How to Raise a Calm Child
7 tips for raising calmer kids -- and calming yourself in the process.
Every parent wants to raise a calm child: one who can deal with stressors, cope with challenges and manage emotions in difficult situations. According to experts, there is one primary factor that can aid in your child's ability to deal with stress: you!
Here are seven tips from the experts on keeping your child -- and yourself -- serene.
And for more helpful tips, check out Care.com's Guide to Managing Stress.
- Keep Calm and Carry on
Most anxious children have anxious parents, says Elizabeth Pantley, a psychologist and president of Better Beginnings, Inc., a family resource and education company.
"Any time we're anxious, they're going to be anxious," she says. "The best way to raise a calm child is to be calmer yourself."
Debbie Pincus, parenting educator and author of The Calm Parent AM & PM, agrees: "If you want your child to be calmer, then you have to be calmer. When possible, make an attempt to phrase your words in the positive, rather than the negative, and guide rather than push." Making little struggles less important and implementing positive reinforcement can make both of you more relaxed.
Here are 7 Tips for Staying Calm.
- Remember that Your Child Is a Child
When children are throwing tantrums or exhibiting other destructive behaviors, it's easy to forget that they don't have emotional control. "Even the smartest, sweetest, most peaceful, pleasant child could not possibly exit the womb with the wisdom and ability to totally control his emotions," says Pantley.
Treating children as little, rational adults can give them a great deal of anxiety. Instead, Pantley argues that parents need to stop evaluating children's motives from an adult perspective, viewing children's bad behavior instead as attempts at fulfilling innocent wants.
- Give Your Children What They Need -- Not What You Think They Need
Parents, particularly anxious ones, worry about what their children may need in order to be safe and comfortable, rather than assessing actual facts. This worrywart behavior can translate into stressed-out children.
Instead of predicting what children could require, Pincus suggests that parents should "see our children as objectively as we can. Give them what they actually need, rather than looking through our lenses of fear and worry." Don't try to guess what your child will need. Instead, consider her needs as new challenges arise.
- Change Your Expectations
Putting too many expectations on children can give them all kinds of anxieties. Instead, Pincus argues that parents should "not futurize" -- or think too far ahead about who a child could become -- in order to alleviate anxiety for both parent and child.
Pantley agrees, emphasizing that it's important to remember that a temperamental child doesn't always have tools available to remain calm. "Your child has been on this earth only a few short years," Pantley says. "It may help you to remember this during his tantrums or meltdowns."
- Teach Calming Techniques
From child yoga to meditation for kids, embrace and encourage practices that will help kids manage emotions. Do the activities with your kids, so you all learn how to be a little bit calmer.
- Give Children a Consistent Routine
A tired or hungry child is never going to be a calm child, says Pantley. While parents cannot control every aspect of their children's lives, they can ensure consistent nap and snack times. "Try to plan your daily schedule so it doesn't interfere with usual nap times or meal times. If any excursion is to be more than an hour long, plan to bring along a few healthy snacks, such as pretzels and cheese or granola mix, plus something to drink." Children are more likely to be crabby if their basic needs aren't being met. Communicate this routine to a child's nanny or babysitter to maintain consistency.
- Let Your Child Manage Himself or Herself
Children can become stressed if they don't continuously learn how to do things for themselves and earn more responsibility. Once a child has learned something new -- be it how to set his alarm clock or to tie her shoe -- parents should hand that responsibility over permanently, says Pincus. Helping a child learn to manage himself can make a more self-sufficient child and, in turn, calm him down.
Whenever your child is behaving badly, it's important to remember that she won't always be this way. In tense situations, Pantley offers good advice: "He's learning more day by day, and he relies on you for much of his information. Be patient and understanding."
Alicia Bones began working as a writer after graduating from college in 2010. Bones graduated with a master's degree in English from the University of Iowa in 2013. Her writing has appeared on Matador Network, USA Today and The Nest Woman.
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