October 11th, 2020

Remain Calm and Carry On

We all know anger is DESTRUCTIVE and shouting at our children just doesn’t work, so how do we remain calm and carry on?

You know the drill. You make steely vows to yourself that you will do your deep breathing, count to 10, and imagine your head as a pressure cooker, releasing all the steam!

Dealing with tears, tantrums and everything in between is par for the course when bringing up kids, but keeping calm in the face of flashpoints can feel like an impossible task. However much we insta-hashtag ourselves into staying calmer, being stronger, or just shouting less, the reality is our children press our buttons!

It’s easy to change from being a calm, rational human being to an authoritarian dictator consumed with rage because your three-year-old is not putting his shoes on quickly enough and you are going to be late for nursery school or work.

All of us will have said and done things that we have come to regret. Adult anger can be destructive and if unleashed on kids can have damaging effects, often leaving younger children confused and fearful. We know shouting at our children doesn’t work and yet there will be moments when we end up screaming like a banshee. We resort to saying things like:

Why can’t you just do as you’re told? Stop whining or I’ll give you something to really complain about! No one is interested in your crying, so just stop it NOW!”

Adult rage can leave children feeling stressed and some children may remain with elevated stress levels for a while afterwards. When we’re stressed, our bodies produce the hormone cortisol. If cortisol remains in children’s systems their learning is compromised and there can be implications for physical and mental health. When we’re stressed heart rates go up, vision and hearing is impeded and our access to our pre-frontal lobes with all their cognitive and reasoning functions is restricted.

Sometimes children may feel responsible for their parent’s rage. It may result in compliance in the moment, but it breaks connection and reduces parental influence and is unlikely to create long-term learning.

And what children see, children do. Don’t be surprised if they start showing more aggression and rage with you and with others.

Our objective as parents is to keep calm and use positive and consistent strategies in raising our children, and we all need support to defuse our buttons in the moment.

 So what are the remedies?

  1. PRIORITISE SELF-CARE. Looking after ourselves is not a nice-to-have luxury but essential for our own physical and mental wellbeing, and that of our family. In order to keep calm, we need to see our wellbeing as a priority, and like a chequing account keep ourselves in the black, and ensure we look after our physical, emotional, intellectual, social and spiritual health. Easier said than done if you have littlies to look after, but the simple steps of ensuring you get to bed at a reasonable hour, staying hydrated throughout the day and have a digital-free bedroom zone, will help you get into better habits and behaviours. 
  1. GIVE YOURSELF A TIME OUT. To prevent yourself doing or saying something you’ll regret, take yourself out of the situation and head to the garden or your bedroom to calm down. On one occasion on the train from London to Inverness, I needed to calm down after discovering my teenage son had forgotten to use the family and friends’ railcard to buy his ticket and had spent four times the normal price. It was good for everyone for me to lock myself in the toilet!

Teach the kids to use cool down strategies too. You may use a visualisation strategy like imagining a beach or place with happy memories, or a physical one, such as going for a walk or splashing your face with cold water. Or you may opt to use a calming mantra: “This too will pass. I need to be the adult here.” 

  1. APPRECIATE KIDS WILL MAKE MISTAKES We need to let them know we all make mistakes but we can learn from them and clear up our messes. If we get angry when they mess up, they’ll be too afraid to try. So next time they spill the milk on the floor whilst trying to prepare their own cereal, focus on the fact they were trying to be self-reliant. Allow them to make amends by giving them a cloth to clear up the mess. 
  1. ACKNOWLEDGE PARENTING IS INHERITED Many of us believe parenting should be instinctive but parenting habits are, in fact, conditioned responses based on our upbringing. If your parents raged at you for poor behaviour then it’s no surprise if you have adopted those habits. We need awareness in order to behave differently. 
  1. LEARN POSITIVE PARENTING STRATEGIES Parenting webinars give insights into children’s behaviour and teach positive discipline to help you stay calm. Have a look at what’s on for the rest of term.


Posted in: Keeping Calm





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