulated? Out of their usual rhythm? Lacking in connection? Then what about you – what could have triggered your reaction to that behaviour and caused you to lose your cool – again, did you have any needs that weren’t being met? What was it that pushed you over the edge? Were you responded to in a similar way as a child?
- Make time for self-care. Losing patience with our children is often a sign that our own needs are not being met; it is so much harder to respond with empathy and patience when we are running on empty ourselves. Remember that your needs are just as important and valid as your child’s, and make it a priority to look after yourself physically and emotionally. By taking care of yourself, will notice that you have more energy to parent how you want, and feel less resentment. It’s not just bankers and rock stars who burn out…
- Take time to reflect on where you might need support as a parent. Being a parent is a hard job. We are thrown in at the deep end; there is no training, no manager to turn to for advice, and for some, not much of a team either. But we’re not meant to do this alone. Investing in yourself as a parent, be it through reading books or blogs, taking courses, or working with a parenting coach or mentor can make a huge difference to your resilience when it comes to keeping your cool – and to your relationship with your child more generally. If footballers need coaches to help them learn how to kick a ball (though I’m told there’s more to it than that, I’m not sure I believe it – football fans feel free to correct me) then how much more could parents use guidance and support to do the hugely important work of raising their children.
- Start the day with gratitude. Take a few minutes each day to write down the things you are grateful for. It sounds so simple but research supports that this simple practice can be transformative in how we feel – including helping us feel more positive and calm. I also like to write a few intentions for the day about how I want to be as a parent, as a wife, and in my work.
If you are struggling with peaceful discipline and would like to get some non-judgemental, personalised support I offer one to one mentoring calls. During our call I offer insight into developmentally-appropriate behaviour and expectations, and provide focused suggestions to help you calmly navigate any issues you are experiencing. I will leave you with practical ideas and actions to implement so that you can find more ease in your parenting, in a way that suits you and your values. If you’re unsure whether this would be right for you, feel free to get in touch for a no-pressure chat.
This article is part of a mini-series called “The Peaceful Home” where I will be sharing tips help you to increase the ease and joy with which you parent, and reduce the conflict in your home. We’ve already had posts about stepping away from using “no” so much, creating “Yes Spaces” in your home, reducing stress around food and mealtimes , coping with tantrums, why we don’t use punishments and the power of play. Next time I’ll be talking about a common “issue” in gentle parenting, so check back soon.
If you want support from other like-minded parents, why not join A Beautiful Childhood? It’s a free Facebook community – a space for us to discuss raising our children and forging for them a childhood that is gentle, slow, and beautiful. Come and join us!