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July 18, 2024

Where Every Family Matters

The Winning Art of Calm Parenting

When kids push you to the brink is when your inner adult needs to kick in. Here's how to remain in control for your family before you become unglued.

You can feel it rising. It is a bleak, silent gnawing inside your body that’s growing quickly, changing shape and color. And no, it’s not a shadow monster. It’s you.

Or you just snap. And the family scatters.

To get angry — annoyed, displeased, hostile — is 100 percent human. We laugh. We cry. We grow tired. We get punch drunk. We are fully loaded emotional beings who experience life as it comes at us in whatever form it takes and yes, it can be an emotional roller coaster. Life with kids is most definitely loaded with ups and downs and the world of unknowns.

But that doesn’t mean we have to be victims of our emotions. And when it comes to anger at our children — they disobey us, they talk back to us, they break precious items, they draw on walls, they sneak around — we have an obligation to avoid allowing our emotions from getting the best of us. Because losing it on your children is almost always a fail — especially if it leads to spanking your child.

calm parenting is best

Years of research shows that spanking is detrimental to children. They WILL remember the moments when it happens. Research also shows that yelling is detrimental to children, too. They WILL remember the way that you are. Research does not show that being calm, steady and thoughtful harms children or relationships in any way. That’s why it’s important — if you’re fairly quick to escalate in stressful situations — to take the time for a little self improvement.

But parenting is tough. Men and women go from being single people to figuring out how to cohabitate to having full-on charge of another human being who doesn’t understand anything and it’s up to you — mothers and fathers — to lead the way. That said, some parents are great at staying calm in the face of their children’s mischief. Some not so much. Some children can be perfect, easy-to-manage angels. Others can be non-stop impossible. Child-rearing takes — among other attributes — stamina, bravery, instincts and wisdom. These qualities, if they are not your’s innately, can be developed. The word is that our parenting is best when we remain calm, thoughtful leaders for our children.

This is why so much is written about the negative consequences of spanking and yelling. It may momentarily “feel” like the best solution, but soon enough the guilt and shame will wind its way in and nothing good will have come from your LACK OF SELF CONTROL. Studies show that yelling makes children aggressive both physically and verbally. Whenever you encounter an aggressive, uncontrollable kid, there’s probably a parent like that behind him. Raising a hand or a voice to children scares them and makes them feel insecure. Both have been shown to cause anxiety, low self-esteem and increased aggression in children.

Meanwhile, a parent who is calm is reassuring. This makes children feel loved and accepted in spite of bad behavior. Life is a journey — filled with every possible experience. You cannot be “reaching the end of your rope” over every little thing. Or every big thing. If you are, you need help in the form of therapy.

But today — NOW — you can begin corraling your emotions for the benefit of your family. Use these helpful strategies found in the book Calm Parents, Happy Kids: The Secrets of Stress-Free Parenting by Lynn Markham (Ebury Digital; 2014):

TIPS for Calm Parenting

1. Consider the negative aftermath of expressing anger.
You know that although it may momentarily “feel” better to let your emotions explode in the short-term, giving in to rage causes challenges in the aftermath. Your children look at you guardedly. They may steer clear of you when they see you coming. They definitely will if you continue to yell across the years. Before lashing out at your kids or taking what you consider to be appropriate actions, consider how things will be when the smoke clears.

2. Give yourself a timeout.
Adults need short breaks in order to calm down. Timeouts are NOT just for kids. Meanwhile, in the moment where your anger rises, the ability to walk away in order to calm down is very, very difficult. Acknowledge this. When you feel your blood starting to simmer, take deep breaths, pause and give yourself a few moments to allow a level of reason to return to your mind. 

3. When appropriate, let your family members be wrong.
It’s not your job to prove that someone is wrong; just allow them to be mistaken. If you have a strong desire to show your child that he’s incorrect, that’s your ego flaunting itself. Yes, it is your job to educate your children about right and wrong, but you cannot control the choices they make without you around. Know that your children will learn from the consequences that occur when they make errors in judgment.

4. Decide which is more important: being happy or being right.
Many disagreements that escalate into yelling are the result of the desire to be right. If you choose not to win every heated discussion with your kids, your life will be more enjoyable, and you will become a more relaxed parent overall. 

5. Ask yourself why you’re upset.
Did someone physically harm you? Did they let you down? Violate one of your values? Figure out why you’re frustrated, and you’ll be able to take the necessary steps to discover a solution peacefully.

6. Focus on the big picture.
Imagine that you know the world is coming to an end this Friday. Will you be upset if your child doesn’t make his bed? Pick your battles wisely, but even if you choose to go to battle, do it carefully and calmly.

7. Look for solutions, rather than trying to make yourself feel better.
Acting out in anger is about making yourself feel better. Rather than yelling at your kids, for instance, work on finding a peaceful solution.

8. Be sure you understand the situation.
Don’t let anger dig in before you know the facts of any given situation. Often parents need a lot more information and will fill their mind with hypotheticals. Avoid this. Don’t fly off the handle, wait. Think everything through and get all of the information you need.

9. Learn and practice relaxation techniques.
The more relaxed you are on a regular basis, the less likely you are to become angry at your family. Relaxation techniques can be extremely helpful. Learn how to self-soothe in a healthy way such as taking a walk or calling a friend.

10. See your annoyance as a practice opportunity to find peace.
Each time you feel upset, realize this is an opportunity to try your anger-management skills. Commit yourself to managing this bout of frustration better than you did the last time.

Avoid letting anger, frustration and annoyance rule the day when you have had enough of your children’s misbehaviors. In the long run, the thoughtful, loving parent in you will win out. And the big pay off? A wonderful relationship with your children for years to come.



About the Author

Susan Swindell Day, Editor

Susan Swindell Day is the editor in chief of Nashville Parent and the mom of four amazing kids.