How to stay calm as a parent

November 10, 2017 17:35
To help children stay emotionally resilient and strong, parents should lead by example. Representative image: Reuters

Being a parent can be an emotional roller coaster ride - from euphoric feelings of love when your child runs up to you and says "I love you" to hair-pulling frustration when your child chooses to disobey you for the millionth time. Sometimes those two experiences can even happen in quick succession one after the other.

I've seen how parents of children of different ages get frustrated and upset at their children for different things at each life stage. It could be that they are not listening to instructions as toddlers, throwing temper tantrums as kindergarteners, being irresponsible as school students, rebellious as teenagers or even being disrespectful as adult children. Whatever the age or case may be, we can understand how children have the ability to throw us, as parents, into an emotional frenzy.

Being frustrated and upset is normal and are understandable emotions but it's what we do with those emotions that will make all the difference. If we channel that negative emotion out into screaming, shouting, threatening or an angry silence at our children, that's how they will learn to express themselves when they, too, are angry.

I once saw a child misbehave in class; after that his mum shouted at him for being naughty and threatened to not bring him home. I knew she didn't really mean it but by expressing her anger in that way, it hurt her son. 

Parents want to see their children emotionally resilient and strong, and the best way to do that is to lead by example. Which is always the hardest thing to do.

Here are some things that I remind myself so that I can keep calm and do proper parenting:

1) take care of myself
If I’m physically tired, emotionally drained or mentally exhausted, it's much harder for me to stay calm when something bad happens. So as much as we can, as parents, teachers, social workers and people who work with children, we must take care of ourselves so that we can be our best for our children.

2) take a step back
When something frustrating happens, take a step back to calm down before responding. Maybe it’s taking a deep breath or taking a mental break to think about something else. Ultimately, we want to teach our children a lesson, not lash out at them with our negative emotions.

3) speak calmly
Speaking calmly doesn’t negate how upset you are, rather it helps get the message across more clearly to your child and shows your child that by staying calm, he should take responsibility for his actions and not you.

All of the above is easier said than done but that’s true about all things related to parenting. As the title of a popular book on parenting by British nanny Emma Jenner says: 'Keep Calm and Parent On"!

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov 2

Translation by John Chui

[Chinese version 中文版]

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