6 Secrets for staying calm when your children are misbehaving
There is nothing more irritating than listening to one of your kids taunting, or teasing, or picking on a sibling. Or doing something that you expressly told him not to do.
Or maybe your blood boils when you give an instruction that is totally ignored as soon as your ‘rebellious one’ is out of earshot.
Maybe it’s the rolled eyes, whiny voice, or messy room that puts you over the edge.
Whatever your situation, if you find your blood pressure rising, your lips getting tight and you’re mentally winding up to let him/her/them have it … then you are going to want to read 6 secrets for staying calm when your children are misbehaving.
Do you ever feel like this?
I have! Unfortunately, many times. But over the years I’ve learned a few things that I want to share with you. Here are my 6 secrets for staying calm when your children are misbehaving.
First, and this is a biggie: focus on the big picture.
Keep in mind with all of these things that as parents, it’s VITAL that we train ourselves to focus on the big picture. Even though we are mired in the little things, the day-to-day, we have to remember that we are discipling our children every day, raising them to be godly generations that honor the Lord. We are their models.
But you know what? We are sinners, just like them. But if we are daughters (and sons) of the King, we have been forgiven. No matter how many times we mess up, how much we struggle with impatience, organization, balancing our roles and work load – we are enough in God’s eyes, just as we are. We can’t perform any better to make God love us any more than He already does.
Keeping that in mind will automatically help you have the right frame of mind when dealing with your children, and learning to extend to them that same grace. Preach the gospel to yourself regularly, as well as to your kids.
Now here are the secrets I promised from almost 30 years of mothering and over half as many homeschooling:
Secret #1: Don’t wait to deal with it.
Don’t wait until you are about to explode before you do something about a misbehaving child. It took me the LONGEST time to figure out that when I was angry, it was generally because I was no longer in control. (I’m talking about with younger children here.) I’m angry because my child had taken the reigns and for that moment in time he or she was calling the shots. (Uh…no.) Not the way it is designed to be.
Even though you are busy teaching a math lesson or trying to get a meal on the table, learn to stop and deal with a little problem while you are still calm and in control of your emotions, before it becomes a bigger problem.
Secret #2: Staying calm will de-escalate the situation.
If you do everything you can to stay calm (pray, take ten slow, deep, extend-your-belly-breaths, walk outside for a moment, whatever it takes to help you speak calmly and quietly rather than ranting and raving), you will de-escalate the situation instead of ramping it up. When you react peacefully and calmly, your children feel more secure and can calm down more easily as well.
Secret #3 Assess the situation before reacting.
Remain calm, assess the situation and use the little formula I just made up: REDS
- Remove your child from danger or REDirect your toddler from doing something harmful.
- Distract your toddler from those electrical outlets, for example, and after a firm “no” (perhaps with a toddler-gentle-appropriate slap on the hand, if this is a repeat offense). Then redirect her attention elsewhere.
- Stay calm, use your inside voice, take a few minutes, and talk with the offender to find out what’s going on with your misbehaving one.
Secret #4: Don’t assume their motive is to misbehave.
Sometimes kids don’t even mean to be misbehaving. They are tired. They’re hungry. They need attention. (Generally we are talking younger children again here, but sometimes this even applies to the older ones.) Hopefully by the time they are in elementary school they’re actively learning to be aware of how they are feeling and able to tell you about it rather than just acting out. (“Use your words!”)
By calmly asking them a few questions about how they are feeling you might be surprised at how simply a problem is solved and things can return to a more peaceful state.
When I had an infant and a 3 year old I remember my oldest sometimes… getting into things. When I finally figured out that she needed a little attention and taught her to tell me that when she was feeling that way, it made all the difference!
Being able to put her feelings into words about it helped me to respond right away, even if it was just with a quick hug, and helped her to understand that I still loved her even though sometimes she had to wait just a bit before I could spend more time with her.
Secret #5: Help your children recognize how they’re feeling and how to express it.
Helping your children recognize how they are feeling and giving them the words to express it is truly a gift that will relieve everyone’s stress, draw you closer, and will be like money in the bank when your child becomes older with more complicated issues. (Middle school and beyond.)
Maybe in the afternoon a sullen child is reacting to your harsh comment from the morning. Perhaps you need to address and apologize for that. But you might never know this unless you ask.
And, by the way, you will be doing a lot of apologizing during your homeschool years, and this is a good thing. Humbling yourself and being honest about your own mistakes is about the best modeling your child can receive!
Secret #6: Extend underserved grace.
The best time to extend grace to your children is when they don’t deserve it. Please hear me now – I’m not suggesting that you overlook misbehavior. Or tell your child you forgive him before he’s admitted his fault and asked you to.
I’m just saying that in the heat of the moment, it’s better to let a child (especially an older one) stew a little bit on his own rather than meeting his poor tone of voice with an “I dare you talk to me that way!” (Even though you would like to and think he deserves it.)
Let everyone simmer down, and then talk to him about it. Your’e still dealing with the situation. You’re just waiting until everyone’s emotions aren’t on red alert. Waiting often solves that problem.
Sometimes, waiting instead of reacting results in an even better outcome: a tender-hearted child may end upcoming to YOU and apologizing for the infraction without you needing to say a thing. Give his conscience time to work first.
Being a mom, especially a homeschooling mom, is not an easy task. But taking the long view and keeping in mind that these years really go by pretty quickly will help you commit to learning to be a calm, patient mom.
You can do it! Not perfectly of course.But as you practice these skills, you will get better. I promise!
Need more help and practical tips? Check out these books:
Need more help and practical tips? Check out these books:
- Shepherding a Child’s Heart, by Tedd Tripp
- Overcoming Fear, Worry and Anxiety: Becoming a Woman of Faith and Confidence, by Elyse Fitzpatrick
- Making Children Mind without Losing Yours, by Dr. Kevin Lehman
If you have any tips or other resources that have helped you, please feel free to leave them in the comments!