Do you wish you knew how to be a calm mom? Do you wish you knew the secret to calmer parenting? Me too!! I get cross far too much and lose my calm mom status almost on the daily, but I want to change that so I have been doing some research and have found some techniques that are really working for me as I try everyday to move towards calmer parenting and becoming that calm mom who never loses it.
Before we move let me just tell you that my parents are shouty, our household was shouty; very loving and close, but shouty nonetheless. So calmer parenting styles are not something I am used to, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be a calmer parent.
Let me also just tell you that I have four children with less than four years difference in age who are still all 10 and under so our house is loud and hectic and there is rarely a moment when someone isn’t demanding something of me, needing something, doing something daft or squabbling with a sibling and that for sure raises my stress levels everyday.
I am also just not a very calm person. I am anxious, I feel stress very quickly and often stress manifests itself in being cross. I am emotional, but I know that about myself so I am also often able to take a step back and talk myself down before I escalate to shouty mom status, but to say that I had anywhere close to the calmer parenting style I would like would be lying.
I tell you all this about me because I don’t want you to think that I am preaching at you about how to be an amazing parent. I am no better than you and I know it. I am a work in progress and learning as I navigate this parenting journey so here I just want to share with you the techniques that I have found useful when trying calmer parenting and also to save you the time of doing the research I have been doing.
How can I be a good calm Mom?
If you have ever asked yourself this question or felt guilty because you snapped at your child when they asked you for the 5 zillionth time that day ‘what’s for dinner?’. It feels rubbish when you lose it with your kids, but sometimes it is just so hard not to. Take this morning for example…
I set my alarm for 6:30am so that I can get up 30 mins before the children and get packed lunches done, my journal and affirmations written and a coffee drunk in silence before the hoardes descend, but today when I awoke I discovered both of the twins had snuck up to our bed during the night and had also been woken by the alarm.
I tried in vain to get them to settle again so I could sneak out, but had to admit defeat so downstairs we all went and I kissed goodbye to my morning routine and self care moment. On the way down my younger son also appeared and so we were now 4 out 6 heading for breakfast before 7am.
One of the twins started to sing… not an issue I hear you say…
Well no, not normally, but she has now been singing the same two lines of a song from Encanto for at least 3 weeks and whilst I hate to stifle her love of singing it is even starting to grate on my nerves now. Her brothers are way past that point though and can’t take it anymore. So younger son immediately started moaning and asking her to stop.
Our other twin meanwhile was unable to decide what she wanted for breakfast so I was waiting to see whether toast was required.
Suddenly she decided that she would forget about breakfast all together and pick up her brother’s favourite teddy bear and swing it around her head whilst refusing to give it back to him.
… argument number 2 ensues
Eldest son appears looking tired and grumpy and instantly proclaims that his sister is an idiot as she woke him up and that he thinks they should be allowed to turn the TV on. The answer was a firm no and he was asked to stop being unkind.
Meanwhile I am trying to cajole twin one into going to the breakfast table and have realised that twin two (who has gotten dressed without having to be asked) is in fact wearing the wrong uniform as it is PE today.
‘oh no’ shouts twin one as she has knocked rice Krispies flying everywhere (it had to be the lightest cereal that can really travel)
Eldest son is squabbling with twin two and gently touching her with his foot under the table. Just enough to annoy her and make her scream out ‘he is kicking me’, but gently enough that he can say to me ‘I am not kicking her’
Cue younger son jumping up from the table with a loud yell/ outburst for no reason and more he said, she said from the others and I am ready to blow a gasket all before 7:15am…
So did I shout this morning? – yes I did!
Did I regret not using my calmer parenting techniques? – yes I did
So mama I get it being a calm mom or even starting to try calmer parenting can be so very hard, but if you, like me want to getting better at staying calm or at least not losing it so often then read on I have some great tips and techniques for you to try so you can feel more in control as a mom.
Tips for calmer parenting
Wake up before the kids
Having even just a few minutes peace and quiet to get yourself ready for the day or get the morning organised before your children wake up can really make it much easier to stay calm once your kids get up.
As I said above I try to be up at least 30 minutes before my children and I use that time to organise packed lunches, write in my journal and drink a coffee all in silence. I don’t even turn the lights on fully. It is my moment of tranquillity before the hectic part of the day begins and it allows me to think about the day ahead.
This has been such a game changer for me. Obviously you will see from above that it doesn’t always work, but when it does getting up before the kids makes a huge difference to my readiness for the day and my state of mind.
Identify typical flash points
Over a few days make notes about when things were especially tricky with the kids and the try to plan in advance for those moments.
For example I have noticed that getting stuff in school bags and putting on shoes and coats on right before we leave in the morning is stressful.
So we now ask the children to ready their bags the evening before and they have a basket next to the front door to put them in. I also ask that they put their shoes on as soon as they are dressed; sure this means that we have outdoor shoes on in the front room, but I will take needing to hoover over having everyone trying to get their shoes on at the very same time.
Another time of day that typically causes stress in our house is just before dinner; the children get hangry and tired and are clamouring for my attention at a time when I need to be making dinner. I try to take the pressure off my batch cooking at the weekend, using the slow cooker or just prepping everything during the day.
What are your family’s key flash points? Is there something you could do to make sure that you are prepared for that time each day?
Get more sleep
Easier said than done if you have a very young child (or 6 year old twins who refuse to stay in their own beds most nights), but having enough sleep is vital for keeping your mood balanced and stress levels down. Dr . Lawrence J. Epstein from the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard University has said:
Sleep and mood are closely connected; poor or inadequate sleep can cause irritability and stress, while healthy sleep can enhance well-being
I know I have been guilty of staying up too late because I wanted some time to myself once the children were asleep, but recently I have thought more sensibly about how much sleep I need and so have set myself a sleep curfew of 11pm so that I can get up at 6:30am.
If you find getting to sleep difficult I recommend stepping away from social media at least one hour before you need to go to sleep. Personally I can go to sleep with the TV on and in fact that helps me to calm down my busy brain, but for others even the TV might be too stimulating.
A relaxing evening routine with perhaps a bath, reading a book, journaling or a skin care regime can also be a great way of relaxing and winding down before bedtime.
Help the kids to help themselves
This might sound a little odd in a post about calmer parenting, but in my experience calm children equal calm moms. When my kids are all relaxed and playing nicely there is nothing for anyone to get worked up about so I am now seeing part of my task to be a calmer mom is helping the children to be calmer too.
I am not blaming the children for me losing it as I am an adult who has to take responsibility for my emotional regulation, but it makes sense that if I can help the children to be calmer then the squabbles that overwhelm me will decrease.
Firstly I see my role in this as being setting a good example. If I am shouting every time I get irritated by something then of course they will too as I have taught them that is how to get what you want. So the less I lose it the less they will see this acceptable. This is something I am definitely still working on. I am learning to walk away and take a moment rather than growling!
Secondly I think I can help them to be calmer by being more organised. The pace of life in our household can be fast moving and so sometimes dinner may be served late or someone will be having to rush getting ready as we forgot a club. These types of things lead to stress and if I am honest I know that when things are organised in the house tensions are lower… Do you find that too?
Thirdly 1:1 time. Giving the children as much of my time as possible helps them to feel loved and secure and that they have my attention which means there is way less ‘mummy’ ‘mummy’ ‘mummy’ and I can get some respite from the demands. To facilitate this we have actually designed a schedule for 1:1 time with mummy. If you have fewer children you may not need to do a formal schedule, but I do recommend finding time for that quality one on one interaction as it really does make a difference to behaviour.
Schedule schedule schedule
Staying on track and being organised plays a huge part in not feeling overwhelmed and our of control. If we feel lost or out of control we all tend to feel stressed and even anxious and so inevitably less able to manage our emotions and stay calm at a triggering moment. For that reason I am recommending scheduling your time out. This comes back to some of the earlier points around carving out 1:1 time and looking at flash points.
I often try to do a million things as once and now that I am looking at ways to be a calmer mom I am realising that this is likely to be adding to my stress. I often feel like I am doing lots of things badly and that I can’t do anything to the best of my ability, but maybe that is because I am trying to do too much at the same time… If I scheduled my time more effectively I suspect I would achieve more and feel less stressed.
The things I will be putting in my schedule are:
- the kids activities
- Meal prep and making
- Self care
- 1:1 time with the kids
- family time
Make time for you
I know that this is often easier said than done as a busy mum, but finding some time for you even if it is just a few minutes is so very vital for your mental health and well being that it just cannot be ignored.
I am so passionate about this I have created a whole brand devoted to self care called Just 15 for Me. It is devoted to all things self care with the premise that just taking 15 minutes per day for yourself can make all the difference to your personal happiness and so to those around you.
You can find helpful articles over there on how to make time for yourself as a busy mum and how you might use affirmations to support you.
Self care is 100% important when it comes to calmer parenting as if you feel run down, ignored and overwhelmed staying in control of your emotions is just way way harder.
Develop calm down strategies
I am already doing most of the things that I have mentioned so far and they have made a difference, but kids are humans too. They have bad days just like adults do. Sometimes they just want to push your buttons just like adults do and for those times you need some strategies that will help you regroup and relax so you can be the calmer parent you want to be.
For me this involves physically walking away from the situation for a moment. That isn’t always possible though as of course if things are escalating between siblings I am not just going to let them fight it out…
As a family group I find that changing the location changes the dynamic so if everything is getting a bit fraught and I feel like I might blow my top then I have found it can be helpful for us all to go for a walk or just take the football over to the park for a few minutes.
This may also be the solution for you… If you can take a short walk just to give yourself time to breathe and calm down. Clearly if you are home alone with young kids this won’t be an option, but as I said above even if they have to come with you the very act of changing scenery can be enough to calm you all down.
Think about the size of the problem
This is a technique I was introduced to through my daughter’s therapy for her social and emotional communication difficulties, but it really struck a chord with me and I find it very helpful when trying to remain calm.
So it works like this… If you feel your blood pressure rising and a rant coming on then just quickly think about the size of the problem. It helps to have already defined for yourself what the sizes of problem are.
For me I have defined a Huge Problem as there is a life or death situation and a Tiny problem as the kids are squabbling… I have also defined stages in between. You can read more over on this post:
So in the moment I ask myself how big is this problem? If it is only a small problem then I know I need to have small reaction. Listen this doesn’t always work as sometimes you will already have stepped beyond the point of rational thought before you even realise, but if you can catch yourself it is quite amazing how just asking yourself that one question can adjust the way you react and help you to stay calmer.
Having an affirmation that reminds you that you have got this or that you don’t need to shout can be very helpful in supporting you to remain calm. I use affirmations in my journal every morning and have a shortened version that I can repeat to myself; almost more like a mantra, for the times when I feel myself losing it.
Over on my other site I have some beautiful affirmation card packs that will help you get started.
An example of the affirmation I use daily is:
I am a calm and patient mum who doesn’t need to raise her voice to be heard
Never under estimate the power of concentrating on your breathing when you are feeling less than calm. It can help to imagine a square in your head and as you breathe in imagine you are tracing along one line of the square, hold at the corner and then trace the next side as you breathe out.
Don’t beat yourself up when you are not the calmer parent you want to be
None of us is perfect so don’t beat yourself up if you don’t manage to stay as calm as you wanted to in a situation, but do reflect.
I have found that when trying to be a calmer parent looking back at what happened when I did get cross can be really useful for seeing exactly what the trigger points were. When you can start to build up a picture of what makes you cross you can start to make changes.
Thinking about what you need to do first and what just doesn’t matter can be huge liberating and help you see the wood for the trees. I know what it is like to just feel completely overwhelmed by the task of motherhood believe me; at one point I had a 4 year old, a two year old and 6 month old twins. It was a lot!
You can’t always do everything and whilst you may not like the fact that your house isn’t looking immaculate sometimes you need to let that stuff go so that you can deal with the toddler weeing on the floor or attempting to scale the wardrobe…
It sounds like this might totally contradict the previous point, but actually it will make the prioritising much easier. I recommend doing a big declutter and reorganise at least once a year and more frequently for the main living areas so that they stay organised.
Putting systems in place such as storage baskets for particular food items or the kids craft supplies will enable you to tidy away more quickly and help the children to help you. Just knowing where things go can make the end of the day clean up process much quicker which in turn can help you to relax more during the day and practise that calmer parenting that you want to do as you won’t be freaking out so much about everything being everywhere.
A space to retreat to
Something that has really helped me with calmer parenting has been having one space in the house that is just mine. For a while it was the front room. The children were not allowed in there when they were little so it was never full of toys and chaos. As they have grown this has changed as they want to access the Xbox that is in there, but I have kept a space just for me.
In my bedroom I have a chair that I love and it looks out on our garden and the lovely church beyond. The space around this is organised and always tidy so it is a place of peace and calm within the chaos. It can be my place to step away to when calmer parenting escapes me or just somewhere to have my morning coffee. I would 100% recommend having a space just for you even if it is just a chair…
Be realistic with your expectations
Parenting is hard and we can all get frustrated by our kids not doing the things we expect, but sometimes perhaps we expect too much. So the next time you are feeling that rage or frustration build take a moment and ask yourself am I expecting too much.
I remember getting frustrated with one of the boys because he would take so long to get ready for school and never seemed to know where to start despite me helping him and showing him what to do like a zillion times.
He was just 5 so I, of course, did not expect him to be able to do up his shirt buttons, but I was asking him to put on his underwear and trousers by himself. I had baby twins at the time and a 7 year old so it was crazy busy in the mornings and it really annoyed me that he couldn’t just do these two things to make things a bit easier.
Although, of course, this wasn’t enough to make me cross it irritated me and so I started each morning with my calmer parenting levels depleting…
That was until I mentioned it to another mum with a son in the same class only to discover that her son needed help with every part of dressing and getting ready. I carried on asking other mums and found that they all had to help their 4/5 year olds…
Of course I felt guilty for expecting so much of my little one and saw it from a different perspective then. All of a sudden I saw what he could do for himself as being great rather than focusing on what he couldn’t do and how that made my crazy mornings that little bit crazier.
This was just a small thing, but by assessing whether my expectations were reasonable I was able to let go of the frustration which made me a calmer mom each morning. There were a zillion other things to undo that calm, but that is another story!!
You might find this chores that your children can do by age post useful to help you set expectation levels in your mind.
Vent vent vent
Having mom friends that you can talk to who understand the irritations and frustrations that you feel makes such a difference so I encourage you to find your tribe.
You need moms who you can tell that your kids are driving you crazy and who will empathise and share their own struggles too – not the ones who pretend that everything is perfect, but are secretly screaming inside!!
Let go of yesterday
This is absolutely key for me to calmer parenting. You have to start each day fresh with your children. If you even begin to remember how annoying they were yesterday you will start today off with a base level of irritation and a judgement on them which will make it much harder to be a calm mom.
I have found that making sure everyone is in a loving, calm state before bedtime helps with this. If I have lost it and been cross or shouty with one of the children I make sure I apologise and we talk about why I was annoyed before we all go to bed.
I think it is really important for me to acknowledge when I have shouted and not been calm. I want my children to know that all emotions are valid and ok, but that screaming and shouting is not the answer. Listen I am no saint – shouting is way too often my response, but I am trying and that is all we can do – right?!
The other thing I do is use a notebook to write down the things that I want to let go of each night. Just getting things down on paper can be hugely cathartic and helps me to start fresh each morning.
This is the notebook that I created for sale. It is available in the UK and the US.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t get annoyed, but it means I start from zero each day so the children have to work harder to get under my skin – they still manage it – they are professionals
We are all a work in progress
None of us are born the perfect mother and let’s be honest it is a tough gig. So my final thought on calmer parenting is to be gentle with yourself and give yourself a break. We are all a work in progress and the important part is wanting to be better. In fact I am sure that wanting to be the best parent possible is the best indication that you are a good parent.
Being a calmer mom is hard and I am sure, just like me, you will have days when calmer parenting is seriously out of reach, but if we keep consciously trying everyday then I know that both you and I, friend, will be able to create a calmer, more relaxed family environment.