Do you struggle to stay calm when your kids are acting out? If so, this is NORMAL, but it isn’t the only way. You can learn how to become a calm mom—and it’s not as hard as you’d think.
Instead of continuing to feel frustrated, irritated, or angry when life at home isn’t going the way it should, you’ll have a new tool in your toolbelt that you can use to 1) get calm in the moment, and 2) practice staying calm in the future so you don’t get as angry or frustrated.
Tune in to this episode to learn how to stay calm as a mom, no matter what your circumstances are. You’ll get a step by step tutorial on what to do in the moment and out of the moment so you can practice becoming more calm today.
Welcome to Mom On Purpose, where it’s all about helping moms overcome challenges and live their best lives. My hope is by being here, you are more inspired to become the mom you are made to be. I’m Natalie, your host, a wife, boy, mom, dog, mama, Chicagoan, and former lawyer turned professionally certified coach. If you’re here to grow, I can help. Let’s go.
Hello, my friend. How are you? Thanks for joining me. Today we are diving into calming down specifically how to calm down. And I want to start off talking about my natural disposition. It has always been to yell, it really was my default behavior. I thought that’s who I was and I didn’t know that there was another way. I thought that yelling and getting frustrated was just a part of my personality, and I had so much evidence for this. I used to tell myself things like, well, I grew up in a home with lots of yelling, so that’s why I yell.
I used to tell myself things like I’m easily triggered or I’m highly sensitive, or I’m someone who just is quick to anger or has a temper, or this is just the way that I am. I had no idea that I could change any of this and that it wasn’t who I was. I thought there was a blood test. I thought it was a fact that I was easily triggered or that I was highly sensitive, or that I was quick to anger, or that I, you know, had a temper, or that I just was someone who yelled based on my past, based on my family origin, based on my upbringing. And when I learned what I’m going to teach you in this podcast episode, everything changed for me. It wasn’t that I became someone who never felt angry or never was frustrated or never yelled again, but instead I understood that it was a skill I needed to learn and that I could change.
And just knowing that provided me with such comfort and over the course of some time of using the tools I’m going to teach you here, I changed the way that I felt in predictable circumstances and I got my body so much more comfortable feeling calm. And guess what? Instead of being someone who would describe themselves as a yeller or quick to anger or has a top emotion as frustration, I became someone who rarely felt frustration and who rarely yelled. So that’s really the goal. We’re not going for perfection here, but I want you to know that personally I can identify with struggling and wanting to change and not feeling like it’s even an option. And so I want you to know first and foremost, it is an option. If you identify with any of this, it is 100% possible for you to change. And I’ve been there.
And it doesn’t have to be the way that you continue if you don’t want it to be. You might also be like some of my clients inside the Mom On Purpose membership who find that they yell and get frustrated in specific triggering circumstances. And I just want to mention what some of those are here because I think it can be really helpful to know when to best use this tool. The first example is having little ones melting down at bedtime. The second example is having bigger kids fighting after school. The third example is having your older kids trying to get out the door in the morning and taking longer than you want. And the last example is having teenagers who are disrespectful. I have coached hundreds, maybe thousands of clients in these specific examples where it feels really hard to stay calm. The common emotions are frustration, irritation, anger, agitation, and a lot of the actions sound like yelling or kind of snapping and really just not showing up as the mom you want to be.
And I think what’s also really worthy of mentioning here is that these are pretty predictable circumstances. So, um, it’s likely that you might be in a season where your kids are fighting after school. It’s not just that it happened one time. If it’s something that you want to work on, it’s probably because it’s happening multiple times. So just think about that for your own life. If any of these examples resonate with you or maybe it’s something else, maybe it applies more to your spouse that you’re snapping at or yelling at, or you find it challenging to be calm around, just keep that in mind and know this. There is genuinely nothing wrong with you. It is not who you are. It is not who you have to be in your future. No matter how much yelling you’ve done in the past, no matter how much snapping you’ve done in the past, no matter how hard it is for you to feel calm right now, I promise you that it is a skill that you can learn a skill my friend, and it will drastically and I mean drastically change your life, it will also change your experience parenting and it will change your relationships because you’ll have so much more connection when you get triggered.
But you know what to do with that and you don’t yell. Before I dive into how to actually cultivate the skill of becoming calm, I want to address what won’t work because you will be very tempted to try this. And you may have already tried this, which maybe landed you to this podcast episode.
It is looking outside of you to control whatever the trigger is and change it. So for example, you might try to control your kids’ emotions or you might try to get your kids to stop fighting and try to control their actions. You might try to control how quickly your kids get ready in the morning, or you might try to teach your kids more manners or enforce more consequences for your older kids to try to control them. This is really what’s most common to try to control first. We think that because we are feeling so frustrated and because we are yelling, the problem isn’t us, we think that the problem is outside of us.
We think that it’s our kids that are taking too long or that are being disrespectful or that are fighting or that are taking too long at bedtime or getting out the door. We really think that it’s the circumstance or the trigger, whatever you want to call it. But when you try to control the uncontrollable, you will find, number one, it doesn’t work. And number two, it makes you kind of miserable trying. And the reason is because what other people do is based on what they’re thinking and feeling. And so when we try to control it, it just doesn’t work. It is outside of what’s within our control. So you can’t control whether your kids ever fight again or whether they take a little bit longer to get ready in the morning or whether they have big emotions. Well, you can’t control it. You can still have boundaries, but what works incredibly well is when you regulate yourself and when you feel calm and then you teach and then you have boundaries.
What doesn’t work, which I know you already know this, but it’s worth mentioning here in this specific episode where I’m covering all of it, is getting really activated and frustrated and irritated and then yelling and then trying to control them. No one wins there. So there is a better way, a better way than trying to control what’s outside of you. A way that actually works. And the way is to use this psychology theory applied via coaching tools. That is what I am professionally trained in as a certified coach. And it’s what I can help you with actually very easily. It’s a, it’s a simple process. It’s just not one that is most commonly talked about and taught. So I don’t want you to mistake the simplicity of it for it to be ineffective. Sometimes we think that if the problem is a problem we’ve had for decades and it’s so hard, we think that the solution must be really complicated and hard.
But I am all for a very simple and doable solution, and that is what I have to offer you here today. So let’s dive in to how to calm down no matter what the circumstance is. I want you to think about the solution as being two parts, and we’re going to talk about part one, which is what to do in the moment. And part two, which is what to do out of the moment. Okay, so let’s start with part one, which is what to do in the moment. And what I mean by in the moment is, I mean, you’re already feeling the negative emotion of frustration, rage, irritation. So you have a default primitive brain that is always scanning for danger and your brain thinks that anything kind of, um, triggering to you is dangerous. So your kid’s fighting anything really loud, um, anything that you don’t think the way it should be is how it is your brain will feel triggered by.
So it’s very, um, dependent on the person, which is why I can’t say for sure if your kids are fighting, that is your primitive brain scanning for danger and that’s why it gets activated. Because you might have a spouse who’s calm all of the time and he sees your kids fighting and he doesn’t get activated at all. And that’s how you know it’s actually never the circumstance. It’s always what you make it mean. And this is not to say that you’re doing something wrong, it just means you have a healthy human brain that is scanning for danger. And when you feel irritated, frustrated, agitated, and you feel those emotions really quickly, it’s because your brain is interpreting something in the circumstance as something had been gone wrong or something that it doesn’t like or something dangerous, and you feel those emotions so quickly. So in part two, I’m going to teach you how to get to a place where you train your brain to not go to that emotion so quickly.
But in the interim, and because we’re not trying to be perfect here, I want you to have the skill of what to do in the moment when that default brain takes hold and you do get activated. So in the moment means you are already in that feeling state and it just happened on default very quickly. You feel frustrated, you feel angry, you feel mom rage, you feel irritated. Whatever it is, you’re already sort of activated, triggered, you feel negative emotion. When this happens, what you want to do is you want to allow the feeling without taking the normal action that you would take. So for purposes of illustration here, let’s just say the normal action you would take is to yell instead of yelling, what you want to do is pause, take deep breaths and process the feeling Inside the Mom On Purpose membership, we have an entire course on processing feelings that walks you through exactly how to do that.
But really in a nutshell, you’re going to pause, you’re going to take deep breaths, you can name the feeling and go inward and be with it in your body. The most important thing that you do is stay out of your mind. Your mind is going to want to control the circumstance, but you have to train it to be with the feeling. And just like after a hard workout that feels kind of uncomfortable. The same is true with emotions that are negative. They just feel a little bit uncomfortable. We don’t have to react to them, we don’t have to avoid them. IE we don’t have to go eat a box of Oreos. We can be with them and process them. Again, this is a skill, this is a skill that you can get really good at. Okay? So what you’re going to do is you’re going to pause, you’re going to take some deep breaths, you’re going to name what the feeling is and you’re going to process it.
That is the first part. But what I want to mention here is I have had so many clients come to me and say, I know that I need to pause and take deep breaths, and I do that and I kind of stop myself from yelling, which is fine, but I keep getting frustrated and I don’t understand why. If I’m taking the deep breaths and doing this process, and I say it’s because you haven’t learned part two, you haven’t learned how to manage your mind and mindset out of the moment. So part two is I think kind of the most important part. And I don’t know if it’s the most important part, but it is equally important. I just think it’s the least focused on. So if you just look up some random content online, whether it’s from Google or social media, you will likely see lots of advice about part one, which is, you know, removing yourself, taking some deep breaths.
It’s all about how to process that emotion once it’s there again, I think we can all get better at processing emotions. It’s not bad advice, it’s just only part of it. And so I really want to emphasize part two because I think it’s the part that’s missing the most and this is what you do out of the moment. And my friends listen up. Okay? This is life changing. Out of the moment, and that means when you are not triggered, so it is not bedtime or it is not after school, or it is not trying to get out the door in the morning or it is not, when something happens with your teenagers that you think is disrespectful out of the moment, that is when you do the work to transform yourself into becoming someone who can be calm in any given circumstance. This is the part that I think so many courses and coaching miss, they don’t show you how to change your thinking.
Instead, they try to get you to change your circumstances with tactics. Like teach your kids how to get dressed faster, or teach them, you know, X, Y, z, to try to control that circumstance and it doesn’t work, okay? I think that once you learn part two, then go about doing whatever parenting strategy you want, but you’ll be so much more effective if you can manage your own emotions first. I think we have so high of expectations for our kids way higher than where they’re at developmentally. And instead we just want to switch it so that yes, we still have some expectations of them, but we have higher expectations of ourself and of regulating ourselves. So here’s what you can do out of the moment when you are feeling very regulated and calm, this is when you’re going to work on yourself, when you’re going to coach yourself.
The first part is I want you to think about the last time that you felt triggered a very specific instance. So for example, if your little ones are melting down at bedtime, I don’t want you to lump that together. I want you to think about, okay, yesterday it was 7:00 PM and you’re trying to put the kids down for bed and they’re melting down. But I really want you to make sure it’s a specific example because then you’ll have the details that you can kind of investigate and explore based on that specific example. And then you can learn so much and change the way that you show up based on that specific example. So part one is just go back in time to the most recent example of when this happened. Then I want you to do step two, which is to identify the emotion in one word that you experienced. So if your little ones were melting down at bedtime, maybe you felt short-tempered. If your bigger kids are fighting after school, maybe the feeling is frustrated.
If your bigger kids are trying to get out the door in the morning for school again, maybe it’s frustrated, teenagers being disrespectful, maybe the feeling is angry, doesn’t really matter. What matters most is that you identify and name the emotion. Now again, this is what we’re doing out of the moment. So if it happened last night, maybe the next morning, that’s when you’re going to kind of coach yourself and identify what was going on last night. Kids were melting down at bedtime and the feeling I experienced was short-tempered or frustrated or angry or irritated, whatever. Okay? Now step number three is you’re going to identify the thought that caused the emotion. So this is like the crux of this process because on default our brains think it’s our circumstances that create our emotions. But a really simple way to see that it’s not our circumstances, that it is our brains, is to take your spouse.
If you’re partner and think about your husband and his reaction, it’s probably very different because you have different brains and so you’re having different thoughts or maybe, you know, if you and your husband react similarly, just think of someone else in your life who does react differently. That is because they have a different thought. I love thinking about this in my own life because my husband is very easygoing and laid back on default. And so while yes, he does feel frustrated from time to time, it’s usually in different circumstances. And I love that for us because number one, it’s just great for our dynamic, but also it’s helpful for me and my own self coaching to see, oh yeah, this is my brain and I’m not mad, I’m not mad that I’m having the thought, but I need to own that for my own sake so that I can work on the skill of changing my thoughts and therefore changing my entire experience.
So let’s go through the examples that I’ve been talking about here so far. If your little ones are melting down at bedtime and you notice that the feeling that you’re experiencing is short-tempered, you want to ask yourself what the thought is that created that feeling. Maybe the thought is my kids shouldn’t be melting down like this. I just want you to come up with one phrase of a thought. Don’t be putting a paragraph in there, right? And again, this is um, you know, just one podcast episode where I’m trying to teach you this, but inside the membership you get a course on how specifically to coach yourself so that you can change your mindset. And it is, um, really, really life-changing because you learn how to identify specific thoughts in a way that you can quickly change in your everyday life to completely change how you feel.
So in this example, if your kids are melting down and you feel short-tempered, what is the thought? Maybe the thought is they shouldn’t be melting down like this. Okay, you’re just going to write it down. Or if it’s those bigger kids fighting after school and you feel frustrated, what is your thought that created the frustration? Not what is your thought after you feel frustrated, but what is the thought that caused the frustration? Maybe the thought is something like, I’ve taught my kids better than this and they should know better. Again, we’re not going to write a paragraph, we’re not going to justify it, we’re just going to write it down. Interesting thought, right? We just want to be really curious about ourselves because remember, we are going to learn the skill of managing our mindset so that we can change our emotions because our thoughts create our feelings. So we have to look at the thoughts we’re thinking that are creating the unhelpful feelings in predictable circumstances like this.
Again, we’re not trying to be robots and never feel frustrated, but if we have little ones who take, um, too long getting out the door or too long going to bed, it’s to our benefit to choose intentionally and purposefully what we want to think. And the only way we can do that is to look at our thoughts first. So if your bigger kids are taking too long to get out the door and you feel frustrated, what is your thought that caused the frustration? It might be something as simple, like it really shouldn’t take this long. And finally, if your teenagers are being disrespectful and you feel angry, what is the thought that caused you to feel angry? This is really tricky when we have kids who we feel like are being disrespectful because we can take it so personally and think that by doing this work, we are excusing their actions.
And that is in no way what I’m suggesting at all. I want to help you so that you don’t feel so angry so that you can show up as the mom that you want to be. And I promise you, we’ll get to the part where you hold the boundaries and where you can parent from your highest self. But it starts from feeling calm, not from feeling angry. So in this example, when your teenagers are being disrespectful and you feel angry, what is the thought that caused the anger? Maybe it’s something like, I won’t let them treat me like this. And you feel really angry when you think that thought. So all we did there in that step is we wrote down the specific thought that we were thinking that created our feelings. The next and final step is to practice better feeling thoughts. So you have your default brain thought, and if it’s creating an emotion that doesn’t serve you, like feeling short-tempered, frustrated, angry, irritated, agitated, and it’s a predictable circumstance like kids melting down at bedtime, fighting, trying to get out the door, being disrespectful, all of those things that are likely to happen again, and it’s not useful or helpful for you to feel that way, then it is to your benefit to come up with better feeling thoughts.
I like to call this tool the next believable thought tool where you come up with a thought that feels true for you. I never want you to think a thought that you don’t think is true, but there are hundreds of thoughts that are true, and I want you to find one that you can think that feels really true and believable for you and doesn’t create the feelings that are unhelpful. That is how you stay calm, my friend. It is a practice. It’s not complicated, but it’s a practice. So for example, let’s say you never learned how to do pushups. Someone could show you how to do a pushup and you would say, oh, that’s pretty easy. That’s all I have to do. And I would say, yes, pushups so easy. And then you would do some pushups and you would say, okay, yes, it’s easy, but it does take a little bit of work and my muscles are a little sore and I have to learn this new way of going up and down and being comfortable with, um, exercising and, and all of that.
And so that’s sort of what it’s like in your brain. It’s not complicated, it’s very straightforward, but it won’t be the default. It takes effort and practice. And really that’s what we do inside the membership. So if you want some extra coaching on this, I can absolutely help you inside there, but let’s go through these examples of what some next believable thoughts might be. So in the example of your little ones melting down at bedtime, if you have the thought, they shouldn’t be melting down like this, and that thought feels like short-tempered to you. A next believable thought might be, I expect my kids to feel dysregulated before bedtime since they’re so tired. Their big emotions don’t scare me. I can handle this. I love these thoughts. I came up with them really based on my own experience. When my son is feeling his biggest meltdowns and having his most dysregulated state, I really lean into it and remind myself, your big feelings don’t scare me.
I can handle this. And I, I don’t think anything has gone wrong and I expect him to feel dysregulated, particularly when he’s tired. And that doesn’t mean that I don’t help him or I don’t hold boundaries. It just means that I am not in resistance to what is I accept what is and therefore I can stay calm. A lot of the thoughts that we have around feeling frustrated and agitated is something rooted in resistance. Something like this shouldn’t be happening, right? And so if you can come up with a thought that really expects it to continue happening, you will be in acceptance and then you’ll be able to show up in such a more empowered way. Let’s take the next example. Your bigger kids are fighting after school and you feel frustrated and the thought that you’re thinking is, I’ve taught my kids better than this and they should know better.
A next believable thought might be something like, my kids feel safest at home. So it’s not surprising that they’re letting out all of their energy after school. I can be the boundary they need as well as come up with alternative ideas for how they might get out all that energy. I love this thought because it really is in acceptance and it still makes a point to be a boundary, which is important just because your kids are fighting in after school and you are going to expect that does not mean that any actions are permissible. So I like to say that all feelings are welcome, all actions are not. So when they start fighting instead of thinking they should know better, it’s Oh no, I expect them to let out all of that energy when they get home and I’m going to hold the boundary for them and keep them safe.
That’s my number one job. And I’m going to come up with some alternative ways that they might get out their energy. This is sort of a tangent side note, but I really love separating out acceptable actions from unacceptable actions and then teaching our kids that not in the moment when they’re upset, but out of the moment you might teach them that, Hey, I notice there is a temptation to fight after school a lot. I’ve been seeing this pattern all week long. Maybe you have a talk with them on Saturday and you make it really light but instructive. And you say, I’m not going to allow you to fight the way you’re fighting, but I have come up with a few alternative ideas to get out your energy. Here they are, and I would love to hear what your ideas are. Now, of course, depending on the age of your kids, they may or may not have ideas that they can contribute.
But when you separate out permissible versus unacceptable actions in your home, it’s really helpful for kids. So a really quick but unrelated example, when my son was in a biting stage, I made a point to teach him that it was not okay to bite mommy. It was not okay to bite other people, but to get out that urge, he could bite the blankie. Um, I’ve coached moms with older kids and I’ve offered examples like, it’s not okay to throw things, throw your book bag, but it is okay to stomp on the ground or yell into a pillow or something like that. And it might take some creativity on your part, but when you just know that you can set boundaries for acceptable actions and unacceptable actions, it can be really helpful because just like we have the urge to yell and we’re working on not yelling, your kids might have the urge to let out all of that energy at certain times of day.
And the more that you can, um, keep yourself calm, the better able you’ll be to help them. Okay, now let’s take a look at the next example. Let’s say your bigger kids are trying to get out the door in the morning for school, and it’s taking a lot longer than you want, and you feel frustrated and your thought is, it really shouldn’t take this long. A really easy next believable thought is, of course it’s going to take longer than I expected. I was wrong about this phase. It’s lasting a lot longer than expected, and that’s okay. Again, the original thought is in resistance, something’s gone wrong, this shouldn’t be happening. And the next believable thought is rooted in acceptance. Of course, it’s taking longer than expected. I was wrong about how long it was going to take. It is going to take longer. And then once you get to a place of genuinely accepting the way things are, you are so much more likely to come up with better solutions.
But if you’re trying to come up with solutions from feeling frustrated, it often doesn’t work. It often comes out as control instead of collaboration. Okay? So that’s why doing the mindset work first is so important before you try any of the parenting strategies. And lastly, let’s say your teenagers are being disrespectful, you are feeling angry. The thought causing the anger is, I won’t let them treat me like this. A next believable thought takes you out of it. So you’re not the center, they’re not doing this at you. But instead, since we know thoughts, create feelings and feelings, drive actions, whatever their actions are, are coming from their thoughts and their feelings. And if their actions aren’t so nice, then it’s likely something is going on with them. They’re in a lot of pain. What are their thoughts and their feelings? So a next believable thought might be something like, this isn’t about me, this is about what’s going on for them.
And then you can shift into curiosity with a thought like, I wonder what’s really going on for them that would lead them to act like this. And when you genuinely come from a place of curiosity and connection, again, you won’t take things personally, you won’t make it all about you. You won’t feel angry, and then you’re so much better equipped and able to help them. So that is the process, my friends. And what I want to mention here just for purposes of really making sure it sticks for you, is that once you come up with your individual next believable thought, the thought doesn’t just happen to you. Just like if you learned how to do a pushup, the pushup doesn’t just happen to you. You have to actually practice doing pushups. And so in the same way, you actually have to practice your next believable thought.
And don’t we all love how the circumstances will continue and God or the universe, whatever you believe in, has a way of providing us lots of opportunities for practice. So again, using this tool in very predictable circumstances is extraordinarily powerful and helpful. So the next time your kids are melting down at bedtime or fighting after school, or taking too long to get out in the morning or being disrespectful, practice your next believable thought. We’re not aiming for perfection. We’re aiming to see the link between thoughts and feelings and really cultivating this skill. I always like to give my clients an example of riding a bike. Have you ever watched or taught a little kid to ride their bike? They don’t just get on the bike and start riding it. They get on and then they fall, and then they fall again, and then they skid their knee and then they’re crying and maybe there’s some blood, but they keep on trying, and then eventually they get on and they can ride a bike.
That is what it is. Like when you’re practicing new thoughts, your default brain is really strong and powerful. So it’s going to want to go to the original thought. But when you keep trying to get that new next believable thought, your default, when you keep practicing it over and over, you’re going to create more calm. It just might take some reps, you’re getting your reps in. So I don’t want you to be judgmental of yourself or feel frustrated or think you’re doing it wrong, you’re not doing it wrong. You just want to talk back to that primitive part of your brain. So when your brain says they shouldn’t be melting down like this, you just quickly reply back and you say, that’s not true. I expect my kids to feel a little bit dysregulated before bedtime since they’re so tired. Or whatever your next believable thought is, you practice that. So if you want more help with this, like I said, come on inside the membership, I’d be happy to coach you and help you find your next believable thoughts so that you can genuinely feel calm in whatever circumstance you want. Alright, my friend, you got this.
Thank you for being here and listening Now, head on over to momonpurpose.com/coaching to learn more about the Mom On Purpose membership, where we take all of this work to the next level.