Is “Keep Calm and Carry On” Unfeeling?

No, it is not meant to be at all!!  The main point is to connect with your child, but not “connect” by yelling, screaming, shouting.  Please go back and read the “How to Keep Calm and Carry On”  back post as I went back and highlighted in bold all the sections about loving and connecting.   This whole blog is about love, and I certainly didn’t mean for anything to come off as uncaring. 

Feeling as if your child’s behavior is not the end of the world, ie, equivalent to “please pass the salt” or picking up lint on the floor is simply an inner attitude to help you keep your cool and only part of what needs to happen in a situation of true conflict.  I think this also helps underscore that a child is ONE part of a FAMILY.  A family is a social organism onto itself, and the behavior of one child, one person, should not be enough to upset the whole balance and get the whole family in a tizzy.  That is more what I meant, but you may have to go through some back posts to really read the Keep Calm and Carry On series in context. Guess that is the problem of having a blog over say, a book.     

Connection is your number one discipline tool, I have said this over and over and over.  See this post: 

Absolutely,you must connect with your child, and you must de-escalate the situation before they get the point the child is having a temper tantrum.  However, whining and laying on the floor saying “I am bored” over and over deserves not only not yelling and shouting but a calm response and an assurance that the family life does not grind to a halt where everyone is tense and shouting because of just simple pushing against forms by a child.  Everything deserves a loving and  calm response.  I am certainly NOT suggesting you go off somewhere else and fold laundry whilst your child is melting down. 

What I am suggesting is that many parents have the problem of being calm in order to help their child.  Many parents blow their fuse almost immediately the moment a child does something normal, small and age-appropriate.  For small things, I think “keep calm and carry on” can help parents find their center.  The trick is being able to be connected and loving to your child on the outside, calm on the inside and show it through smiles, warmth, an “I am here” attitude, and even saying, “I hear you!” 

Sometimes there is only so much complaining and whining one can really hear but you can say to a six year old and older, “I hear you, and I have listened to you talk about your sadness (boredom, etc)  and right now I really am full but I will carry your thoughts with me  whilst I wash the dishes.  Come and help me” and take them by the hand to help you.  Sing.  This may sound harsh to some of you with smaller children, but many small children find it oddly comforting  that family life is still humming and they don’t have the utter power to make the whole family unbalanced.  When a small child can sense that their behavior can de-rail the whole family, that is scary to them.  Does that make sense?

I also honestly think that because many parents are only having one child or two children, these children live closer under the parent’s scrutiny than say, children living in a larger household.  Not everything needs to be so serious and taken so under scrutiny.  Children are not little adults, they deserve attention and love, but there is also something to be said for a bit of benign neglect where children are part of the family, not just something everyone in the family should be orbiting around like a small sun.   I like this post about benign neglect:

Older children, your five and six to ten year olds. really need to see this calmness.  I am sure we all remember instances of being teenagers and not wanting to talk to our parents because they “would freak out”.  If you can be calm(er) in the years preceding these years, hopefully your teenagers will feel they can come to you with things because you will be calm and helpful and listen.

How-to’s of “Connection, Keep Calm and Carry On” in the next post!

Hope that helps to clarify a bit…Many blessings,


11 thoughts on “Is “Keep Calm and Carry On” Unfeeling?

  1. Carrie this is a great follow up post! As a mother of four, soon to be five, I can’t imagine how my life (or theirs!) would look if I fell apart with them each time. When my bigger three were little and I was still working in the infancy stages of my own inner work, I could easily lose myself in their drama. My oldest is on the spectrum and his frequent tantrums left me exhausted until I began to realize that I didn’t have to have an inner tantrum while he was having an outer one! When I stayed calm and ho hum about it, they tended to not be as severe. Now that I am mastering inner peace more and more (and it is a daily striving!) I can watch Samuel, age 4, melt down and not connect with that part of him, I can give him a hug and loving words but not feed into his drama by walking the tantrum with him. It is very easy to get caught up in their sadness, it is very real to them, but using suggestions like the ones you mention Carrie are VERY loving and comforting to them. “I am so sorry that is frustrating you, come with me and let’s XYZ” Acknowledge, don’t engage. You can be loving and firm at the same, I promise!

  2. I really appreciate your posts on these topics. I think you’re spot on. My kids are 2 and 4, and I agree that it’s “oddly comforting” for them to realize that my husband and I can keep calm when they’re falling apart with a tantrum, etc. It makes sense that they find it reassuring that they’re aren’t in fact all-powerful beings, and someone else is steering the ship, so to speak.

  3. Carrie, your “Calm and Carry On” series has been the most beneficial to me. I really appreciate having the image of being ho-hum and “picking lint off the floor” when my 7 year old or my 9 year old do something inappropriate. Many times I have let my immediate action be anger/yelling. No one is happy afterwards, and I feel I’ve only taught them to explode when tested (by a friend, teacher, situation, etc). Loving them and giving them lots of good attention has never been a problem. Reacting calmly has been. From now on, I will try to approach it with reserve and an attitude of ho-hum. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  4. Carrie, I understood your original post completely and it is evident that anyone who thought you implied an unfeeling attitude is new to your blog! 😉 The post was excellent; I sent the link immediately to my parent coaching clients as it will be great food for thought for them this month for our coaching calls. Your content and articulation is stellar. This reminder of not making mole hills into mountains is incredibly helpful to us as mothers. Thank you for your brilliance in explaining this so beautifully.

  5. Dear Carrie,
    Your parenting insights and ideas are inspiring. It seems that you really make a big change in many people’s lives. Thank you.
    I have just started reading your site and worked my way through your gentle discipline posts. I loved your post on boundaries. My daughter is 22 month and we just gently started moving into a time where she seems to need separation form me. When she feels well rested, fed and healthy she started to say things like: “No Mama” when she just sees me come around the corner followed by whining and crying for physical closeness. She is now able to convey her need for connection in a calmer manner, but it still leaves me at times confused and I am sometimes wavering in my response to her. I have sat down and thought about boundaries I wish to set with her. This is a VERY difficult task and concept for me and I am not sure what specific boundaries would look like. I am aware that boundaries are individual choices of parents, but I am really looking for some concrete examples. My boundaries were constantly disregarded until I was 17 years old. It is to this day very hard for me to put up boundaries as it sends me into confusion and the feeling of isolation. I feel like a small and confused child when I set a boundary with someone (anyone). I waver so many times in my responses and i know that my daughter picks up on it. Could you give me some concrete examples for healthy boundaries with a 22 month old toddler?
    So far I have practiced time outs for myself when I felt my anger rising. There were only a few moments where I lost my gentleness and my voice and body language became agitated and harsh. My little daughter picked up on it and said in a very consternated and questioning voice “Mama”. Her sensitivity and perception makes me really aware not to loose it when she is physically close to me. I have used pillows to scream and called my husband at work in times of distress.
    I was never convinced of the time-out concept for children and it somehow reminded me of the shaming punishment of having to stand in the corner at school. Everybody could see my vulnerability and my body felt cold, isolated and shaky. BUt also have I wavered in my opinion depending to whom I spoke or which book I read. Why is parenting so confusing? I know the answer, but it still leaves me baffled that the oldest “profession” in the world, parenting, has undergone so many extreme changes in opinions and is still full of discrepancies in ideas and opinions.

  6. Carrie-
    I can imagine how the lint comment could be misinterpreted, but so very spot on! I think this follow up post, especially the link to Donna’s hallmark early years parenting post, really puts it all into context. Keeping calm,and carrying on, is-like Melissa said-so related to the inner work of us mamas and being able to come from a place of compassion and connection- rather than say anger or collapse that is often ( in my personal experience) related to fear or over identification.

    You do know you are making huge changes in families lives right?:) Huge.


  7. Hi Carrie. As a newly single mother to an 18 month old babe I can honestly say that your blog is one of the things that has carried me through this difficult time in my life. Your explanations of parenting resonate with me so much. With my son just beginning to express ‘will’, I have found your suggestions re the ho-hum attitude to be immediately helpful. Of course – I care very much what’s going on with him, but by not buying into his intensity he mostly does end up just falling in with whatever I’m up to. Sometimes I do need to come down to his level and comfort him, but I feel that the connection between us helps me to discern when to ho-hum and when to focus on him. Thanks so much for your wonderful blog. Vicky

  8. Carrie -thanks for the follow up post! Knowing when to employ benign neglect vs. when (and how) to respond more directly to the whining (or other challenging behavior) was the crux of my question on your previous post. As a newish mom (my oldest is 3 tomorrow) it’s always hard to figure out the right response in each unique situation. The examples used above were great.

    I was translating “ho-hum” into just overlooking the behavior, and that’s the part I was struggling with. As a frequent reader of your blog, I know you are focused on love and connection, so i figured that I must be missing something. I was right. 🙂 Thanks for clarifying.

  9. I missed the original post but I really appreciate what you say here.

    I think it is important to connect with kids but to draw them into our work and rhythm at the level they are at, rather than to center everything around them.

    …Not to mention if you have more than one young child at home with you, it is nearly impossible to focus all efforts around each of them simultaneously.

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