To paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, you’ll be a Cool Mom, my friend.
Whether you’ve got brawling, bickering siblings or your toddler’s having one of those full-on tantrums that makes all their limbs go rigid, keeping control of your own faculties when the kids go into meltdown is one of the toughest parenting tests we mothers can face. If you’re child is lying face down in a supermarket, screaming, we might feel like doing the same thing ourselves. If they won’t stop squabbling in the back of the car, the temptation to join in the bitching bonanza can be strong. But, deep breaths and calm thoughts:
here’s some tips for keeping your cool when things get heated with the fam.
Don’t raise your voice easier said than done, but if the kids’ voices are getting increasingly high pitched, adding your own ‘stressed voice’ to the fray will only exacerbate the rising tension. Take a deep breath, encourage the kids to do the same, and ask what the problem is.
Try not to resort to bribery or threats Promising kids that you’ll give them X if they stop being a royal pain in the ass is only likely to get them thinking that bad behaviour will pay off in the long run. Likewise, threatening to punish them can smack of desperation. Ask straightforward questions: What’s wrong? How would you like this to play out? And try to get straight answers out of them. If they’re toddlers, think about what might be making them mad – are they hungry? (Hangry is a real thing, folks) tired? Thinking about the underlying reasons behind a meltdown might help you find a solution – quick! Emergency snack!
Ask squabbling kids for ideas on how to resolve the situation Most kids like being treated like grown ups, so asking brawling siblings or friends to discuss what the other person has done ‘wrong’ (in their eyes) and what they would like to do to resolve the situation can be one way of calming down the situation. If they’re old enough, ask them to write down some ideas for restoring the peace
Be a positive role model If your kids regularly see you lose your temper, that’s hardly going to convince them that reasoned debate is the way forward. Think about the way you deal with arguments – whether with your spouse, or in general – do you raise your voice when you get frustrated? If you do, try to tone it down
Talk about situations where you’ve felt mad Story-telling is often a good way to dissipate tension, and if it’s a story that involves you, all the better – you could start with: ‘Did I tell you about the time that I got really mad with X?’ and then tell them what happened – the more dramatic and detailed, the better, and how (hopefully) you managed to kiss and make up in the end
Find Your Zen What makes you feel calm? If the situation allows, get the kids involved. Online yoga classes aimed at littlies (there are some fun free ones at Cosmic Kids can be a good introduction to finding your calm, or even just taking deep, meditative breaths together. You might feel silly, but laughing at the situation can help dissolve tension, too. Going for a walk or jog together is another good opportunity to get out of the bickering rut and spend some time chatting in the fresh air.
Don’t engage. For many kids, negative attention is better than no attention, so don’t let bickering or bad behaviour be a reason to focus all your attention on them. Tell them you won’t speak to them until their voices are at a normal level, and just try your best to carry on what you’re doing while they cry or scream it out, just don’t descend to their level. And try not to worry about what other people think – disparaging looks from other parents can lead to an urge to visibly discipline your child, but just shrug it off – the truly cool mom has zero fucks to give about the judgemental gaze of strangers.
Remember it will blow over Arguments between kids generally blow up out of nowhere and then get resolved just as quickly once they’ve forgotten how much they hate their sibling or playmate. Wading in with your own opinions and taking sides can ramp up the feelings of frustration, so it’s probably best to stay out of it as much as possible.
Practice praise and positive reinforcement Be sure to comment and praise them every time they resolve a heated situation calmly or don’t explode when somebody takes a toy or otherwise annoys them. If they realise that keeping calm can get positive attention while being a giant pain gets them nowhere, chances are that this will pay dividends in the long run.
Hug it out At the risk of sounding like Barney the over-chirpy Purple Dinosaur, a hug can go a long way to solving a situation. If your kid or teen is having a melt down for whatever reason, giving them a big old mom hug, even if they’re screaming that they hate you and the world and didn’t ask to be born, can work wonders.
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