It doesn’t matter how peaceful you want to be with your children. Success is found in your ability to follow through consistently, right?
While there are some great alternative behaviors you can pull out of your toolbox when you feel like you’re about to go code red—AKA nucking futs—I think it’s critical that you address the underlying triggers that put you on edge in the first place.
Transitioning to peaceful parenting is like being in a plane at 30,000 feet when it depressurizes. You desperately want to save your kids, but unless you put your own oxygen mask on first, all of you are toast.
I’ll give you another example. You know the classic breakup-speak, “It’s not you, it’s me?” Parenting goes like this: “It’s not them, it’s you.” Except I’m dead serious.
The triggers that make you a less peaceful parent are different for everyone. Some may apply to you and some may not. My goal with this list is to hopefully help you connect a few dots that you may have never connected.
The biggest dot to connect—after figuring out that this is about you and not them—is that parenting is a holistic endeavor. Your success isn’t just limited by your parenting toolbox, it’s limited by the order or disorder that exists in every area of your life.
I’m well aware that this can be quite overwhelming to think about. To calm your anxiety, consider taking an MPMO approach. Rather than thinking about being perfect or tackling all of these things at once, just strive to be More Peaceful, More Often.
You can accomplish that with baby steps just as much as you can with sweeping changes. It all depends on your personality and time/stress allowance.
With that said, here’s some key areas to think about taking action.
Note: This article assumes that you’ve already adopted the philosophy of authentic parenting. If you’re still looking at kids the “conventional” way and taking an oppositional approach, it’s not possible to maintain patience and peace.
Step 1: Scale back your expectations and focus on the things that really matter.
Sometimes we create a massive problem where there previously was none. Perhaps you have this idea deep inside you that children must make their bed every morning. So, you spend every morning fighting with your child about making their bed.
It’s to the point where the relationship takes a massive blow and it drives up your anxiety first thing in the morning. Every. Single. Morning. Over a bed spread.
“But this is “my stand.” I’m not going to tolerate unkemptness of any degree!”
Regardless of how you feel about children making beds, take a step back and see that this situation is draining the parenting soul out of you. It’s damaging your relationship with your kids. It’s not worth it.
In fact, when you shift your mindset and scale back your expectations, you often find yourself with so much more breathing room that you think clearer and can find more creative ways to solve the initial problem. It’s a win-win.
Step 2: Instead of wondering why your kids push your buttons, figure out why you have buttons.
The first thing you need to know about button pushing is that kids are programmed by evolution to test the boundaries of their parents.
I’m not joking. The reason they choose you is because they feel safest with you. They have the strongest connection with you. You’re their teacher and they need to know what the limits are.
Testing the boundaries and pushing the buttons of strangers is often a natural selection nightmare. Very bad things could happen. But with you, they’re pretty sure that you’re going to keep them alive, at minimum.
With that said, you’re often deeply triggered by your child’s behavior because of insecurities and exposed nerves within you.
We know this is about the parent and not the child because what triggers mom doesn’t always trigger dad and vice versa. That means it’s the parent who is responsible for the feelings and not the child.
These insecurities are called “burdens,” and they’re created by past trauma, rejection, and pain. They’re not only poked by your children either—your boss, your spouse, and even your close friends can trigger them.
The number one symptom of having a burden is taking your child’s behavior personally or feeling emotionally attacked by your child.
As I said before, your children are programmed to test your boundaries. The fact that you have burdens that become triggered has nothing to do with your kids.
It’s your responsibility as a parent to work on healing these burdens so you get triggered less often and retain the ability to respond in a calm, connected manner.
To get started, check out a book called Self-Therapy.
Step 3: Prioritize sleep, no matter what.
There’s one way to ensure that you’ll be on edge and ready to snap at the slightest twinge of friction: sleep poorly or for too short of a time.
Besides making you hungrier (30% more ghrelin production), less able to feel full (20% less leptin response), and leaving you functioning metabolically like a type II Diabetic, poor sleep disorders your stress response, makes you more prone to anxiety, and increases your chance of developing depression ten-fold.
&$%# is right. Prioritize sleep no matter what.
Earlier this year I co-published one of the most popular sleep guides online called REM Rehab. It covers all the pitfalls of bad sleep, the top sleep mistakes people make, how to eat for better health and better sleep, strategic supplementation for sleep, and so on. It’s a great resource.
Step 4: Do a Hierarchy of Needs Assessment to find out where your life lacks fulfillment.
Patience is a finite resource just like willpower. Imagine having a cup of it. Well, that cup gets depleted with every interaction with your kids, your spouse, your boss, and even your friends.
Here’s what else depletes it: not having your basic needs met.
One thing I have my Total Body Reboot clients do often to refill their willpower cup is a Hierarchy of Needs Assessment. The idea is to make sure your basic needs are being met, and if not, we address that.
You should do the same thing to see if there are any areas you can improve to refill that patience cup. This will directly result in your improvement as a mom or dad. I guarantee it.
I give clients a workbook, but you can probably manage it on your own as well. Just familiarize yourself with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and use that to look at your life with a critical eye.
Step 5: Eat real food. Align your hormones. Stop being hangry.
Real food aligns your hormones, nourishes your body and brain, heals your gut, reduces inflammation, and makes you happier.
Without getting into all the science, just know this one thing: Real food, rest, and exercise are critical to psychological health.
For starters, eating a Standard American Diet (SAD) puts you on an insulin roller coaster that leaves you hangry between meals (hungry + angry). Real food restores proper metabolic function and lets you coast peacefully from meal to meal. You also sleep better, so it’s a double win.
Beyond that, did you know that over 90% of your serotonin is produced in your gut? Yeah, you might want to start healing your gut with a real food, low stress lifestyle!
You’ll also want to make sure you’re getting plenty of exercise—even if it’s just walking—because that has an enormous impact on your psychological health as well. Researchers have found that regular exercise is equally effective to Zoloft for treating depression.
Helping people do this work is what we specialize in at Rebooted Body.
Step 6: Do a Margin Analysis to find out which areas of your life are “redlining” so you can add margin and reduce stress.
Another thing I always do with clients is a margin analysis. You can think of margin as breathing room.
The typical American lifestyle is margin-less. Everyone is maxed out. Their schedule is maxed, their credit cards are maxed, their relationships are redlining. It’s a dumpster fire.
There are eight key areas of life where margin is essential for low stress and happiness. When you don’t have margin, the philosophy of “more peaceful, more often” becomes ridiculously hard to achieve.
Rather than rehashing it all here, you can download my free Margin Makeover workbook, along with three or four other awesome free guides, by clicking here.
Step 7: Prioritize self-care, including exercise time. But stop trying to keep up with an exercise schedule.
As I mentioned above, exercise is critical for psychological health and refilling your patience cup. The problem is that very few people manage to workout consistently.
Not only do they fail to workout, they fail to move their bodies much at all. This pathological sedentism is a state of stagnation that destroys the body and mind.
One of the most popular articles ever published at Rebooted Body details my now-famous DWYLT philosophy of movement and exercise. I believe that if you adopt the DWYLT philosophy, you’ll be able to easily create a lifestyle that improves your health rather than diminishing it.
Step 8: Do a No-Asshole Analysis and master your good-bye wave.
This might be the most fun part, I don’t know. I guess it depends on your personality.
If people are making more withdrawals than deposits at the bank of you, it’s time to close their account.
I have a strict No-Asshole rule. If you drain me instead of filling me up, you’re out. Nobody gets a free pass. I fired my boss for violating this policy when I was our family’s only income and my daughter was a year old. This is no joke.
This doesn’t mean people can’t have problems. Everyone has problems. But your problems can’t outweigh your investments in the relationship, feel me?
How many of your problems are tied to the assholes in your life? How long have you been buying that “blood is thicker than water” nonsense and keeping seriously broken family members around?
Trust me, this is probably the most critical step. You can’t win if your relationship bank is constantly overdrawn by deadbeat debtors.
Step 9: Get your Vitamin D levels checked (seriously).
Vitamin D is not actually a vitamin, it’s a hormone. A critical one. And guess what? 70% of Americans are deficient.
Besides protecting you against the perils of disease, Vitamin D is essential for psychological health.
We’re deficient because we don’t get outside enough. And when we do, the know-nothings at the Today Show (okay, they’re not the only ones) have made us believe we need to lather ourselves and our kids in sunscreen. If you put sunscreen on, you can kiss all that Vitamin D absorption goodbye.
Testing your Vitamin D levels is quick and cheap. I recommend going through a company like WellnessFX, but your general practitioner should be able to get it done for you as well.
Getting your Vitamin D levels in the right place will exponentially improve your mood and your health.
Step 10: Have a plan for when nothing else is working.
Sometimes, it doesn’t matter what steps you take to refill your patience cup and stay a calm, peaceful mom or dad.
When all else fails, you just need to be able to evacuate the scene of the soon-to-be-crime. In order to do that, you have to have a backup plan.
If you have a spouse who is around, you can do a mandatory tag team. In other words, give them the code word that means, “I’m about to $&%#ing lose it!” and that should signal that they need to drop whatever they’re doing and take over.
Depending on your child’s age, you can do a mommy or daddy time out where youe excuse yourself and go into another room and scream in a pillow.
And again, Orange Rhino has a lot of great suggestions for alternative behaviors when you feel like screaming at someone.
Just remember that you’re not perfect, so the mantra should be “more peaceful, more often.”