Finding a way to deal with the mommy stress and remain calm is a good thing. The first step in our strategy, I believe, is to make an intentional choice to stay calm--no matter what we encounter. Yet translating that intention into reality is not as easy as it sounds.
Once we've purposed to remain calm, the next step is to recognize when we're heading for the "danger zone:" that place where we're starting to lose our ability to stay calm. Upon realizing we're moving out of calm waters, we can do what we need to in order to keep our cool.
For me, I liken my anger to a volcano. The lava can simmer under the surface for awhile (danger zone 1), then there's a little steam coming out (danger zone 2--flee immediately), and then the volcano erupts. I can tolerate crying, whining, and fighting--for a little while. I can patiently discipline for disobedience, for a while. It's easier for me to stay calm with one out-of-control child. But when those actions and attitudes continue all day, or when all three of my boys are out-of-control, it is much, much harder to remain calm. The volcano erupts. Then I'm not scolding for the immediate behavior at the moment, but for things that happened an hour ago, two hours ago, six hours ago, yesterday...you get the point. It's not good, and the kids feel lambasted by my angry outburst over the collection of their misdeeds.
Here are some other warning signs we're about to lose it:
- Tight muscles
- Speaking faster
- Face feels flushed
- Grind or clench teeth
- Heart pounds
- Lips quiver when you speak
- Tremble or shake
So what's a mom to do?
The educators at the Boys and Girls Town once came to our town to teach a parenting class called "Caring Skills for Christian Families". While their strategies work well to turn around troubled youth, they're also great for parents to employ in proactive or corrective teaching.
Here are a few of their suggestions.
- Develop a plan for staying calm by combining your child's problem behavior, your early warning signals, and a way to stay calm that works for you. For example: "The next time Johnny talks back to me and refuses to go to bed (child's problem behaviors), and I start feeling my heart pounding (my warning signal), I will take a deep breath and let it out slowly before I correct him (what I will do to stay calm).
- "Take five." Instead of blurting out an angry response, take a break of five minutes for yourself. Simply leaving the situation for a bit can help to "defuse" a volatile situation. (The only problem with this, for me, is that children throwing tantrums usually follow me wherever I go, and I can't get the break I need when kids are crying and banging on the bathroom door).
- Focus on the behavior instead of what you think are the reasons for the misbehavior. Deal with the way your child is acting. After the child is calm, then take the time to talk about what happened and why.
- Count to ten, very slowly.
- If you tend to wave your hands about when angry, intentionally put your hands in your pockets. This is less threatening to a child.
- Inhale and exhale deeply. It gets more oxygen to your brain, and you can think more clearly.
- Try sitting down.
- One parent suggests wearing a rubber band on the wrist and snapping it when one feels like she's getting angry. For her, it's a signal to calm down.
- I would add, pray. Remember, "The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" (Phillipians 4:7).
- Temper tantrums or problem behaviors stopped sooner.
- The child's behavior id not last as long and was not as severe.
- The parent felt better about the way about the way he or she handled the situation.
What strategies have you found to stay calm? What are your biggest triggers that threaten you to lose that calmness?