Look, no one actually enjoys yelling at their kids but sometimes things get a little too much. The baby won’t stop crying and your toddler is refusing to put his shoes on – and you’re going to be late. So you lose your cool, just a little bit. We get it.
Keeping your cool
Sharon Turton is a counsellor, psychotherapist and the author of The Art of Peaceful Parenting. She understands the power of peaceful parenting but also understands how hard it can be to put into practice. The good news, though, is that it really does just take a bit of practice.
So with that in mind, here are Sharon’s top tips to help you on the road towards becoming a more peaceful parent:
Listen to Sharon Turton on Feed Play Love:
1. Pause, breathe and reconnect
When you feel the emotional temperature start to rise, the best thing you can do is take a pause and breathe.
“When we are in a situation where we are feeling stressed, overwhelmed or exhausted – as we often are as parents – it’s really important to just take a pause,” says Sharon. “When we can take that little pause, even if it’s just for a few seconds, it creates space between ourselves and the event.
“Taking some good, deep belly breaths really get us in touch with ourselves. It starts to switch off the sympathetic nervous system, which is the stress part of the brain [aka fight or flight response] and switches on what’s called the parasympathetic nervous system, the relaxation part of the brain, [which tells you], ‘Okay, it’s not an emergency.'”
But don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t master this straight away; practice makes perfect.
Sharon suggests taking a few moments throughout your parenting day to pause and breathe. “Start training your body [so that it knows] this is something you can do easily and effortlessly, so when you are in that stressful situation and you really need it, your body gets it.”
2. Acknowledge how you are feeling
Actually acknowledging that you aren’t okay is so much harder than it sounds. But repressing your feelings can have negative consequences for you and those around you.
Sharon says, “When there are big emotions, the energy, for want of a better word, of that emotion is still there. And if we push it down and suppress it, it goes into our body.”
So the next time you’re are in a situation where the same unresolved emotions are triggered, “Wham, up it comes,” says Sharon. “It could be the next day. It could be the next week. It could be decades down the track.”
Another thing that happens when we suppress emotions is that we can start to play the blame game.
“You know, we blame, we shame,” says Sharon. “We do all this because we don’t acknowledge what we’re really feeling. And often underneath our stress, our turmoil, our anger, there can be very deep feelings of hurt or powerlessness.”
3. Don’t be so hard on yourself
Sometimes, instead of blaming others, we blame ourselves and this is why self-compassion is so important.
“We beat ourselves up so much as parents for not being perfect or not being good enough and I think it’s really important to just, again, pause and breathe, and really acknowledge what we are truly feeling deep down,” says Sharon.
“It’s coming back to ourselves and wrapping our own love that we have for our children, that we have for our partner and for our families, and wrapping that deeper love around ourselves. Around our own pain, around our own loneliness and hurt. When we can do this, it’s like a soothing balm that we can offer ourselves.”
Additionally, looking after yourself means you can then give healthily to others.
“It brings us back to a place of neutrality where we’re not being triggered by everything that’s happening and it gives us choice to then connect with our kids and our loved ones the way we choose to; the way we want to.”
4. Be in the moment
This is all well and good until your toddler has a tantrum and you’d rather be anywhere but in that exact moment. So what happens for most of us is that we leave (metaphorically, not physically).
“When something is going on and our child is triggering us and we are feeling really irritated, we are up in our minds. We’re up there saying, ‘Hurry up, get your shoes on’, ‘I told you to clean your room’. We’re not in the moment. We’re out of our bodies, where we’re worrying and not being present with ourselves,” says Sharon.
“When we are in the moment, we’re able to speak from a place that actually sounds truer to our child.”
5. Empathise and see things through your child’s eyes
Empathy and being able to see the world through your child’s eyes is vital for calmer parenting.
“So for a child who is making a Lego tower, they are so in the moment of making that beautiful, amazing Lego tower. And you come in and say it’s time to go. It’s like they’re being ripped out of this beautiful sanctuary of the present moment to go and put their shoes on and do what you wanted them to do. Of course, they’re going to be upset,” says Sharon.
“If we can have empathy and connect with them when they are in that beautiful moment by saying, ‘Wow, that’s an amazing tower. When we come home, we can finish that.’ Connect with them for 10 seconds and then gently bring them out.”
Of course, there will be times when your child displays behaviours that are not okay. But approaching these times with empathy will see a better outcome for everyone – including yourself.
“When we feel empathy for our kids, even if they are doing something that we don’t want them to do … then we are able to forgive – not the behaviour – but we forgive the child,” says Sharon.
“And they get that. They get that they are still loved, still acknowledged, and still special to us, even though the behaviour might not have been. And when we forgive, it releases us from the grips of what we were just in, the anger we just had. And it allows that beautiful connection.”