The one thing every parenting book tells you…

child, parenting, frustrated, tiredIf you’ve read a book on parenting or been to a parenting seminar, they all will give you a foundational principle for your parenting: REMAIN CALM. When your children are acting up or getting into trouble DO NOT:
-react out of anger or frustration
-react without thinking
-give them control by allowing their actions to control your emotions.

Instead: REMAIN CALM and clearly think about the situation and respond in a well thought out and appropriate way.

We have all witnessed the parent at some public place who has NOT remained calm and has blown up at his child. I’m guessing that most of you do your best to avoid being that parent. However, most of you can remember sometime in the not too distant past when you did not remain calm with your children – probably when you were at home.

Many times our worst parenting is when we are frustrated, upset, or stressed about some other area of our life. We are unable to stop thinking about those issues and this greatly lowers our ability to deal with other stress…we have a very short fuse. This happens to almost every parent on occasion and greatly reduces our ability to remain calm.

Here are a few tips for all of you who have tired/stressful days and still need to parent:

Feel free to put off parenting decisions. We have often heard that consequences must be immediate so that children understand the connection between the behavior and the consequence. This may be true when children are very young, but my 3-year-old already has a good memory. It is fine to say “I’m really tired right now, but I want to think about what you did and what the consequence should be. Why don’t you think about it as well and we will talk about it tomorrow.” This takes the pressure off you when your brain is tired.

Tell your children when you are having a rough day. Before you laugh at me, I realize that this will not work with your five month old! Parenting younger children involves many days of making a decision to do your best in spite of how you feel. However, once your children reach 3 or 4 years old, they can understand at some level what it is to be having a rough day. This conversation may also serve to increase their emotional intelligence as they hear you talking about the emotions you are dealing with that day. While this does not in any way guarantee that they will they will cut you some slack, it should give them some understanding that you are responding a little different than normal because you are not feeling your normal self.

Get rid of all sarcasm in your life. Sarcasm is one of the most common forms of humor in our society. I personally had some good friends point out when I had allowed sarcasm into my life and they held me accountable to get rid of it. If you are a person who makes sarcastic comments at work or with your friends, you will find yourself slipping into sarcasm with your kids when you are tired. Sarcasm is hurtful and should never be part of your parenting. Allowing sarcasm into your life sooner or later will impact your parenting when you are tired and not feeling calm.

Read a book on parenting. Often times parents get frustrated and lose their calm because they are dealing with the same behavior patterns with their children again and again. A good parenting book can give you some new ideas and creative tools to help your family get out of the rut you are stuck in. Learning some new behavior management tools can give you more of a sense of control and make parenting more fun. Also, most parenting books have lots of horror stories parents tell that can give you perspective on your own kids and make you feel better!

Apologize to your children when you lose your calm. There is debate in parenting philosophy about whether we should make our children apologize. Can you really make a child feel sorrow for their action? Are we forcing our children to lie when we make them say “I’m sorry” when they are not? Regardless of where you stand on this issue, you can teach them a lot by modeling to them a real apology. When you lose your cool and make a bad parenting decision, don’t miss out on the opportunity to make it a teachable moment afterward.

As parents, I bet we all have days that we find it very difficult to remain calm as our children are acting up. I’m pretty confident that even the people who write the parenting books have days that they struggle to follow their own advice. This article was not written for perfect parents, but those who are willing to admit they do not always make parenting decisions from a place of peace and tranquility. I hope these tips are helpful because parenting is a tough job!

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