How To Keep Your Cool (Even When Your Kids Are Losing It)


How do you do it?

Keep yourself cool under pressure, I mean.

Particularly at the end of the day when you're just as tired and grumpy as the kids.

Only you have more to do. Dinner to prepare, bags to unpack and repack, kids to get to bed ....

And all you really want is to sit down for a few minutes. Preferably with a little peace and quiet.

But what really happens is that you get stuck into all the things that need doing.

While your kids fight, or keep interrupting you, or generally get under foot.

No wonder you lose it from time to time. That's a pressure cooker situation.

And it happens nearly every single night!

All too often the kids lose it too, which makes it really, really challenging.

So, how do you keep cool?

Well, I don't have all the answers but I'll tell you what happened in our house this week.


Behind The Scenes At Our House

We had some visitors from overseas (hello Canada!), so we went out to dinner on both Tuesday and Wednesday evening.

This meant that the kids went to bed late both those nights.

On Thursday, we came home and started doing homework and my younger daughter lost it. She had a full-on tantrum.

She saw her sister with an eraser and started yelling.

She screamed about how the eraser was HERS and her sister was NOT to use it and should GIVE IT BACK RIGHT NOW!

I was a little tired and cranky myself, so I was very tempted to have a tantrum myself. Or at least, yell.

I wanted to tell her to stop carrying on and just pull herself together.

But then I remembered that we've been focusing on choices recently. And Choices 101 is about how you give your kids control over the little things.

Like do you want water or juice? Do you want tap water or fridge water? Do you want that in a cup or a glass?

The idea is to give them as much control as possible over the little things, so they're less inclined to argue over the bigger things.

Choices 201 is about using choices strategically. Like, if your kids don't like vegetables, you give them choices.

Do you want carrots or beans? Do you want corn or peas? So they have a choice, but each choice includes a vegetable :-)

Or if they're going out and it's cold, but you don't want to argue about a jacket you can say, "Do you want to wear your jacket or carry it?"

The idea with Choices 201 is still to give control but to ensure that you are happy with whichever choice the kids make. They get a choice, but you still have control!

Responding To A Tantrum

So, back to my screaming 8-year-old daughter. Instead of yelling I bit my tongue.

I looked at her and said, "Honey, you can work out how to share the eraser, or you can give it to me."

Her: "That's not fair, it's mine. She just has to give it back to me. RIGHT. NOW. She's a THIEF!"

I waited a moment, then said: "Looks like you've chosen for me to have the eraser." And I pocketed the item.

Her: "It's mine! She's a thief! I want it back NOW!! Waaaaa."

Me: "That noise hurts my ears. You can choose to stay here and calm down, or you can choose to make that noise in your room."

She continues to scream and yell.

Me: "Looks like you've made your choice."

More yelling.

Me: "You can choose to go to your room with your feet touching the floor, or with your feet not touching the floor."

More yelling.

Me: "Looks like you've made your choice." I wrap her in a big bear hug, lift her up, and start walking. After a couple of paces, she wriggles and says "I can walk by myself!"

Me: "Ok. You're welcome back here when you've calmed down."

Ditch The Guilt

Was I mean? Well, maybe that depends on your perspective, but I don’t think so. I spoke to her calmly, gently and lovingly.

She didn't get into trouble. I didn't yell or tell her off.

I knew she was tired and irritable, but we all were. And my rule is that the family room is for family.

The kids know that the room is for shared time, where we all get along.

If anyone is out of sorts, they need to remove themselves until they can get on with others again.

So I don't think I was mean at all.

I kept my cool and spoke kindly. And I worked out that we can use choices to stay calm under pressure.

When the going gets tough, breaking the situation down into choices is a great process to follow.

It makes it simple and manageable. And the best part? No guilt!

Forfeit Frazzled For Fabulous

So the next time you're feeling a little frazzled, start making choices.

You can choose to get sucked into the drama, or you can stay calm and give your kids choices.

With your help, they'll choose how to deal with the situation.

They’ll choose how to express their emotions.

And they'll choose the solution they want.

Meanwhile, you’ll stay cool under pressure.

So everyone will have a better day.

It really is as simple as that.

All you have to do is choose.

Don't forget ...

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Cate is on a mission to help parents stop yelling and create families that listen to each other. She does this while imperfectly parenting two boisterous girls of her own, and learning from her mistakes. She has contributed to Tiny Buddha, Think Simple Now, A Fine Parent and many other awesome sites.