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We hear it every time we fly – “Put your own oxygen mask on first.”
While this is great advice if your plane runs into trouble, it’s also a great guideline to follow if you want to practice calm parenting with your kids. Because when we get hyperaroused, our kids tend to get hyperaroused, and that is where the challenges begin.
We need to find things we can do daily to reduce stress in our lives. Our definition of stress is anything that expends energy. Self-care is about creating routines that allow us to spend less energy during the day, so our tank is full to deal with challenging circumstances as they arise.
We have four steps you can take to spend less energy and practice calm parenting.
Make the Abstract Concrete
Abstract concepts require more energy to process because we have to think about them longer. By making abstract concepts like time, space, and expectations concrete, we can reduce the amount of energy we spend. This works for both our kids and ourselves.
Making abstract concepts concrete indeed requires more energy on the front end. However, if you can expend that energy once, it saves energy in the long run. You can use a timer for this purpose. We also have an episode on visuals – a strategy our clients love.
Learn to Breathe
Deep breathing helps us switch on the cognitive, thinking part of our brain. Thinking isn’t necessary for survival – it won’t be all that helpful if a bear attacks, even if that bear is a two-year-old in the thick of an epic meltdown. However, the ability to think prevents us from acting in a reactive, non-ideal way that occurs when we act solely on instinct.
When we’re hyperaroused, such as when we are experiencing that epic meltdown, our brain shuts down. The good news is we can flip it back on – with big, deep belly breaths. Breathe in for a count of six and out for a count of eight. It really works!
Don’t stand like a deer in the headlights next time your child misbehaves. Grab the Scripts for Managing Crazy-Making Behaviour and know exactly what to say next time your toddler or preschooler isn’t listening.
Give Yourself Permission to Not be Calm
When we see someone practice calm parenting in public, we often wonder how they can maintain that control. In addition to taking those deep breaths, I keep my cool by giving myself permission to not be calm all the time. After one of these trying episodes, I get my kids settled, and then I go kick the crap out of my punching bag. I don’t melt down on my kids – I save it for the bag.
People become chronically stressed because they don’t have a sustainable way to release frustration. If you aren’t losing your cool, good for you – but make an appointment with yourself to do so soon.
Some people run it off, others dance it off or stretch it out with yoga. Find something that works for you and then give yourself full permission to do it.
Understand How Your Child’s Brain Works
The last step is to understand how your child’s brain works. When we spend time trying to figure something out, we’re also spending energy. When we understand why something is happening, it takes the heat off.
The most obvious answer is generally the correct one. The catch is that something can only be obvious if you know it. That’s why it’s so important to spend some time understanding child development – or finding a professional who does. If your child is doing something that raises your blood pressure, that’s a definite spot where you need to dig around and find the reason behind the behaviour.
People who practice calm parenting aren’t physiologically blessed – they know the secret to success is putting on their own oxygen mask first. Give these steps a try and see if that next challenging situation becomes a little easier to manage. Make sure you grab the scripts for managing crazy-making behaviour below for more tips on how to keep your cool in challenging behaviour situations.