How to Stop Losing Your Cool With Your Kids—With a Powerful Pause

Inside: The less regulated we are as parents, the more likely it is that we will react to our kids, letting their emotions overcome us. But this one little trick for calm parenting can make all the difference between reacting and responding, even when you’re exhausted.

My coffee cup was halfway to my mouth for that first sip of the day when the battle cries from the 5- and 6-year-old cousins drifted into my sister’s kitchen…

No, it’s MINE!
But I had it FIRST!
That’s not fair!
But I want it!

I sighed.

Then the 2-year-old shrieked, and I jumped up quickly, irritated before even entering the room. My body leaned forward, and my breath held tight in my chest. I went in hot.

And while I didn’t technically yell, my tone wasn’t much better. Maybe no one will get to have it if we can’t agree. Maybe we all need to take a break. Well, none of that is YOURS, actually, it all belongs to the 2-year-old.

Biting words. Fighting words. Words that certainly did not bring peace to the situation.

Looking into their faces with their furrowed brows and set jaws, I realized I was just reacting to their emotions instead of responding in a caring and constructive way. The opposite of mindful, calm parenting.

Bonus: Download a free cheat sheet of mantras for parents from Ashley, the author of this post and the mom behind the web site Nurture and Thrive.

When you find yourself doing the opposite of calm parenting

The Reason We Lose Our Cool As Parents

I’m a child development psychologist. I know reacting like that doesn’t teach kids how to regulate their own emotions. I know biting words don’t help kids learn how to resolve conflict. I know kids need connection in order to cooperate.

Calm parenting is a must for healthy childhood development. And yet, I still reacted to emotion with emotion. Why?

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.

For example, I’d spent the day before on a 6-hour plane ride and was operating on less sleep and a time difference. It felt like responding to the kids’ emotions in a constructive way would take too much energy.

But I’ve discovered that one little trick for calm parenting can make all the difference between reacting and responding, even when you’re exhausted.

How to be a calm parent

The Secret to Calm Parenting? The Pause

A few minutes later, the shrieks began again.

But that time, I caught myself tensing up and I paused.

I took a slow breath. I said my mantra: “Observe with an open heart.” I centered myself.

Here’s why: Research shows that saying a mantra can calm the brain. Pair that with the power of deep breathing, a proven way to halt the stress response, and you have a powerful way to center yourself. The secret to calm parenting.

After the pause, I was prepared to face the self-perceived injustice of three strong-willed boys.

After the pause, I saw their stressed faces and their struggle. I empathized – I can see you’re upset. You feel like this is unfair.

After the pause, I asked them if they could think of a way to work it out. We waded through their suggestions and settled on something everyone could agree to.

This is responding instead of reacting. This is mindful parentingcalm parenting.

Related: How to Stop Being an Angry Mom Now…Using 5 Hair Ties Printable

The secret to calm parenting is the pause

How to Be a Calm Parent: The Power of the Pause

Rapid breathing in your upper chest, tight muscles, a tight jaw, a sense of urgency – all of these are early signs of stress in the body. When you feel them, take a mindful pause.

Here’s how you can get started with this calm parenting technique:

  1. Stop what you’re doing and count to 10. If you need to remove a younger child from the situation, you can pick them up, but don’t react to anything yet. Simply hold them. 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!)
  2. Take a deep breath.
  3. Say your mantra. (More on this in a minute.)

Developmental psychologists now use this kind of practice as a way to strengthen relationships between parents and adolescents.

Programs that teach parents mindfulness techniques include paying attention to the breath, recognizing signs of stress in your own body, and then being able to halt that process with a pause. Parents learn how to be a calm parent – breathe mindfully and say a mantra like “stop, be calm, be present.”

But First, Choose Your Mantra

Here are some calm parenting mantras that have worked for me:

  • “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. Maybe you’d like a clear mantra that’s to the point, or perhaps you prefer one that has a deeper meaning.

After you’ve established taking a mindful pause as a habit, switch up your mantras to keep the words fresh and meaningful. Find words that inspire you, and you’ll feel empowered rather than exhausted.

Related: How to Be a Happy Mom: Science Says Do These 7 Things Printable

The powerful pause that will lead to calm parenting

Here’s the Best Part

What I appreciate about the pause is that it helps me thoughtfully respond to my child instead of react. But that’s not even the best part.

When you pause, you root yourself in the moment. You’re more present.

You’ll find yourself pausing for the good things too – for savoring and soaking up the sweetness and hilarity of childhood.

Like on our trip to my sister’s house. After the initial conflict, my sister reminded me that it’s always like that when the cousins first get together. They’re feeling each other out. She was right.

The next day, when it was a little too quiet I found them all huddled together amongst the vacuum and the mop, flashlights in tow, and a headlamp on the 2-year-old. They whispered to each other the stories that will form the memories of adventures with cousins – memories that will stay with them for life.

And I was present in the moment to enjoy it. I was finally able to enjoy a leisurely coffee and chat with my sister whom I don’t get to see face to face nearly enough.

Then later, when the oldest begged for a silly song to be played, we all danced like hooligans around my sister’s ottoman, right there in her living room. It’s a moment I’ll always remember.

Mindful, calm parenting can be exhausting. Being able to center yourself and weather your child’s storms takes practice. Half the battle is remembering to do it. But when you take a pause, you find your power there.

Download Your Free Cheat Sheet

This is a special note from Ashley, the author of this post and the mom behind Nurture and Thrive

To help you remember, I made a free printable cheat sheet of my favorite mantras to help you stay calm and centered. When you download the cheat sheet, you’ll also join my newsletter to get more calm parenting strategies. Just click here to download and subscribe.

How to Catch Yourself Before You Lose Your Cool

And now one final note from Kelly, the owner of this site…

I asked Ashley to share this post with you because this is a lesson I had to learn the hard way. After my family welcomed our third little one into the mix, we became a family of five with a second-grader, a toddler, and a newborn. Even though I could have used more sleep and way more coffee, we were happy. Then my husband’s paternity leave ended, and I was at home with the kids all day. As time wore on, my patience became razor thin. And one day, I just broke.

Happy You, Happy FamilyThe shame burns my cheeks just thinking of that day, even now. But thanks to that experience, I realized I had to make a change. I threw myself into researching how to find happiness in the chaos of parenting. Something beyond “make time for you” and “exercise more.” Because when you’re overwhelmed and at your breaking point, you don’t need the “experts” telling you more stuff to do on top of everything else.

That’s how I discovered the secrets: 10 secrets every parent should know about being happy. After hearing from hundreds of parents in the same boat as me, I knew I needed to share what I discovered. And so I wrote a book: Happy You, Happy Family. In the book, you get a Temper-Taming Toolkit with simple hacks like this to help you keep your cool during those everyday parenting moments that test your patience.

Click here to get your copy plus a bonus workbook and start your journey towards finding more happiness as a parent.

Because the truth is that happiness won’t come from a big promotion at work, or from winning the lottery, or from your kids all learning to put their toys away when they’re done playing. Because eventually, you just get used to all that stuff.

True, lasting happiness comes from a conscious effort by you to put the right habits in place.

Want More?

For more information about mindfulness, here’s a guided mindfulness exercise from the CSU Center for Mindfulness.

Your Turn

What’s your best trick for calm parenting? Share in a comment below!

The Secret to Calm Parenting That Every Parent Should Know

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