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All parents have moments when they want to rip their hair out, throw in the towel and run away, so what's the secret behind calm parenting?
Truth be told, most parents yell at their kids. A 2003 study published in The Journal of Marriage and Family revealed that 88 percent of the families studied admitted to shouting, screaming or yelling at their kids at least once in the previous year. Susan Stiffelman, a licensed marriage, child and family therapist, and author of Parenting Without Power Struggles, says, "I've worked with thousands of wonderful parents, and it's rare that I find one who doesn't occasionally lose their cool and say or do things they later regret. Parenting is hard work. Yes, it's rewarding, and yes, we love our kids, but it's an exhausting series of endless tasks, often with little acknowledgment or appreciation. It's natural to fall apart at times and behave in ways we wish we hadn't."
Nothing can prepare you for the challenges ahead, but there are ways to calm yourself before exploding. Here are 10 tips to channel your inner Buddha.
- Take your own time-out. You're the one doling out time-outs, so give yourself one. This doesn't mean you have to sit in the time-out chair, but take a break for a few minutes. Walk into another room, and get some distance from the situation.
- Breathe. You've heard it time and again that when stress starts to build, take a deep breath. Studies have shown that there are many benefits to breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, very slowly. So when you need to fight that frazzled feeling, take some deep breaths to stay cool in the heat of the moment.
- Pretend you're in public. Imagine yourself in a grocery store or at the local library. Chances are you'd act differently disciplining your troublemaker in a public place than you would in the comfort of your home. When we feel we have an audience and other people are watching us, we're likely to restrain ourselves.
- Pretend it's your friend's kid. As parents, we're very comfortable around our own kids and often let down that extra barrier. If that's the case, pretend that the temper tantrum is coming from your friend's kid. You'll probably find yourself calmer, have a smaller chance of resorting to yelling, and be able to speak to him more objectively.
- Meditate. If you're trying to channel your inner Buddha, what better way than to meditate? Set aside some time during the day in a quiet, relaxing environment. This can be difficult with kids, so plan it early in the morning or at night when the kids are asleep. Just five minutes will suffice. Relax, concentrate on the flow of your breath and focus on just one thing at a time. Either recite a mantra close to your heart or visualize a calming place. With practice, you'll be able to train your mind to focus on nothing at all, and you'll achieve that inner peace and quiet you long for.
- Exercise. Getting your daily sweat on is a great trick to not only get toned abs, but also to help you release aggression. Exercise boosts your mood, helps de-stress and can help you tackle life's more stressful situations. Not into hitting the gym? Take a kickboxing or yoga class, go for a swim or play your favorite sport to help you release tension.
- Challenge your beliefs. "If you're coming apart at the seams over something your child is doing, ask yourself this, 'What am I making this mean?'" says Stiffelman. "More often than not, we're concocting a story in our head about our child's behavior that escalates our blood pressure and heightens the tension. If your child is having a meltdown over homework, are you telling yourself that he's never going to graduate? Or perhaps you're taking it personally: 'He does his work just fine for his dad!' Or maybe you're believing that the teacher is going to think you're a lousy parent because by the end of the tantrum, his work is smeared with tears. Take a look at what thoughts and beliefs are behind you losing your cool, and challenge them to see if they're true. They usually aren't."
- Call a friend. Yes, one of your options is to phone a friend. If you find yourself about to flip out, call a friend or family member. Explaining your feelings and frustration can help you ease your mind and hearing a friendly voice can make you feel happy. So instead of clenching your jaw, use it to get something off your chest and vent.
- Distract yourself. When you feel like you're going to lose your cool, squeeze a stress ball, clench your fists and escape the situation. Most of us are so busy taking care of the kids, we often forget about taking time for ourselves, and this can eventually lead to a blowup when we need to release that steam. Be selfish. Do an activity you like to do, whether it's taking a bath, reading a book or listening to music. And most importantly, don't feel guilty about it. When we take care of ourselves, we often take better care of others, so remind yourself that reconnecting with your inner self will lead you on the path to calm parenting.
- Prepare. With kids, you know things will go wrong. If you're prepared for those little mishaps, however, it will keep you from flying off the handle. Pack a bag with some essentials: tissues, baby wipes, bandages and an extra set of clothes. Being proactive and ready to tackle some of life's mishaps will help you react better in tense situations.
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