8 simple cues to calm

Recently, we went through a bit of a rough patch here.  It felt like storm clouds were forever shadowing Moose, Big R and myself (Little R escaped, he’s too little to cause havoc yet!). Tensions were tight, tempers were quick to rise, and the mood was miserable.  Every day there would be a battle – Moose wouldn’t listen to instructions, or she would ignore or deflect them, she would repeatedly do the same wrong things over and over, and then voices would raise in all corners until eventually there was a blowout.  As parents, we were feeling too exhausted and fed up to even attempt to analyse the situation and figure out a solution.

I’d had enough of the guilt that was eating me up, and I felt lost as to what I could do to change things.  Any ideas I came up with were either things we’d tried before with no success, or methods we didn’t agree with.  I knew that we needed to agree on a consistent mode of discipline, and Big R and I also needed some suggestions of ways to rein in our frustration and anger when things seemed to be spiralling out of control.  We were seeing first-hand evidence right in front of our eyes that the more we yelled, the more our children our bound to yell back at us.  I reached out to friends on my personal Facebook page, and thankfully, was sent a bundle of tips and advice. At the same time, I went back over articles and blog posts I’d read previously on the topics of discipline and maintaining calm.  I collected a bunch of simple and quick mantras and reminders that resonated with me, and committed to making a conscious effort to keeping them at the forefront of my mind each day.  Since then, I do feel like there has been a change in the air around here, and I’ve found it easier to pull back at times when I’ve noticed that my blood is starting to boil.  There has been the occasional snap at each other, but we haven’t had any major outbursts here for about two weeks now.  So far so good.

I thought I would share here the cues that are really working for me right now, which I have gathered from a variety of sources and through just generally speaking to people.  They might work for someone else too, or if nothing else, it will be a place I can come back to when I need reminders of how I can stay calm and resist yelling:

  • S.T.O.P.

I found this at Creative With Kids, there are some great posts there about dealing with anger.  Click on the link above for more detail about this little practice, but in very basic terms the acronym is broken down like this-

S stands for “stop, just stop”. As in, put the brakes on right this minute, don’t say or do anything.

T is for Time out – calm yourself, breath.

O = Organise. Gather your thoughts, think about the situation and why this is happening.

P is for Plan. Afterwards, think about what happened and the best way you could deal with it if it happens again.

  • The 3 second pause

This one comes from Hands Free Mama, she has a way of weaving her messages in to stories about herself and her daughters, in a way that really helps you see just how powerful they can be when put to good use.  The 3 second pause is all about taking those 3 seconds to pause before responding.  All it takes is 3 seconds, but it can change everything.  I have employed this myself and it has helped me turn my reactions around, and like Rachel’s example in her post, I have also been surprised by how pausing can sometimes show that what I had assumed about a situation can be entirely untrue.  It not only gives me time, but gives my daughter time to rectify things herself before I jump in with my temper.

  • “If you are patient in a moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.”

Remembering this Chinese proverb usually helps stop me in my tracks.

  • Only love today

This sentiment was coined by Rachel at Hands Free Mama, and it comes up a lot on her blog.  The philosophy is simple, to think of these three words whenever you feel yourself itching to criticise, or to get angry, or to rush.  Treat your loved ones this way – with only love today.

  • Let it go.

Not only is the Frozen song catchy (and singing a catchy tune when I’m feeling like I’m going to crack can often break the tension for me), but its title can be fitting in this situation.  Is it really worth getting in to a fight about?  No?  Pick your battles.  Let it go.

  • Share your frustration

If you can learn to notice when your blood is starting to boil (this takes practice), tell your child what’s happening.  “I’m feeling angry/frustrated/stressed and I need to take some quiet, deep breaths. Will you help me?”.  This gives your child a heads-up that you are starting to lose it (maybe they’ll take the hint and cut you some slack?), gives you a way to vent your emotions in a non-threatening way, and demonstrates to your child a positive way of dealing with anger while letting them practice it with you and see the result.

  • Remember, they are sponges

Sometimes I catch myself doing or saying something, and I have totally forgotten that my kids are watching and are soaking in my every move, and I shudder to think that they might copy what I’ve just done! Or Moose will behave in a certain way that’s really not acceptable and I’m stumped as to why she’s doing it.  Then I remember….because I do it.  Kids are mirrors.  They will copy you.

  • Do something else

In our house, I find that usually when tempers are running high, it’s at times when Moose is walking around aimlessly with no direction.  Yes, she does have to learn to occupy herself without me organising her every move for her, but when anger is mounting, that’s probably not the time to insist she learn that skill.  Give a simple direction to change what the child is doing at that moment.  It doesn’t have to be too involved or require too much thought.  Tidy up a room/space together.  Cook something together.  Watch a bit of TV together.  Read a book.  Fold washing.  Ask them to draw you a picture of a rainbow/a party/under the sea.  Go outside to see if you can spot any new flowers that have cropped up, or cut a few to make a bouquet.  Go for a walk.

  • Have a hug

It might be the last thing you feel like doing when you are furious, or when your kid has gone off the rails, but this one hasn’t failed me yet.  A hug usually makes everyone feel better, and lets you start fresh.

Lastly, there are many resources I have found that I have gone back to again and again when I need to reset my headspace about keeping the calm.  In general, both Picklebums and Hands Free Mama have a tonne of posts about parenting, dealing with emotions and encouraging the happy in families.  Some specific posts I’ve come across recently that have been really helpful to me are:

Evolution of a Mama tantrum – and how to STOP one (Creative With Kids)

Resources – To deal with anger (Creative With Kids)

Nuts and bolts of dealing with parenting rage (Creative With Kids)

9 ways to help your toddler work through anger (Babble)

72 ways to have better times with our kids (Play Activities)

Do you struggle with anger/yelling too?

I’m linking up with The Weekend Rewind with Maxabella Loves and crew.


10 thoughts on “8 simple cues to calm

  1. Oh I love all these! My big struggle with yelling is that whenever I do it (rare), it’s pretty much ALWAYS because I am tired/frustrated as opposed to anything different my kids are doing. And I always get a bit disappointed in myself for not taking the ‘3 seconds’ you’ve described above. I realise I can’t be perfect in this – but it really is interesting to me that my level of irritability is the major factor in how I speak to my kids

    • Absolutely Kelly! My yelling is definitely more because of me than anyone else. It’s taken me years of practice and reminding myself, to get the hang of that pause even half of the time!

  2. Emily says:

    Great post. Yelling is rarely about the kids and often about my own frustration. I’m trying to calm down as well at the moment, so this is very timely.

  3. Great post with loads of tips and resources. I am finding my yelling coming back to me in my 11.5 year old now and our almost 5 year old is also starting to copy (his sister or maybe me!). I really don’t remember losing my temper too much with our daughter when she was younger but she certainly pushes all the buttons now. I’m a big one for pausing, and also for trying to put a smile on my face – it annoys my daughter I must say but I calm down.

    • It’s interesting that different ages push buttons with different people! For example, people always say “terrible twos” but to be honest I found three and four to be harder! Hope you have harmonious times coming your way soon!

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