Many of us, before we became parents, were usually a calm crowd of humans. But once children come along, that can all change.
We love our little darlings to pieces of course, but .... they can all completely drive us up the wall and push our buttons like crazy. We quite often find our "calm place" goes down the tube and instead a whole lot of anger can bubble up and explode out of us whether we want it to or not.
So how do you stay calm, when they're determined to drive you crazy? Well, read on...
I think many of us imagine that everyone's children, but ours, are behaving perfectly. We're the only ones stuck with the whining, the arguing, the melt downs. But this is so not true. Yet we so often put this expectation on children that they are going to behave well. Oh wouldn't that be wonderful - "I expect you to behave perfectly, and now you are!". But really, this just sets us up for more frustration. So check your expectations. Honestly, expect them to act like crap all day, and then when they don't you'll be pleasantly surprised.
I do this when I'm going for a shower in the morning - I KNOW they will fight when I leave them alone. So instead of telling myself they'll behave and then getting annoyed when I hear the fights starting, instead I completely expect them to fight, and then when they do I'm calm because I prepared for it. If they don't (very rare), I shower them with praise for behaving so well.
Keep your expectations low and then you wont be so disappointed.
Zip your lips and walk away
Really, do this. It works. So many times our kids act up just because we're in front of them or they know they will get us to respond. If you zip your lips (yes even biting them closed if that helps) and walk away from a situation or argument, most of the time it gets sorted out by your children themselves (note, I don't suggest doing this if they're physically fighting or things are getting out of hand). If it's an argument between you and your child, say something like "we're both not calm right now, so I'm walking away so we can talk about this later" can work a treat. Oh and "talk about later" means do not lecture. Actually talk about it, together working towards a resolution you're both happy with.
Swearing - quietly
Don't you wish you could be one of those parents that could just take a big deep breath and then you can deal with the fact that Bertie has ripped out Gertrude's hair in a calm manner? We always imagine we are going to act calmer, but when push comes to shove (literally) and you're in a crazy moment with your kids it can be really hard. So, here's what I do, and, I tell you, this works. I swear, very quietly, about my kids or the situation. But I absolutely make sure they can't hear me. Or I even do it in my head, ie "for #@$*&! sake! You're driving me nuts!". Why? This helps me get my frustration and anger out. I can't access my calm place until I have vented some of my rage. So once I've done my very Quiet Swearing, I can then do aforementioned deep belly breaths and deal with the situation in a calmer manner. Try it. But remember the quietness. If you're not okay with swearing, maybe go punch a pillow instead.
Yes, actually smiling, even when they're driving you bonkers, can help you find your "calm place".
Smiling signals to our brain that we are safe, that this is a "good" situation and that we are in control. It releases a bunch of "feel good" hormones, lowers your heart rate and blood pressure - all things that we need to happen when we're in angry mode to help locate our calmness.
If you're really struggling to make a toothy grin, bite down on a pencil horizontally, and that will give the same effect.
Pretend they're someone else's children
This can be really helpful - pretending your children aren't yours. Most likely you're not going to speak to someone else's kids the same way when you are angry. Chances are you would be more patient and understanding. So, in your head, pretend that they are someone else's kids you have to coach through this situation. Another idea is to pretend there are cameras filming your every parenting move for an upcoming television show and you need to be showing your calm happy self as much as possible!
Re-set, replay, action
If you have children that don't always speak to you in the nicest way now and again, this is a great little tool to have up your sleeve.
Instead of snapping at them about their tone, I simply say to mine, in a calm voice, "I don't like the way you're talking to me, so re-set yourself, say it again nicer and we'll move on from there". And guess what, they do it. If they don't, they get to go off to their room for a while to "re-set" themselves and they get to try again.
Rest and recover time for you
You, yes I'm looking at you - make sure you get some time to chill out.. Whether its putting them in a school holiday programme for the day or dumping them at the grandparents, make sure you get some time to just have some time to yourself and fill up your own tank.
If dropping them off isn't going to work, even make time to relax whilst they're involved in screen time or some other activity. Do this every single day. And I mean relax, not just run around getting a tonne of things done. Relax first, then do.
Remember their brain is still not complete
Keeping in mind that their brains are still developing is really important. They're not adults, they're not going to act like adults. They're still figuring this world out, trying to discover how to act and react when things are going all haywire, so making sure you remember this is going to help change your reaction. Sometimes they just really need a hug or some one on one time with you to recenter and active their safe and calm mode. Have a baby picture of them on hand to look at, so when they are acting up, you can see that inside they really are still this little child, still trying to figure it all out.
See past the behaviour and look for the connection they need. It sometimes feels impossible to do that, but if you can start to seek out their feelings, your going to understand their behaviour more.
Remember, you've got this
You DO know how to act calm and deal with situations. You've done it a tonne of times in your life. It just feels harder with your own children. But practice these techniques and when you feel that "angry monster" starting to brew up inside of you, tell yourself that you're in control. You know how to remain calm, and you will do it.
And if all else fails...
Drink wine. Okay, maybe not whilst you're taking care of the kids on your own, but pour yourself a large one once they're all in bed.