We flew into the Richmond Airport after visiting my family in Oklahoma for a family reunion. It was a full day of packing and traveling with our four rambunctious children and we arrived in Richmond, VA at 1 AM. You saw that right, 1 in the morning with all four kids still wide awake (no one slept on either of our flights or layovers).
As we were waiting at baggage claim for our luggage a young mom from our flight came up to me. I was slightly worried she was going to comment about my children running amuck.
She looked hesitant but then asked, “I noticed you guys back in Atlanta (at our layover before getting to Richmond), and I noticed your kids and I just wanted to know… (here it comes) How do you stay so calm and collected with your children???”
I was a little surprised. But not surprised that she asked that question, I was surprised because I’ve had multiple moms with young kids ask me the exact same question. (“What’s your secret to staying so calm with them?” “You just seem so chill and relaxed with your kids, how do you do that?”)
I’ll let you all in on a little secret: I don’t.
If these moms could have seen me this morning when I blew up on my 6 year old for hitting his sister (nothing triggers me more than my kids hurting each other), if only they saw me as I attempted to get my oldest away from the bathroom sink last night because she wasn’t heading to her room to put on her pajamas, then they would recognize that I’m not ALWAYS calm, cool, and collected.
This exhausted mom, who did look tired at 1 am waiting for luggage, continued to share, “We have a 5 year old who’s diagnosed with ADD and we try to remember they are just kids but we just get so mad and blow up on him, then we feel guilty, then we overcompensate…” I stood there nodding because I get it, I understand that cycle all too well. “Then we saw how you two were handling your kids and we thought, ‘Maybe the problem isn’t with our kids, maybe the problem is with us??’”
Oh mama, I feel you! In the moment I wasn’t prepared to give some secret formula for remaining calm and collected because truth be told there has been a lot of work on our end as we strive to NOT blow up on our kids. So in the moment I told her I understood, that we’ve blown up on our kids also. I let her know we try to remember they are only 5 or 6 or 8 and have big emotions.
But in reality, that isn’t all of it, and as we were driving home I talked to my husband about this conversation with this Momma and I knew I needed better, concrete advice to give the next time a Mom comes up and asks “How do you stay so calm?”.
So this is what I WISH I had told her in the moment:
1. I wish I talked about LOVE.
This has been on my mind more recently but showing love to our children ESPECIALLY during their crazy antics or meltdowns. How can I love them more? How can I show them love during their tantrum? Do they need a hug or do they need me to sit and wait while they are letting out their big emotions? Do they need comfort? Do they need to be in a place away from everyone else? See them with love. I’ve constantly been reminding myself recently during my kids shouting and big emotions, “I love them, how can I show them love? What’s really making them act this way?” And I move forward from there.
2. Don’t sweat the little things.
As long as my child is safe and not hurting themselves or others, I don’t worry about it. I’m serious. My kids are running around the poles at the airport gate, I let them. My kids are racing each other in the aisle of Walmart, so be it. They are being kids. You may have a judgey person tell you to “control them better”, but most often I have only been praised by “how energetic” and “Fun” and “You’re going to miss these days”. Seriously. Don’t sweat it when kids are being kids.
3. Don’t do things with your children if it makes your skin crawl with anger.
If you HATE that your children throw straws at each while in a restaurant, save yourself the hassle and don’t eat out, or better yet get take-out! Then they can throw straws in the comfort of your own home. Hire a babysitter and go out just you and your significant other if you love fancy restaurants!
If you hate taking kids to the grocery store because you get mad as they race and hide from you, then schedule it for a time that they are being watched (by a significant other or daycare). Or better yet, do grocery pick-up then you and your rambunctious children don’t even need to leave the car!
4. Apologize to your children.
When you blow up on your kids or make a mistake in disciplining them, apologize to them. Let them know you were in the wrong (actually say the words, "I was wrong") and ask for their forgiveness. Then try to do and be better next time.
5. Tag Team.
If you are married or have a significant other then this is a life-saver! When either myself or my husband has reached our breaking point after taking care of 1 child, or 2 or 4. We go to the other parent and say, “I’m reaching my breaking point, I can’t anymore.” At which point the other parent takes over, usually with a cheerful disposition, and our kids are none the wiser. The constant, “Mom, mom, mom!” then becomes, “Dad, dad, dad!” The other parent takes over and the breaking point parent cools off alone, and comes back feeling more in control of their own emotions and ready to help again.
6. It’s something I’m constantly working on...
...and has taken YEARS (8 and 1/2 years, to be exact), of rethinking discipline, stopping myself BEFORE I immediately react (with anger), and reading quality parenting books, because guess what??? Being a parent did NOT come naturally to me! I never liked kids until I had my own children, but even then I didn’t know how to help them through meltdowns, anger, sadness, rage, excitement, or when they CONSTANTLY ask me the same thing over and over and over (and forever).
7. Lastly, you are doing better than you think.
The fact that you WANT to be a better parent, be able to help your kids through their emotions (while controlling your own emotions), means you are already doing better than you think you are!
How I wish I got this Momma’s number and info so I could hang out with her more and talk to her more. But again, it was 1 AM, our bags were already retrieved and hers were too but I gave her a hug and let her know, as I want all you parents to know, “You’ve got this”!
Some Helpful Resources for Parents:
Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne with Lisa M. Ross
Keep It Simple. There is power in less. This book can help you as you strive to simplify your life, and your family life as well as giving great advice on interacting with your children!
Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids
Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham helps teach emotional connection with your children. Really connecting with hem before disciplining them. Super great for different approaches to discipline!