By Amy Morin
Whether you feel like ripping your hair out when your child refuses to listen or don’t think you stand listening to a temper tantrum for another second, staying calm while you’re parenting can certainly be difficult at times. But trying to discipline your child when you’re really upset isn’t a good idea. You may lose your temper and say or do things that won’t be healthy — or helpful — to the situation. Here are some tips to help you stay calm even in the midst of bad behavior:
1. Manage Your Overall Stress
If you’re feeling stressed out about your job, a messy house, and family issues, you’ll likely have a lot less patience for your child’s misbehavior. One of the biggest keys to staying calm with your child is to manage the stress in the other areas of your life well.
If you’re not taking care of yourself, you’ll struggle to be a nurturing loving, parent during the times when your child likely needs you most – when he’s misbehaving. Work on getting enough sleep, eating healthy, exercising, and doing activities you enjoy. Although it can be hard to find the time, and the energy, to do so, it’s one of the best things you can do for your child.
2. Look at the Big Picture
When your child has broken the rules, it’s easy to get angry when you’re just focusing on what he did. Take a step back and look at the big picture. Rather than yell at your child for breaking the rules, recognize his need to try and gain some independence. Look at misbehavior as a teachable moment and remind yourself, you have this chance to help him learn from his mistakes.
3. Develop a Plan to Deal with Behavior Problems
Sometimes parents lose their tempers simply because they’re exasperated and don’t know what to do. If you’re dealing with specific behavior problems, develop a clear plan to help you address the behavior. Then when your child misbehaves, you’ll be armed with a way to handle it and you’ll be less likely to lose your temper.
4. Change Your Upsetting Thoughts
When your child tests the limits, it may be easy to think, “Why does he always have to break all the rules?” or “He’s such a brat.” Perhaps you think even worse thoughts. At any rate, thinking really angry and negative thoughts will only fuel your angry feelings.
Catch yourself when you notice that you’re thinking in a way that will cause you to feel even angrier. Remind yourself that it’s normal for children to break the rules sometimes. Repeating a mantra in your head, such as, “Teachable moment,” can help you keep focused on the goal.
5. Don’t Try to Control Your Child
Recognize that your ability to force your child to do anything is limited. You can’t make your child pick up his toys. You can’t make your teenager get out of bed. You can only offer choices and consequences.
If he’s not safe, take appropriate action. For example, if he’s hitting his sister, you may need to step in and make it stop. But, recognize that you can’t force kids to follow the rules. Use if…then statements to remind your child of the consequences of his behavior.
6. Take a Break When You Need It
There will likely be days where you have to take a break and step away before you lose your cool. There’s no shame in doing so. In fact, stepping away and putting yourself in time out is a great way to role model anger management skills.
As long as it is safe to do so, simply walk away. Take a five minute break in your bedroom, the bathroom, or any other quiet area. Take a few deep breaths and give yourself an opportunity to calm down before you return to disciplining your child.