The 7 Golden Rules of Calmer Parenting
This article is a little excerpt from my latest book ‘How to be a Calm Parent’:
The older I’ve become, the less keen I am on the use of rules, but I think it’s important to set the scene and simplify a little here. Throughout this book I will discuss many things that impact on our state of mind and actions as parents. I think it’s important to take a holistic view and to ask WHY we struggle to be calm before we even begin to think about what we can do to be calmer. The answer to the ‘why am I like this?’ question is anything but simple and straightforward. I do however believe that having a few, simple, guidelines to start with makes the process to becoming calm easier, hence here are my top seven rules:
- 1. Everybody can be a calmer parent. It doesn’t take any special personality traits. Privilege does inevitably mean that life is sadly infinitely easier for some, but we can all do some work and make some changes, regardless of our life situations, that will have a positive impact (although I do accept that lack of privileges can and will limit the changes possible)
- 2. Everybody loses it at times. Nobody is calm 100% of the time – nobody should aim to be. We must lower the bar when it comes to expectations of what we can achieve, and we must not compare our ‘inner selves’ (our inner most thoughts and feelings) with the ‘outer selves’ (the carefully curated illusion) of others. You’re not alone. All parents act in ways they’re ashamed of. Everybody has to try hard to hold it together. Losing your temper doesn’t mean you’re not good enough or are lacking willpower and it definitely doesn’t make you a worse parent than somebody else.
- 3. It is not your fault that you aren’t a calm parent. Read that again and stop blaming yourself. Parents carry such a burden of guilt and instantly blame themselves when they get angry and short-tempered with their children. But it isn’t your fault, we are who we are due to the way we were raised as children, due to the situations we find ourselves in, and the relationships we have with others. Don’t think “what’s wrong with me?”. Instead see yourself as a combination of things that have happened to you and the environment you are in – you are not flawed. The good news is you can assert some control over how you process these experiences and the hold they have on you in the future.
- 4. You are still going to have lots of big feelings. You are not aiming to get rid of the big feelings, just to cope with them in a healthier way. You will still feel anger, frustration, worry and disappointment, in both yourself and your children and that’s OK. All feelings are OK. In short, the key to being calmer is allowing and accepting these big feelings and turning reactivity into responsivity. Putting a space between your child’s actions, your feelings, and your response. Becoming calmer is about self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-forgiveness, not trying to turn yourself into some sort of emotionally devoid robot.
- 5. Messing up doesn’t undo all the good you’ve done before. A bad day is simply that, a bad day. It does not make you a bad person, or a failure. Even if that day stretches into weeks, months, or years. It doesn’t undo the work you have previously put in to becoming calmer or cancel out the good days. It also doesn’t have any impact on what you can achieve in the future. The road to calmer parenting is full of ups and downs, you will mess up, you will feel like you’ve taken a million steps back some days, but you just need to keep going and accept the topsy turvy progress route. Real life is messy and so is real change.
- 6. The journey to becoming calmer takes time. Make sure your goals are realistic, you’re not going to change overnight, or even in a month or two. You are going to be a work in progress for pretty much the rest of your life and that’s OK, because even a tiny change is still a change! Although it may sound terribly cliched to say, a thousand tiny steps will get you further than one giant leap. Commitment and consistency are key; repeated small changes are better than one-off attempts at enormous change.
- 7. You will not screw up your child when you ‘lose it’. This is maybe the most important rule to really and truly assimilate because the guilt we carry with us when we screw up, can have such a damaging effect on our future attempts. Children are resilient, our mistakes as parents actually help them to grow. What matters more, is how you heal any rift that happens afterwards. Later in this book I will talk about the ‘rupture and repair’ cycle, or as I prefer to call it ‘holler and heal’. Knowing how to heal any hurt caused during our inevitable ‘uncalm’ moments is part of the foundation of calmer parenting. So too is learning to palliate any feelings of inadequacy and guilt that accompany them, to turn them into something productive instead.
Did you enjoy this excerpt?
How to Be a Calm Parent is part self-help book, part parenting book; aimed at parents who know that they need to be calmer to raise well adjusted, happy children, but who struggle with their own emotions and stress levels.
‘How to be a Calm Parent’ is out now.