Your Kids are Intense; You are Not: The Parenting Guide to Staying Calm
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Kids are Intense, emotional, immediate, and extreme! That’s actually how they are supposed to be. It’s part of their natural wiring. Did you know the human brain is the only organ not fully developed by birth? It isn’t fully developed until around the age of 26. So, why is it that we don’t take things personally when a baby is having big emotions, but we do when a 3, 4, 5, 10, 15, or 18-year-old does?
Your child, tween, or teen will have big feelings because they are speaking the language of needs + feelings = behavior with their brain still developing.
We, as parents, often feel the natural impulse to act intensely in return. They yell you yell. They scream, you scream.
What if you work to match your child’s intensity with calmness instead? What if you try to balance your child’s intense expression with your calm and collected demeanor? When they are level 6, you are at level 3. When they are at level 9, you go down to level 2.
Yes, it’s challenging… very challenging to stay calm when your child is storming. It may be the most challenging part of parenting. Complicated doesn’t mean impossible, though. Growth is achieved through pause, reflection, patience, determination, and much practice. Looking just at their behavior (storm), judging it, taking it personally, and reacting from it will only cause you to storm alongside them, resulting in disconnection instead of cooperation. You can say NO to the behavior and YES to the feelings.
Different levels of intensity and corresponding reactions for parents and children:
This chart can help parents understand how to respond appropriately to their child’s behavior based on the level of intensity they are displaying. By matching the child’s intensity with a calm and collected demeanor, parents can create a sense of safety and security for their child, while also maintaining control of their own emotions.
Is it always possible to stay calm?
No, it’s not and that is why “always” is not your goal. Trying your best again and again is your goal. Does staying calm mean you have no rules or boundaries?
It means you remain in control of YOUR own emotions as you guide and care for your child.
How do we accomplish this?
- Working to understand your triggers (the true underlying triggers, not the surface ones). This requires you to pause and self-reflect.
- Working to actively understand your emotions. How often do we go through the day not even knowing how we’re feeling in a given moment?
- Having an action plan (tools!) for how we will help ourselves when we are triggered.
- Knowing that no one is perfect, trying your best, being willing to try again and grow, showing yourself patience, learning from missteps.
“How to Stay Calm” Guide for Parents
- Take a deep breath: When you feel your stress levels rising, take a deep breath and count to 10. This can help to calm your body and mind and reduce your feelings of anxiety or frustration.
- Get silly: Sometimes, the best way to diffuse a tense situation is to get a little silly. Make a funny face or break out into a silly dance to make your child laugh and lighten the mood.
- Practice self-care: Taking care of yourself is essential for managing stress and staying calm. Make time for exercise, meditation, or other self-care activities that help you feel relaxed and centered.
- Use positive self-talk: Instead of getting caught up in negative thoughts or self-criticism, practice positive self-talk. Remind yourself that you are doing the best you can and that it’s okay to make mistakes.
- Seek support: Parenting can be challenging, and it’s important to have a support system in place. Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist to help you manage your stress and stay calm.
- Find humor: Laughter is a great way to reduce stress and stay calm. Look for the humor in everyday situations and don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.
- Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment and paying attention to your thoughts and feelings without judgment. Try practicing mindfulness exercises such as deep breathing or body scans to help you stay calm and centered.
Remember, staying calm as a parent is a skill that takes practice. Be patient with yourself, and don’t be afraid to seek support when you need it. By using these tips and techniques, you can learn to stay calm in even the most challenging situations.
Parenting doesn’t have to be so overwhelming, there are ways to find more peace and cooperation in your home, so that you can have more joyful moments with your children and less frustrating ones. Here’s what I know to be true: we have the choice to create the future we want for our children. As a parent coach: I have the opportunity to guide parenting partners to learn how to sort through old parenting tools and add some new ones. When the leaders in the family have the opportunity to grow, the children they are modeling for do as well.
Parenting is a journey that we all navigate together, and I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences on managing your child’s big emotions. What tips or strategies have worked for you? Have you ever had a moment when you lost your cool as a parent? How did you handle it? Please share your thoughts and insights in the comments below, and let’s continue this conversation!
Dr. Laura Markham. (2022). The Peaceful Parent’s Workbook: A Practical Guide for Creating a Calm and Happy Home. Perigee.
Dr. Tina Payne Bryson and Dr. Daniel J. Siegel. (2022). The Power of Showing Up for Your Child: How to Use the Four-S Is to Make Your Child Feel Seen, Safe, Soothed, and Secure. Ballantine Books.
Dr. Shefali Tsabary. (2021). A Radical Awakening: Turn Pain into Power, Embrace Your Truth, Live Free. HarperOne.
Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson. (2021). The Power of Showing Up: How Parental Presence Shapes Who Our Kids Become and How Their Brains Get Wired. Ballantine Books.
Dr. Ross W. Greene. (2021). Raising Human Beings: Creating a Collaborative Partnership with Your Child. Scribner.
Dr. Laura Markham. (2021). Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids Workbook: Using Mindfulness and Connection to Raise Resilient, Joyful Children and Rediscover Your Love of Parenting. TarcherPerigee.
Dr. Tina Payne Bryson and Dr. Daniel J. Siegel. (2021). The Yes Brain: How to Cultivate Courage, Curiosity, and Resilience in Your Child. Bantam.
Dr. Laura Markham. (2021). Calm Parents, Happy Kids: The Secrets of Stress-Free Parenting. TarcherPerigee.
Dr. Mona Delahooke. (2021). Beyond Behaviors: Using Brain Science and Compassion to Understand and Solve Children’s Behavioral Challenges. PESI Publishing & Media.
Dr. Vanessa Lapointe. (2021). Parenting Right from the Start: Laying a Healthy Foundation in the Baby and Toddler Years. LifeTree Media.
Michelle has been a certified Parenting Coach and a Montessori educator for over 20 years. As the proud owner of Practical Life Parenting, she helps overwhelmed parents exhausted from the power struggles gain cooperation from their children using effective communication. She guides parenting partners to strengthen relationships and bring peace and joy to their homes.
Michelle loves to travel and participate in adventurous activities with her 3 boys and husband. She lives outside of Tampa, Florida, where you will find her on the sidelines cheering on her boys every weekend.