The ‘Calm Down Codeword’

The 'Calm Down Codeword': Keeping your cool when your patience is tested, with one simple word | Happiness is here

I have never really had the ‘terrible two’s’ that everyone warns about with my children. I love 2-year-old’s! They’re hilarious and oh so cute. I think I love every age though, each stage has something new and unique and I just love watching them develop. So far the hardest for me personally is when they turn three. Challenging for me and challenging for them. There are so many big emotions packed into that tiny body!

When my second daughter turned 3, I had forgotten what it was like, and that her sister was exactly the same just two years prior. I wondered what had happened to my sweet little girl, where I had gone wrong? I got more and more frustrated at her and at myself for not knowing what to do! Finally, my brain caught up and I remembered I had been here before, wondering the same things, and I had a beautiful 5-year-old who had made it through this stage very well.

I hate when at times I get stuck in a parenting rut, reacting to things in ways I don’t want to, getting frustrated at normal child behaviour. I’m not perfect and it happens to me the same as it does with anyone else. I know exactly how I want to parent but sometimes frustration and lack of sleep (I had a newborn!) can get in the way of that. So something had to be done! I wanted to stop reacting in the heat of the moment and instead take some time to calm down and think about what to do. So we came up with a codeword!

Firstly, I explained to my 3-year-old that I was really sorry for being so frustrated and sometimes getting angry. I told her that it was ok to feel angry but not ok to let that anger hurt anyone else. Then I suggested that we come up with a codeword together that both of us could use whenever the other one was getting angry. It would remind us how much we loved each other and we would stop and have a cuddle to calm down before working out what to do about the problem. She immediately smiled and started thinking of what the word could be. We found the perfect one that was meaningful to us (which I can’t tell you because it’s our special word).

Using the codeword has been so effective! If we are disagreeing and I am getting frustrated she will run up to me and say it and give me a cuddle. It snaps me out of it straight away, I apologize, and we can both talk calmly about the situation. When she is yelling and having trouble hearing me, I can use the codeword and she will give me a cuddle until she calms down instead. And of course, the more we practice and respond calmly, the less we are having to use our codeword now.

It was such an easy thing to do which has been so effective for us, maybe is will be helpful for you too!

The 'Calm Down Codeword': Keeping your cool when your patience is tested, with one simple word | Happiness is here

63 thoughts on “The ‘Calm Down Codeword’

  1. What a clever strategy. I love reading about your relationships with your girls. They are learning so many important skills in your loving arms. Thanks for sharing. (I am SO curious about the codeword, though!)

  2. Oh my gosh – we are the same person! Whenever you write a post, it is 100% exactly the way I parent!!! So – we have had a code word for a few years now that we use as a family – the girl use it for me whenever I start to get upset or frustrated to remind me to calm myself and to be a more centered parent. Our code word is bluebird (not a secret! haha) – it’s really a great thing! Glad I am not alone in this – when I have told some people about it in the past, they’ve thought that I am a little cuckoo!!! Haha.

  3. My 3 year old son screams alot , happy or otherwise. We tell him not to but he would never cease. On delving further I realised that as parents I and my husband resort to screaming ourselves giving vent to our parental frustrations so did we have any right to ask our son to keep low. So I talked to my son , discussed with him that its not ok with any of us to scream. So everytime any of us would scream the other person would remind calmly ‘ as in ‘Mummy no screaming please, Daddy no screaming please and Dhruv no screaming please’. It sure does have an effect. But keeping codeword will make it interesting. Will give it a try. Thanks for the post.

  4. We do that in our house too. Our word is ‘Breathe’. We then have to take 3 breaths together. It is very true about 3 year olds. I can remember wondering who this little girl was for a year lol then just before she turned 4 she was back to herself πŸ™‚

  5. Thank you SO much! I needed this! My sweet, funny, adorable little girl turned 3 in May. She has started throwing horrific tantrums that make me question where I went wrong. I am definitely going to try this.

  6. What a great idea. I’m going to try this more often. I usually say I need a ‘moment’ to myself, but this strategy is smarter. Thank you!

    Found you via Documenting Delight

  7. I didn’t have “terrible twos” with my son, then he turned 3. Almost overnight the tantrums started. Screaming, whining, etc. To get his way or if I was disciplining him. I love this idea of a code word to call us BOTH doen (because i get frustrated too). Thanks for the wonderful idea!

  8. I have 2.5yo twin girls, I am not looking forward to them turning 3. Will definitely start to implement this now, they have an older brother and they fight constantly. Hopefully using this I might be able to reduce the conflict.

  9. Now Im scared. My daughter just turned two, and has turned into a little terrorist overnight. Biting and scratching others when she is upset or overtired. Testing the limits, temper tantrums etc. what is going to happen when she turns three? Eek.

    • You might find some helpful strategies at Janet Lansbury’s blog Elevating Childcare (also on fb). Her blog posts were a game changer for us… My daughter was 18 months when I stumbled on it via fb, just as she was starting the toddler biting, hitting, and tantrums. Now, at 2.5, we rarely struggle with big tantrums or hitting (biting stopped completely, as we now know how to help her regulate and work through her feelings before things build to that point). Good luck!

  10. Thank you so much for sharing this story. I am so excited to go home from work today and share this with my 7 year old daughter (who thinks she is a teen). I know she will love this idea as much as me πŸ™‚

  11. Oh thank u so much for sharing!! My dd just turned 2 and we have such a hard time sometimes. She gets so emotional and I get frustrated so easy myself. I’m not sure if she will understand this right now but I will be using this in the future when she does start understanding more. We both love to cuddle and sometimes I feel like I’m already losing her. We both end up crying and she’s so caring that she normally stops being upset and wanting to take care of me. I have an 8mo old and he just sits back and has no idea what’s going on!

  12. This sounds like a great idea. I’m having the same challenge right now with my (almost) 3 year old. Especially since we just found out our second child will be here in April, so I have the double whammy of my emerging “Three-nager” and morning sickness/ fatigue from first trimester pregnancy. We have something similar (pretty much me telling her to take a break when she gets frustrated), but this seems like a much more productive method. I can’t wait to give it a try. It might make the next few months of three-year-old development, potty training and pregnancy survivable. Thank you.

  13. I think my son may have already entered the terrible twos. It started around 19 months or so when he was going through a lot if new adjustments: new house, daycare and I’m pregnant too (so more fatigue on my part). He’s usually a very nice kid but not getting his way really frustrates him. For example, he’ll sometimes ask for more of some food (even if he already has a plate full of it) and if he thinks I may not give it to him immediately he will purposely pour all his milk on the floor.

  14. I love this idea, thank you! My daughter will be three at the end of November, right when I am expecting our second child (perfect timing, right?). We have been struggling with this exact rut most of August, due in part to me being exhausted and not sleeping well, and for my daughter (despite her excellent communication skills – she started speaking simple full sentences at 18 mos) her frustration at wanting something but not getting it sometimes. We’re going to work towards this!

  15. I like the sound of this. I have two girls aged 5.5 and almost 3, I think it might work with both of them but wonder would it work between them if they had their own codeword?

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  17. This is a great idea. I am definitely going to be using it with my 3 year old (who is nearly 4). Thank you so much for this post! I too never struggled with my daughter when she was 2, I loved every moment, and like you when she turned 3 had myself questioning what it was I had done wrong as a mother, because my sweet little obedient well mannered little girl had turned into a spoilt screaming, tantrum-ing 3 year old. So this advice on a code word couldn’t have come at a better time for us. I need something else, because I find myself loosing my cool with her a lot, and its not fair on her because like you say its normal child development. I can’t thank you enough for this post, inspiring and helpful. Tanita x

  18. Love this!
    It is a wonderful idea to have a more imaginative/mystical code word – like a previous commenter’s “bluebird”. Right now in our house it is “regroup” because my husband says that a lot to diffuse tension and remind himself/me/our daughter to breathe and get centered again. My 2.5 year old started saying it too and will sometimes go sit or lay down and say “regroup” rather than getting physically or vocally upset about something. It makes my heart swell to see her regulating her strong emotions/frustrations in that way. Nobody is perfect, but we do our best… and it helps to remember that what we model in terms of emotional responses is what our children become hardwired for in their own lives.

    Deep breaths are pretty huge as well… For us as parents as well as for the little ones! At about 1 year old I started consciously modeling and encouraging deep breaths when things were getting tense or emotionally charged. It was amazing how fast she picked it up and how much it helps!

    One last thought… You may be interested in the heart math studies and (very simple) technique for regaining heart/ mind coherence. I believe it is done by the institute of noetic sciences, but a Google or fb search for heartmath should pull it up.

    Thanks for the great post… And I’m so glad to have found your blog!

  19. Thank you so much for this great advice. I started 2 days ago and explained my 3 y.o daughter just like you did – that something “people” can get angry, frustrated… and when this happen to us we’d help each other by reminding how much we love each other. For us, it worked the other way around. I was getting upset and could feel the disconnection. My daughter told me “I love you” (our code) very quietly, looking down, I stopped everything, hugged her and said thank you. This is really amazing how it changed my mood in 10 seconds… Thank you very much

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  21. Thank you. Instead of a screaming, frustrated child who felt he wasn’t heard, I had a sobbing boy on my knee with his arms around my neck, who knew he was loved. And all I had to do was whisper “bananas”. Magic!

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