Remaining calm when our children misbehave helps them to calm down too. But when we respond to emotional outbursts with our own emotional outbursts, the situation can escalate and become problematic. Still, at the end of a long day with kids misbehaving, it can be so hard to remain calm.
My husband is a busy medical student, so I take care of the bedtime routine for my 2 little kids, make dinner, and clean up all by myself. Needless to say, the evenings are pretty exhausting for me. So when my 3-year-old makes things even harder by misbehaving, it takes everything in me to remain calm.
When this happens, I try to pause, take a deep breath, and uphold consequences I’ve already determined for misbehavior. If my son knows that I will consistently respond in the same way to his misbehavior, and I do so in a calm way, he does a lot better.
I used to really struggle with this. I would try to be constantly “positive,” but in reality, I was just being permissive. I would let my son walk all over me. And then, when I would get to the end of my rope, I’d lose control and use harsh parenting practices. Basically, I alternated between being permissive and authoritarian, which only increased my son’s misbehavior.
I’ve learned from my experience that although it may feel inconvenient to consistently uphold expectations, it is so much more convenient in the long run. It helps kids to behave better, which helps parents to have less misbehavior to correct, and therefore more energy, to respond calmly.
Five steps to a calmer you
- Consistently uphold expectations by enforcing consequences. This will minimize the behavior that you have to correct.
- Make things easier on yourself by thinking ahead. I can make evenings go smoother by making dinner while my baby naps. This small bit of preparation makes a huge difference.
- Be flexible. If everyone is crying and needs me after dinner, I put off cleaning up dinner until the next morning. I’ve realized that the evenings are when my kids need me the most, but in the mornings they don’t as much.
- Pause and take a breath when you feel that you’ll lose control.
- Remember that you can only control yourself. This will help you to stop seeing your child’s misbehavior as something you have to stop—this is in itself is a very overwhelming thing to believe.
Once you recognize that you can make your own choices, and your child can make theirs, you both will feel more in control. You can focus on the best choice that is available to you, which is often to uphold a consequence for the misbehavior, rather than trying to force them to comply through harsh means.
In sum, you can remain calm by setting yourself up for success and preventing misbehavior. And then when things do go wrong pause, take a breath, and remember what you can control. You’ve got this!