The truth is that the less regulated we are as parents, the more likely it is that we will react to our kids, letting their emotions overcome us. Here’s some tips to remember when we feel our own emotions creep in.
The Power of the Pause
- Stop what you are doing and count to 10. Count to 10 out loud in front of your kids. (Modeling how to calm down is a great bonus for teaching your children self-regulation!)
- Take a deep breath
- Say your Mantra
Here are some calm parenting mantras:
- “Ride this wave, mama”
- “Respond with grace”
- “I am their mom”
- “Choose kindness”
- “I am here for you”
- “Observe with an open heart”
- “Act with love”
- “Choose joy”
- “See how little they are”
Choose a mantra that works for you.
Children won't always do what we say, but they will always, eventually, do what we do. If parents indulge in throwing their own tantrums, so will their children. If we can stay calm, they learn that it's not actually an emergency when they get upset, and they learn to calm themselves. This ability to self-regulate is at the heart of emotional intelligence.
“Before I even notice, I’m already 10 steps into reacting with whatever issue is at hand with my kids. When I can remain calm, it certainly helps the situation as opposed to when I get heated up, which only makes things worse. It makes me sad to know that until now, I have not been a good example of emotional regulation at all. And it's so disheartening to see my kids doing things that I know they saw us do..... throw something, slam a door...."
Sounds familiar, right? Regulating our emotions is at the heart of our ability to parent the way we’d like. When we find it challenging, our nervous system is always running too hot. That's at the heart of most of the ways we trip ourselves up, from over-eating to procrastinating to fighting with our partner. It's just so easy to get hijacked by our emotions and find ourselves already ten steps down the low road.
This very challenging task -- regulating our emotions so that we can guide our child lovingly rather than indulging in our own tantrum -- is fundamental to good parenting.
It helps your child grow a calmer brain and nervous system, which makes them easier to live with now, and more resilient for the rest of their lives.
When you let yourself experience your emotions, they begin to evaporate. So by simply sitting with your upsets, holding yourself with compassion -- breathing and feeling BUT resisting the urge to act -- you clear out your own unfinished business, whether fear, hurt or grief.
When we respond differently, so does our child.
Remember, it's always your child's action + your response that = the outcome. When we get triggered and react without thinking, we escalate the storm. When we can stay calm enough to respond with kindness and respect while we set limits, we settle the storm.
Self-regulation as a parent is not easy and takes practice. You will most definitely revert back to old patterns and become triggered but recognising these triggers and bringing yourself back to using the above techniques keeps it simple and will help reground you.