January is always a time of new beginning and as well as a time of reflection for me. I’ve seen the New Year’s Resolution memes that say “I don’t do resolutions. I’m just going to keep being awesome.” While that is true—you ARE undoubtedly awesome, I also see the value in making life better. One of the things I’m always working on, and will continue to work on in 2017, is the problem I have with anger. I’ve come up with some concrete ways to help me be a calmer, more peaceful parent this year. I’ll share them in case they might be able to help someone else as well.
Before I became a mom, I never thought I would be a yelling, angry parent. Even after I had my first child, I thought I would be able to be the soft and gentle parent I always wished I had. When she was a toddler, and I was expecting my second, I used to hear how other parents with older kids would seemingly be constantly exasperated and speaking harshly to their little ones. I would think to myself, ”I am never going to be like that.”
Fast forward several years and several kids and I find myself surrounded by kid created chaos and multiple messes, never ending noise, sibling strife, and hundreds of household chores, and I am raising my voice nearly every day in frustration and sometimes screaming and snarling. I am talking to my loved little lambs in an exasperated tone and sighing and rolling my eyes and feeling and being snappy. I hear my older girls speak to each other and my little ones in the same harsh way I’ve spoken to them and it breaks my heart. I wanted, and still want, change.
I’ve read tons of books and articles and implemented many new strategies in the past few years in an attempt to make lasting change in the lives of the ones I love the best. In this age of information overload, there is no shortage of ideas that come up when you google “peaceful parenting” or “how to be a calmer parent”. Most of them make suggestions like “Make time for you. Go get a manicure or spend time with friends without your children.” I agree that “mom time” is important and it’s valuable to get away from your kids for a break, but I needed quick and easy coping techniques that would help immediately in that tense moment before I explode.
I’ve found cleaning to be therapeutic. Especially if I can do something that lasts longer than clean counters or dishes, like steam cleaning a corner of my linoleum or organizing the game shelf helps me de-stress. If I can step into the laundry room and fold a load of laundry, I find myself growing more zen with each matched pair of socks. It’s a short break, I’ve done something productive, and have something to show for it.
2-Go To Your Room
I love my bedroom. I try to keep kid stuff out of it, which is hard, especially since my four year old prefers to sleep in our closet, my one year old is in the crib next to our bed, and often one of the elementary schoolers finishes up the night in the chair in our room. I try to keep it tidy so it can be a retreat from the chaos. When I’m feeling tense, I sometimes climb under the covers and just rest for a few minutes. Or I’ll sit in the chair and stare out the window for a while. It’s important to have some space from my kids and I can do that in my room.
Often the last thing I want to do is smile or make a joke when I’m feeling tense, but it’s amazing how much it releases the tension if I can do it. One of our favorite YouTubers are Rhett and Link (Good Mythical Morning). In one of their videos, called “The Puzzle”, they have a silly rhyme about calming down when they’re feeling angry. Now “peaceful pet raccoon” has become a catchphrase that never fails to make me laugh. I might look at funny videos or autocorrect fails on my phone until I finally can crack a smile. Just making mad and pouty faces at my 18 month old makes her laugh, and then I can’t help but laugh. Then I can be silly with the kids too and we can do a little roughhousing or dancing to defuse the tension. I can calm down and think again, and stop parenting with force, once I’ve had a good laugh.
Exercise, of course, is one of the outlets every article suggests. I don’t always have time for a complete workout every day, even though I know how much it helps me to not be yell-y. Instead I might go down to get the mail. Just getting outside, smelling some fresh air, hearing the wind, seeing the sky and moving my feet helps me to reset. Figure out a way to put your child in a safe place and run away for a few minutes. Your mailbox might not be as far away as mine is, but you could just go out to the curb or into your backyard. Move your body and change your scenery.
This too is mentioned in almost every other article, but it’s true how a few deep calming breaths can help you feel like a “heavily sedated butterfly.” (reference Rhett and Link, “The Puzzle”)
For me, this has an amazing effect of relaxation. I get out of my groove of anger and ticked-off-ness and get on the track of being a calm mama once again. It doesn’t have to be anything big or take very long. Some quick bits of creativity I like to do are color with my Prismacolors in an adult coloring book, practice fancy lettering with markers, work on my planner by decorating it with stickers and doodles, or draw a Zentangle on an index card. None of these require real artistic talent, I can copy someone else’s design straight from the internet. Baking or piano playing helps my 12 year old in the same way. My husband is currently building a chicken castle and working on it makes him feel calmer and more collected as well. We all are created to create and you need to find the thing that brings you joy and helps you feel good.
7-Know You’re Normal
Since I do so much reading on this topic, I have found that articles abound. It seems like every mom struggles with anger. It seems like every mom feels irrational. It seems like every mom feels like she’s a bad mom because she isn’t parenting perfectly. If so many moms are feeling this same way, then we’re all average, all normal. We are all struggling. Let me tell you something, beloved sister, you’re normal. YOU ARE a good mom. I have found it helps me if I literally say out loud to myself affirmations like, “I am calm.” “I can handle anything today throws at me.” “Even though I’m struggling right now, I am normal.”
One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to continue to parent with intentionality. For me, that means figuring out concrete, immediate ways to diffuse the irritation and frustration that is so common with modern parenting. Remembering to implement these trouble shooting tools will help me, and hopefully you, to do that!