Scrolling through Pinterest, the parenting posts on “10 steps to being a calmer mom” and “How to stop yelling and be a calm mom” seem to go on and on. While yelling at your kids non-stop isn’t a healthy way of parenting, the pressure to be a constantly “calm mom” and endlessly patient and gentle with our kids isn’t healthy either. I’m not a “calm mom” — and I’m not only ok with that, I’m proud of it.
Let’s define what “calm” means.
According to Dictionary.com, “calm” means “free from excitement or passion”. Lexico says it means “not showing or feeling nervousness, anger, or other strong emotion.” Google Dictionary describes calm as “the absence of violent or confrontational activity.”
All of that sounds good on the surface, right? Who wouldn’t want to be a parent that doesn’t show nervousness or anger?
Except that.. there are really good reasons why passion, anger, excitement and confrontation are part of healthy parenting.
First, a passionate parent shows they care.
Kids want their parents to be excited about them. Most of us remember how it felt when our parents said, “Proud of you!” or “Great job!”. Praise from a parent can make you feel like you’ve conquered a mountain.
And a parent that shows that they are just as concerned about the poor choices their children make as much as the good choices will have a greater impact on those choices.
Just as much as our kids live for our praise, they live to not disappoint us — unless they think we don’t care.
Second, hiding your feelings damages the relationship.
One of my highest values is integrity. I never want to lie to my kids. I don’t ever want to give them a “fake” version of me. So for me to be a “calm mom”, I would have to hide a lot of how I feel, in order to “not show nervousness or anger.”
I refuse to lie to my kids. Especially about something as important as how I feel about them.
Kids learn about real relationships from their parents. They are always watching. And if I want them to have healthy relationships in the future, I need to have a healthy relationship with my kids now.
And that means, they need to see how I feel — and how their actions and choices make me feel.
Now that does NOT mean I react out of my feelings. I’m the adult here, so I can choose a response based on what’s best for myself and my kids, rather than just acting out my feelings. I might be angry, but I don’t have to throw a tantrum to show that I’m angry.
But my kids are going to know that sometimes people that love them will still be irritated by them, or disappointed, or saddened — and that it’s ok because we still care. Real relationships can handle real emotions.
Third, children learn how to handle their emotions from their parents.
This is kind of related to my 2nd point, and leads out of it. By making sure I prioritize my relationship with my kids, and show them how I feel about them and their choices, I’m also showing them how to handle their emotions.
By being angry around them, or even with them, but refusing to hurt someone out of anger, I give my kids the tools they need to handle their own anger.
By openly grieving or being sad around my kids — even crying — I model for my children that having and expressing negative emotions is part of life and normal and healthy.
And by sharing my excitement and delight in my kids with them, even to the point of silliness, I show my kids that all kinds of feelings can be strong and how to express them safely. And that’s it’s ok to be a little silly sometimes.
My kids are learning how to handle their own emotions by watching how I handle mine. And they won’t be able to do that if I’m a “calm mom” and never show strong feelings.
Fourth, confrontation is an important and necessary part of parenting.
As a parent, it’s my responsibility to provide feedback on my kids’ choices. That’s part of the job. And sometimes, that requires getting in their face and getting their attention.
Confrontation is rarely easy, and often feels very uncomfortable. It’s easier to play “calm mom” and try “reasonable” discussions, quiet nagging, and soft pleas for change. And sometimes those work well!
But sometimes, if a child is particularly stubborn, or they’ve heard it repeatedly, they need a more intentional, even aggressive, confrontation.
This does NOT mean you are physically violent. It doesn’t even have to mean that you raise your voice, necessarily. But you can be emotionally confrontational and assertive — and that can be attention grabbing.
And confrontation and “calm” are opposites. Usually.
Are all “calm moms” emotionally unhealthy?
The way many of the articles today present “calm moms” can lead to emotional repression and unnatural interactions. But there’s one more definition of “calm” that needs to be thought of.
Collins Dictionary says “calm” means “not disturbed, agitated, excited; under control“.
If we take “calm mom” to be a mom that is under control, that isn’t driven by her passion, authentic in their relationships, expressing emotions in controlled, healthy ways and not agitated by others, then that is the kind of “calm mom” I’d want to be.
As a normal, healthy adult, with normal, healthy feelings, I’m going to get angry. I might yell in irritation – and yell in excitement. I’m passionate about my kids, and that means that I’m going to be just as emotional when they impress me with their kindness, intelligence, talent, skill, or achievement as I would be when they hurt with disappointment, frustration or irritation. I’m always going to be real with then, because how else will they know how to be real with others?
But I do my best to NEVER lose control of my emotions.
So I’m not a “calm mom” — at least not the kind that is described by the “experts”. Instead, I’m an “in control mom”, making choices that support and model healthy choices for my kids.