How to stay calm with 8 powerful mindful parenting mantras
One of the biggest challenges we face as mindful parents is remaining calm when our children are anything but. As mindful parents we understand that parenting begins with us. We know that we have to model self regulation for our children. We know that our children need repeated instances of co-regulation with us before they will be able to develop their own self regulation. We are working on building a strong, connected relationship with our kids as a matter of priority. And we know that responding calmly during times of distress is important when it comes to building that relationship.
But it is just so damn hard to stay calm.
That’s why having a collection of go-to mindful parenting mantras to use in difficult moments can be so helpful.
Why Use Mantras?
Mantras are a powerful parenting tool that can help us connect with our values and bigger goals as parents. They allow us to pause before responding and give us a chance to shift our perspective or reframe our child’s behaviour. And this shift in the way we view the situation can completely change the way we respond to it. Because the language we use about ourselves and our kids – even if it’s not spoken aloud – matters. It colours our interactions with our children and our responses to them.
If we believe that our child is intentionally misbehaving, we will respond to them differently than if we view their behaviour as a byproduct of stress or anxiety. I have personally experienced a huge amount of success with mantras, and the mamas I work with have too. The following 8 mantras are some of my favourite, and some that other mamas have found powerful too. They will allow you to pause and really consider the kind of parent you’d like to be – and then behave as if you already are that parent. Because you are.
8 mindful parenting mantras to help you remain calm
1.This is not an emergency
For many of us, our child’s big emotions or behaviours trigger a similarly big reaction in us. In fact, it’s meant to. When our kids feel big feelings, and they have become dysregulated, our own nervous system interprets this as dangerous. It triggers our fight/flight/freeze response, because we are meant to respond quickly to our distressed child.
The problem though, is that our nervous system assumes that anything that triggers this stress response is an emergency. Life threatening and catastrophic. And while there are certainly times when it will be an emergency, and quick action from you is needed, your child’s tantrum is not one of those times. So this mantra can be really helpful in those moments when it feels like you must act right now! It is an important reminder to pause and think about how you can best respond and, it will help you to down regulate your nervous system too!
2. Just breathe
Yes, it’s simple, but one of the quickest and easiest ways to down regulate and switch off the stress response is through the breath. If we can remember this in the moment, we have a powerful tool for returning to calm, no matter what is going on around us.
3. This moment is all that matters
When we struggle to remain regulated in the face of big emotions or behaviours from our child, it’s often because we are reacting to the past, or looking too far into the future. Perhaps we have been triggered, and we are no longer responding to the child in front of us, but to the child within us. The child who always had to eat everything on the plate. The child who was never allowed to talk back. The child who felt they had no voice.
Or, maybe we’re thinking too far ahead. When we feel unsure about what to do, we start to “What if.” We worry about how to discipline our child, or what others may think, or what this behaviour means about our child moving forward – “Will he always do this? What if I can’t get a handle on this? What if this happens at school?” Looking too far ahead can leave us feeling powerless and overwhelmed and reacting to the past often leaves us feeling angry and defensive. But when we remain focused on the present – on the child in front of us and what they need right now in this moment – some of the pressure is lifted and we can find our calm.
4. I am my child’s safe space
What your child needs more than anything else in a difficult moment, is to feel safe. And YOU are their safe space. Tap into your calm by focusing on being a safe person for your child. We are scanning our environments and our relationships for cues of safety all the time. Your child is no different. How can you send cues of safety to your child? Can you soften your tone? Relax your face and jaw? Lower your voice? Unclench your fists or uncross your arms? These actions will all help your child feel safer, and in the process, your body will relax, and you will feel calmer too.
5. It’s not personal
Often our child’s behaviour can feel like a personal attack on us. And it’s easy to think our child is intentionally “pushing our buttons.” But behaviour is simply a reflection of what is happening internally for your child. It is the visible manifestation of an internal struggle or challenge. Your child is not trying to make life more difficult for you. Why would they? No one would ever choose to have a meltdown. Your child’s reaction is not personal. It’s not about you at all. But you do have the power to help them with it. And if you can remember that your child’s behaviour is simply a reflection of their level of arousal and stress, you are more likely to respond with empathy and compassion.
6. Calm is contagious
An escalated adult cannot de-escalate an escalated child. Just as your child’s dysregulation creates dysregulation in you, your own regulation can help your child regulate. This process of co-regulation is how your little one eventually learns self regulation. Using this parenting mantra helps you remember that it is your job to bring the calm to this situation, and that if you focus on your own regulation, your little one will calm down too, feeling safe and secure in your presence.
7. I can only control myself
Your child is their own person. With their own thoughts, feelings, opinions, needs and desires. When we attempt to control or force children to do something, we usually only create frustration for the both of us. Yes, their tantrum may be difficult to witness. Yes, you may want them to do as you ask without complaining. But focusing on what they are NOT doing isn’t going to help you feel calm. It will likely only increase your frustration and ultimately, lead to co-dysregulation. You will both end up escalated. Instead, accept that you cannot control your child, and focus instead on what YOU can do. How you can respond, how you can support your child, how you can meet their needs in this moment.
8. Lead with love
When we are dysregulated, we often behave in ways that do not align with our parenting values. But if we are able to connect with those values in difficult moments, this can help us to remain calm. It doesn’t have to be love. Perhaps an important value for you is respect, or compassion. Maybe it’s kindness or empathy. But whatever it is, this mantra can help you focus on this value in times of stress. You might like to ask yourself, “What would love do in this situation? What would compassion do?” How can you lead with love? What would that look like? What would that sound like?
Do you like these mantras? These (and more) are included in our beautiful Mindful Mama Mantra Cards available in the shop here.
Sarah is a psychologist, mama of 4 and the creator of Mindful Little Minds. She has over 10 years of experience working with children, adolescents and families experiencing mental health problems and has a special interest in anxiety disorders in children. In her spare time she enjoys hugging her kids, drinking coffee, and telling anyone who’ll listen how tired she is.