How To Stay Calm When Your Kids Are Not
Updated: Oct 26, 2022
And how to help your children calm down in the process.
As a parent, your emotional responses to your children’s roller coaster of emotions are critical.
Not only can you help guide them through their emotions better when you are more calm, grounded, and centered, but your responses directly impact your child’s experience.
So remaining calm, or knowing how to self-regulate in moments of irritation, pressure, and even sadness.
Inside this article, I will share with you a few ways for you to stay calm when your kids are not, and how to return to calm whenever you lose it.
As a foundation, I want to ensure you understand your emotional responses' significance.
Why Staying Calm & Centered Matters For Your Kid
There is a saying that we all likely know.
“Monkey see, monkey do.”
Well, it’s true. In the early 1990s, a team of Italian Researchers discovered that when a group of macaque monkeys observed other primates grab a certain object, the neurons in their brain that were responsible for executing that same action fired.
And according to neuroscientists Bryan Kolb and Ian Q. Whishaw in their 6th edition Fundamentals in Neuropsychology, when a baby watches their parent move certain facial muscles, they move the same ones.
When babies hear noises and other sounds around them, they try to make the same sounds. And as we grow up we continue this behavior of modeling others around us.
But this doesn’t just stop at our behaviors, in fact, studies show that when we observe somebody experiencing a certain emotion, we begin activating the same neurons responsible for that emotion too.
So if your child is losing their cool, and you lose yours too, it’ll intensify the irritation your child experiences as well.
On the other hand, if you consciously work to remain calm, your child will have an easier time calming down.
Therefore your ability to regulate your emotions and calm your nerves when necessary is one of the most important skills you can build.
Not only for yourself but for the well-being of your child.
Think back to the moments in your life when you were around adults who were stressed, anxious and irritated. Chances are you felt the same way, right?
Remaining Calm During Chaos Also Teaches A Powerful Skill
Most parents want the best for their children, which means they want them to live happy and fulfilled lives.
One of the most important skills for creating that is knowing how to regulate your thoughts & emotions and process them fully.
Having the ability to regulate yourself during intense moments is a skill, and it’s something you can build yourself and teach to your children.
One of the best ways to teach them is to demonstrate the skill yourself.
Revisiting mirror neurons, our brains learn behaviors by observing and mimicking the behaviors of others.
And it does this much more efficiently than when being “told” what to do.
Your child will build a habit of regulating and calming themselves during high-stress moments.
This doesn't only improve cognitive performance, and sleep quality, and boosts creativity, but according to a study it’s undeniably linked to a longer lifespan because it builds a healthy nervous system.
The benefits of these skills are far and wide, and your child deserves to experience every single one of them.
With that said, I’m sure you can see why this is so important and why I am even taking the time to write this.
So now, “How do you actually do it?”
10 Ways To Remain Calm When Your Kid Is Not
(Or In Any Stressful Situation)
1. Embrace Your Initial Emotional Response
Have you ever got angry at the fact that you got angry at something?
If you know what I mean, you know that it isn’t fun, and being upset or scared of your emotions only intensifies them.
So the first and most important step to remaining calm in a stressful situation (or when your kid is throwing a fit) is to become aware of your initial response, whether anger, fear, or sadness, and embrace it.
“It’s okay that I feel what I’m feeling,” will help you process a feeling until it passes, “I hate this feeling,” or “I hate that I’m feeling this,” will not.
This really isn’t a particular way to do it, rather it’s the first step to really being able to regulate what’s coming up -- because what you’re aware of you can change.
But you need to embrace it in order to process it, you can’t resist it.
2. Self-Regulating Breathing Techniques
I was going to write “focus on your breath” here, which definitely helps, but it doesn’t explain much.
Instead, I want to focus on active breathing techniques that you can implement at the moment to remain or return to calm.
So below I am going to share a variety of different breathing techniques that anybody can implement, including your children.
Box breathing is a wonderful technique that is easy to use, and the effects are quickly felt.
Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Inhale for four seconds
Step 2: Hold for four seconds
Step 3: Exhale for four seconds
Step 4: Hold for four seconds
And then repeat this for a few cycles, I recommend 10 cycles to really bring yourself into a calm state.
The best part about this one is that you can do it when you are actively engaging in activities, like trying to attend to your upset child.
Here is a visual to help you remember how to implement this technique.
The 4-7-8 Technique:
This technique is a great technique that works and it’s simple to remember.
How to do it:
Step 1: Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth gently.
Step 2: With parted lips, exhale fully through your mouth while making a “swoosh” sound.
Step 3: Close your lips and begin quietly inhaling through your nostrils for four seconds.
Step 4: Hold your breath for 7-seconds.
Step 5: Exhale for 8-seconds while making another swoosh sound.
I recommend you find a comfortable place to sit upright to avoid falling asleep, unless, of course, you are looking to fall asleep or take a short nap, then laying down will be better for you. Here is a wonderful guided video to practice with.
The Mind-Shift Breathing Method:
One of my favorites on the list, Mind-Shift breathing, which I view as a great mindset reset, is extremely effective and soothing.
It’s by far the simplest to remember and easiest to use, one you can always keep in your back pocket for when you need it, especially when your children are upset.
Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Inhale through your nose fully until you feel you can’t anymore.
Step 2: Pause at the top for a few seconds and then take a few more small inhales.
Step 3: Fully exhale.
Repeat for five to ten rounds for the best results.
Step 1: Pause and pay attention to your current breathing pattern for a few breaths.
Step 2: Slowly count to four as you inhale through your nose.
Step 3: Exhale for the same four-second count.
Step 4: Pay attention to the sensations of fullness and emptiness in your lungs as you breathe.
You can also inhale and exhale for longer than four seconds, the key is to keep your inhale and exhale at the same duration.
Heart breathing is a process of conscious breathing designed to reduce the intensity of a stress reaction and establish a calm, but alert state.
It was developed and brought to awareness by Heartmath.
As they write in this article,
“Heart-focused breathing is about directing your attention to the heart area and breathing a little more deeply than normal.
As you breathe in, imagine you are doing so through your heart, and, as you breathe out, imagine it is through your heart.”
It has many benefits and is a great practice anybody can do whenever you feel your stress buttons being pushed, but regularly even when you are feeling great.
It's super simple and your child will be able to pick right up on it.
Here’s a short two-minute video breaking down how to do it.
Alternate Nostril Breathing:
A yoga-inspired breathing technique, alternate nostril breathing is very useful for calming the nervous system and relaxing you while being super simple to remember.
Here’s how to do it:
Step 1. Put your right hand in the Vishnu mudra position by bending your pointer and middle fingers towards your palm, leaving only your ring finger, pinky and thumb extended.
It looks like this:
Step 2: Bring your hand up to your face and close off your right nostril with your thumb.
Step 3: With your thumb covering your right nostril, close your eyes or gaze downward and exhale slowly and fully through your left nostril. Step 4: After fully exhaling, release your right nostril and put your ring finger on your left nostril.
Step 5: Begin inhaling deeply and slowly through your right nostril.
Step 6: Release your left nostril, place your thumb over your right nostril again, breathe in fully, and then exhale through your left nostril.
Repeat this process for 3 rounds minimum, more if needed.
The entire time you alternate nostrils like this:
Another great technique I love is the roll breathing technique, which you can do easily sitting or standing up, although I recommend when you are learning it to lay down to familiarize yourself with the rhythm.
Here’s how to do it:
Diaphragmatic Or “Belly” Breathing:
When you’re stressed or irritated in some way, you are likely doing what we call, “chest breathing,” meaning you are taking shallow breaths.
Chest breathing turns on the sympathetic nervous system response, or your “fight or flight” mode, which is the exact mode we are working to not fall into with these techniques.
So belly breathing is great because it turns on your parasympathetic response, one that is conducive to well-being.
Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Either sitting up, standing up, or laying down, start by placing one hand on your stomach.
Step 2: Inhale through your nose, breathe from the stomach, making sure you feel it rising.
Step 3: Exhale through pursed lips, focusing on the stomach lowering.
Step 4: Repeat five cycles minimum, more if needed. 3. Using Skin To Come Back To Body
This can be a wonderful tool for returning to calm if you find yourself frazzled in the midst of a frazzled child.
You can teach your child this as well while doing it together.
It’s super simple.
All you have to do is touch the exposed parts of your body when you are feeling irritated or unbalanced.
This gets you “out of your head” and into your body, grounding you and making you more present.
You can do this by touching your hands, wrists, arms, ankles, legs, face, neck, and whatever else you can.
You can also pay attention to the sensations of the clothes on your skin, hair on your body, and temperature or wind on your skin
This will help you and your children feel their way back to a coherent state, especially when combined with deep belly breathing.
4. Calming Visualization Practices
Have you ever seen a photo or picture that stirred up a strong emotional response?
That’s because we are symbolic human beings by nature and our minds respond to images.
Images create emotional experiences, and you can use that to your advantage by creating what I call, a “mental haven.”
Here’s how to do it:
Visualize yourself walking into an environment that makes you feel safe.
This may be you walking into a nice green field with pillow-like grass and butterflies, flowers, and rainbows with a nice stream of water nearby.
Or maybe you visualize yourself sitting in a nice “Meditation room” with a calming environment and artwork.
Another good visual exercise is imagining steam coming out of the top of your head, releasing pressure.
One more that is worth sharing is visualizing your feelings as people or pets that you love, so when the feelings come you approach them with grace and acceptance.
Merely thinking of the people that make you feel safe is more than sufficient.
5. Hugging Yourself
Another way to calm yourself down is by hugging yourself.
According to an article written by MedicineNet, giving and receiving hugs instantly boosts oxytocin levels, helps the body fight infections, relieves blood pressure, lowers cortisol improves immunity, and overall promotes good health.
Hugging yourself is a great way to give and receive hugs and it has the same effects.
We thrive when we feel connected and safe, hugging ourselves more often will create that feeling of connection and safety that can calm the nervous system down.
You can also grab or squeeze different parts of your body slightly, helping you ground yourself.
6. Challenge Your Thoughts
Remember, we tend to feel how we think, meaning if you think stressful thoughts then you will create feelings of stress. So taking the time to become aware of what you are thinking and challenging yourself to change them is an important factor in calming yourself down if you feel irritated. A lot of the time, these thoughts that we think during these moments of irritation are irrational and not true.
For example, you may find yourself thinking,
“My kid is acting up because she knows it upsets me.”
Although it may feel true, it’s likely that your daughter is just being a kid and having an emotional moment.
Ask yourself questions like these when challenging your thoughts.
“Is this true? What are the facts of the situation?”
“Is this a rational thought?”
“What’s the worst that can happen?”
“What if I assumed this wasn’t true, how would I feel instead?”
Use your rational mind to see things clearly and as they are as opposed to making up an entire story about what is going on.
7. Think Of A Funny Memory
Have you ever been on a plane and heard the captain come on the speaker to crack a few dad-style jokes?
It’s not for no reason, rather they are doing it to calm your nerves down because that is exactly what laughing does, it calms down the nerves.
Thinking of a funny memory, aside from making a joke, is one of the fastest ways to trigger true and genuine laughter.
Not only does this relieve stress greatly by releasing dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins while lowering cortisol levels, but according to an article published by The Mayo Clinic, it has a wide range of long-term health benefits.
Again, just think of a time that made you laugh, and making jokes can be effective too. The goal here is to create a genuine laugh.
8. Count Slowly To 10
Believe it or not, counting is a great way to relieve stress and calm down. The reason is that when we’re stressed we’re likely absorbed in the racing thoughts going on in our head, and counting centers our thoughts and hones our focus.
This naturally quiets down the nose in your head, anchoring you more into the present moment, which is proven to calm your nerves down.
9. Just Walk Away
As I’m sure you can imagine from experience, walking away is a great way to remain calm when your kid is crying, yelling, kicking, or screaming.
This is especially helpful whenever you are really angry or irritated in some way.
Instead of being reactive and saying or doing something that worsens the situation or that you later regret, walking away has more benefits.
This “pause before reacting” way of responding shows your child how to do the same, which helps them make better decisions when they are upset.
Walking away allows you to center yourself while also allowing your child to feel their feelings and let them go.
10. Quietly Chant “Om”
“Om” chanting is a powerful method for calming yourself down in high-stress situations because the sound creates a frequency that soothes the entire mind and body.
Multiple studies show that health heals the heart, improves blood pressure, and reduces activity in the limbic system, the part of your brain associated with stress and anxiety.
The vibration of this sound is considered sacred for many reasons, and you can use this powerful sound to calm yourself or refrain from having strong emotional reactions in the first place.
It comes with three sounds, “Aaaa,” “Uuuu,” and “Mmm,” creating the “Aum” sound that we know.
The best part about this is that you don’t need to close your eyes, change your position, or anything, all you have to do is begin chanting.
A Few Important Things To Keep In Mind
As I close this out, I want to cover a few important things for you to keep in mind that will help you remain calm while your children are not.
1. Take The Pressure Off Yourself To “Fix” Your Child’s Feelings
One thing that adds to a lot of stress is feeling like you have to “fix” everything for your child
First off, there is nothing wrong with your children, nothing broken, so there is no need to try and “fix” anything.
Secondly, your child’s emotions are important for them to learn from.
Your job is not to stop the tantrum.
2. Remind Yourself That Tantrums Are Healthy For Kids
Again, you may feel like there is something that is “wrong” with your child while they are having tantrums, making you feel even worse about the situation.
There is nothing “wrong” with tantrums, they just are. And for young children, it can be healthy because it allows them to let off some steam and express their emotions.
Holding emotions in isn’t healthy, but letting them out is. Are tantrums the best way to let them out? Probably not, but for kids, it’s a way for them to handle big emotions.
Remember, feelings are normal.
3. Choose To Speak Less
As you know, at the time of the writing I do not have kids of my own, but I’ve spent plenty of time around children.
Enough time to know that trying to speak over a kid while they are throwing a tantrum and having a fit is extremely difficult and does little to better the situation for anybody.
Instead, keeping quiet and choosing to speak less while your child is having a tantrum can help them calm down, and you can speak when they have calmed down, which they eventually will.
Keeping calm while your child is throwing a fit, a tantrum, or is irritated is important for your own personal health and your child’s well-being.
It also aids in healthy development as your child ages, helping them fully process feelings at the moment and learn how to healthily cope with their emotions by learning from you.
It all comes down to self-regulation and the ability to calm your own nerves down, which is a function of emotional intelligence.
Also, take care of your physical health, it can help make all of this easier.
If you want help teaching your child how to regulate their emotions so they have less tantrums and are happier overall, click here to see how we partner with parents to do that.