I don’t know too many parents who can say that their children have never caused them some sort of anxiety. Maybe it was because your toddler spilled their juice in the aisle of the store, or maybe it was because your baby was loudly screaming in church, or maybe it was because your 9 year old argued with you in front of your friends, ending with an awful “I hate you”. Regardless of the reason why, we are all sometimes full of anxiety, stress, and embarrassment about what our child has done or said. While it’s a normal reaction, it’s not something that we enjoy or look forward to. Most of us want to crawl under a rock and wait for everyone to stop staring at us. Hopefully though, these times are few and far between.
But what about those parents whose kiddos act up more often than not? Do you ever get to the point where you’re dreading spending time with your child, because you know there will be disagreements, push-back, anger/yelling, or stress from one or both of you? If you’re shaking your head yes, don’t worry you’re not a bad parent and you’re not alone. In this blog, I want to give you some tips about how to keep calm yourself and help your child do the same in those stressful situations.
Many parents struggle with raising a child with a difficult temperament. I know because I’m one of them! My 8yr old son is a combination of a sensitive, high needs, and crabby temperament (these are explained more in my Parenting Solutions program). This means that he can require a lot of attention (good or bad), and then be super sensitive to a sibling not wanting to play with him or my telling him no. Now, the word sensitive can be used different ways. You might have a sensitive child who gets upset, cries, mopes, goes off on their own, needs to snuggle, or gets angry. Guess which one my son is? Yup, he gets angry. The simplest thing can sometimes set him off, and next thing I know he’s stomping off and yelling. So what’s a parent to do in this situation?
The first thing to do is to remain calm yourself. If you blow up at him/her, they’re going to want to do the same. Then it becomes an ironic situation of your yelling at them to calm down…you know, as you’re yelling at them. Try to follow these steps instead…
- Try to remain calm while assessing the situation.
- Know what your child needs based on their temperament (ie do they need your comfort or to be left alone).
- Follow your child’s cues. They may start out needing a minute alone, but then they might want to talk or just need a hug.
- Don’t push what YOU think they could use! If your child is angry, it’s not likely going to be helpful that you remind them of what they did wrong in that moment. You’re better off waiting awhile. Sometimes it’s important to circle back around to this and other times it’s just best to move on. Each situation should be considered individually.
- Be sure to bring up sensitive topics at the right time. If you need to reprimand your child for something they did that morning before school, talking to them the moment they get off the bus might not be the best time. Let them have a snack and relax a bit before bringing it up. Timing is key!
The tips above are good for helping your child through a stressful or emotional situation, but what should you do to help your own anxious feelings? Well, firstly, doing the above steps to help your child will indeed help you too. If your child is feeling less stressed or upset, then so will you! But sometimes our kids like to spring things on us, where they just get upset for no reason and you can’t prepare for that. When unexpected things arise, here’s what I want you to do…
- Take a deep breath. Gather your thoughts a moment before you say something you might regret or react in a way that’s not helpful.
- If you have an immediate answer or response, say it calmly. Remember, your child will mimic your responses.
- If you don’t know what to do or say, it’s totally okay to walk away! Say you need to go to the bathroom to (hopefully) give yourself a minute or two to collect your thoughts. It’s much better that you say nothing in the moment, if what you want to say isn’t helpful. You can always come back a few minutes later to say something in a kinder tone.
- Try to begin what you say with a kind word of empathy. For example, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that you had a bad day!” or “I know that you’re frustrated right now.” or “I can imagine how mad you might be feeling”. Empathy goes a long way! It will also help to calm your child down.
- See if you can talk through the emotion with them and help them come to a resolution with your help. For example, “I can see that you’re really frustrated right now because your sister took your book. What can we do to fix this (older kids can offer a resolution, you will need to help the younger ones)? Why don’t we all sit down together to read the book?” Or you could have suggested that the sister gives back the book for 5 minutes before she gets a turn. Whatever the resolution, the point is that you all stayed calm and worked out a solution that would benefit everyone.
- Once the child is calm and happy again, praise them for the things they did well in the situation. For instance, you might say “I loved that you were willing to compromise with your sister by taking turns!” Oftentimes, we’re quick to point out the negative stuff and we forget to compliment the good, which is really the most important part!
If you can work on these things with your child, you’ll both end up being calmer and less anxious. It’s also important to carve out that one-on-one time with your child (each of your children if you have more than one). It’s extremely important that you have positive experiences with each of your children, but it’s imperative that you have them with your most difficult one. You both need those happy times to feel good about each other and your relationship with one another. You need to see those awesome qualities that make your kiddo special, and they need to see a happy, non-yelling parent they can continue to look up to and love unconditionally. So if it’s been a while since you did something nice with your child, look at your calendar and set a date today! I’d love for you to post below what you’re planning on doing with your child to make their day special! Happy bonding!
If you’d like more parenting help, please check out my Parenting Solutions course! I have a DIY and a group version, where you can have lifetime access to 10 video lessons, get awesome ideas for how to handle your situations, have access to many printable charts to help you, and have access to me for answers to your unique questions! I also offer this program as a one-on-one option, where we will have weekly calls to walk through what you’re learning and how well you’re able to implement it all. Contact me on the above link with questions on these options. I also have a free parenting guide that might further help you too!