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The secret of calm parenting? Only ask twice!

Being a parent I have discovered that I do not have endless patience. Like a muscle that has been regularly exercised, I hope that my patience has strengthened through raising children. But when they are giving out the medals at the Calm Parenting Olympics, you will find me applauding in the stands, not on the podium.

For a long time I believed that this lack of infinite patience was preventing me from being the mum I wanted to be. At the end of my tether, after yelling like a fishwife yet again, I would beat myself up for failing to stay calm and promise that next time I would do better. But next time, exactly the same thing would happen:

  • Me (to son): “Please tidy your room.”
  • Son: ignores me
  • Me (to son): “Please go and tidy your room.”
  • Son: pretends he didn’t hear
  • Me (a little louder): “I said go and tidy your room. Don’t ignore me, that’s really rude.”
  • Son: “It doesn’t need tidying. It’s fine.”
  • Me (getting wound up now): “It does need tidying… [long list of reasons why it does need tidying].”
  • Son: “Stop stressing. I’ll do it later.”
  • Me (well and truly wound up now, high volume): “If you don’t go and tidy your room right now I will do X” [followed by a tirade of emotional messages]

Not pretty. My post-argument analysis would oscillate between blaming him for being a pig and (once I’d calmed down) blaming myself for not having the infinite patience that was clearly required for non-shouty calm parenting.

It was only once I trained as a parenting coach that I realised that having limited patience didn’t make me a rubbish mum, it just meant I was a human being. We all have limited patience. There are some amazingly laid back people in the world who don’t ever seem to get riled by anything – but even they have their breaking points (and sometimes all the more shocking because unexpected). If we really want to be good parents we need to recognise and manage our limitations rather than aspiring to impossible ideals.

In essence, I have learnt the real secret of calm parenting: only ask twice. If I ask my children to do something (or to stop doing something) and they don’t co-operate, I now know myself well enough to predict that if I keep asking and keep asking and engage in reasoning or pleading or threatening and keep asking again, my buttons will get pushed, my emotions will go sky-high and in all probability I will end up shouting.

So now, if I time my request well (so it isn’t interrupting anything important), state it clearly with a reason, repeat it no more than twice, and it isn’t complied with, I don’t engage in debate, I don’t shout, I don’t threaten, I don’t cajole, I just follow through with a suitable consequence. Technology privileges are temporarily removed (the TV or the WiFi go off). And if that provokes an outburst, well, I am still calm enough to walk away and ignore it.

Of course, being a not-perfect parent I don’t have a 100% success rate. I still get it wrong. I forget and find myself reasoning, threatening or shouting, and slipping back into old habits. But I try and catch myself, forgive myself, and put myself back on the right track. And now that I have given up aspiring to a version of a perfect parent who had endless patience, I have become (most of the time) a little more like the mum I had always wanted to be.

Enjoyed this? You’ll love my book!

photo of young girl to illustrate article on calm parenting

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The Work/Parent Switch.

By Anita Cleare

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Practical tips on how to be the parent your child needs and create happy family dynamics (but still do your job!)

20 responses to “The secret of calm parenting? Only ask twice!”

  1. Yeah! I love it. You are fab. I have exactly the same problem…as I am sure all mum’s do. You suggestion of only saying something twice before they loose a privilege is brilliant. I am going to tell them that is what is happening when they get home today and I am going to do and do some meditation (my new daily practice of 5 minutes…to try and keep calm!!!).

  2. Sam @ Life of Mum says:

    I love this, great advice that I’ll definitely bear in mind for the future. Does it work with toddlers?! x

  3. Nardia says:

    OMG! This is so me! I have just started to try a more silent approach to parenting… it’s been working to a degree but I still need to exercise this muscle! Glad to have found you on the #brilliantblogposts linky!

  4. Kirsten Toyne says:

    This is a great way to work with kids. I don’t think all anger is a bad thing. Children need to know how to handle it and that they are safe and will be forgiven as it is a part of life. But I agree constant conflict is best avoided. It is not easy though as a parent. Often I know there is no intention on my boys part to not do what i am asking but they are just heavily distracted with the important stuff of childhood. #myfavouritepost

  5. Great advice. It is hard to take someone serious when they are screaming and shouting but when they are calm and consistent it’s much easier for children to know they mean business, making them more likely to comply #myfavouritepost

  6. Mrs Tubbs says:

    Excellent advice and approach. Thing is, we know all this stuff, but we still end up yelling about tidying up like a fishwife … er … Or is that just me! #myfavouritepost

  7. Jennifer says:

    Reading this I just remembered that my mum had the same strategy–she would ask something and then give a “reminder”, but that was all. She used to say that giving three or however many warnings was just encouraging children to ignore until the last minute! Great post! #myfavouritepost

  8. Ann Winters says:

    Great advice! My lo is very little but I will keep this in mind… Although I do believe that most of the times I will fall within the first example…. This surely reminds me of my mum and me when a teen, and I suppose I might tend to do the same… 🙂

  9. Great advice Anita. I too have come to realise that the endless patience = perfect parent is a myth. Also asking over and again just drives everyone up the wall!

    • AnitaCleare says:

      To be honest Renee, I don’t think we ever really know whether we are getting it right. But doing our best, and stopping and thinking about it every now and then, is more than likely good enough…..

  10. Joanna Witt says:

    Asking twice. I am going to try that. I just get crosser and crosser and louder and louder and yes they we all start shouting!

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