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My 3-year-old is eating peanut butter toast with banana for breakfast (his request), and we are officially running late for preschool. We need to get in the car soon if we want to miss the morning traffic, but he has decided that he no longer wants the food that he begged for two minutes earlier. What started off as a relatively calm breakfast has turned into a battle of wills.

"You're going to be hungry," I say, realizing immediately that he could care less. I can feel my frustration rising, and even though I'm trying to stay calm, I'm getting snappy and irritable. In hindsight, I can see so many opportunities that fell through the cracks to salvage this morning, but at the moment… there was nothing.

Nothing I could do to stay calm, nothing I could do to get this tiny human to eat his food. Tantrums all around.

And all I could think was here we are again. I had crossed the tiny invisible line between calm, positive parent into frustrated and angry mom-mode. I was triggered.

If I had taken just a minute to pause and calm myself down, we might have had a different outcome. If I could have just put my agenda aside for a second and validated the feeling that he was experiencing—to respond to his needs instead of reacting to his behavior—we might have made it to preschool on time.

Ask any mother what virtue she wishes she could multiply, and chances are she will say "patience." Motherhood is not for the faint of heart. The single most challenging thing about positive parenting is being able to keep our reactions under control despite being exhausted, annoyed and triggered.

But the reality is this: The same self-regulation that my 3-year-old needs to learn in order to stop himself from having a tantrum is the same self-regulation that I need to learn to avoid yelling at him.

So what is the secret to growing in patience and the ability to regulate yourself as an adult?

A whole lot of self-reflection.

Identify what kind of behaviors provoke the most anger from you, and think about why that might be. Then find whatever it is that helps you calm down in the midst of a heated moment. This will be different for everyone; it could be taking some deep breaths, stepping away from your child, or taking a break.

Another way to stay centered is to have some go-to parenting mantras to remind you of the big picture goals you have for your children.

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Beautiful mantra bands for challenging moments

Here are 10 phrases to help you stay calm when you're on the verge, mama:

1. "Our relationship is my #1 priority."

It can be easy to be overwhelmed by the many day-to-day demands of motherhood and lose sight of our main goal: connecting with our children. Children who behave poorly are often children who are feeling disconnected from their parents. If we aim for understanding and focus on the relationship with our child, their behavior will follow suit.

2. "This is not an emergency."

Another phrase for "slow down, mama." Unless someone is in physical danger, it's genuinely not an emergency. We put so much pressure on ourselves to do it all. But at the end of the day, the way you interacted with your child is so much more important than whether or not you made it to preschool on time.

3. "I can't win her heart by force."

I can force my child to do a lot of things because I'm bigger and stronger, but I can't win her heart by force. I want my child to remember my gentleness. My child needs to know that I am on her side; that we make the team. And if my goal is to win my child's heart, I must make empathy and compassion my first priority.

4. "I'm bringing the calm here."

Self-regulation is still very new for your little one, so in the midst of their struggle, you are the only one able to bring peace to the storm. This is the most crucial reason why we need to be able to stay centered with our children because they can't do it without us.

5. "All feelings are okay."

You are open to all the feelings your child can feel. Learning how to self-regulate and become emotionally intelligent is a process that involves your child practicing different ways to cope when he is feeling overwhelmed. By staying calm, you can help your child channel those emotions into appropriate ways of acting.

6. "I can only control myself."

Your child is their person. They have their own fears, insecurities, doubts, and pain. Just because it seems like your child's tantrum is happening over something as seemingly simple as peanut butter toast, it is really about much bigger feelings that they can't articulate.

7. "He's just a child."

Children are loud, impulsive, and a little wild sometimes. If I had a nickel for every time that I was triggered by my child just being a child! I love this simple reminder that I can't expect my son to act like an adult.

8. "It's not supposed to be easy."

With social media continually depicting other people's "picture perfect" lives with their children, I'm here to reassure you that motherhood is not supposed to be easy. The early years of parenting are probably the hardest thing you'll ever do. Stay the course; it's okay that it's hard.

9. "We are moving on."

It's easy to harbor feelings of resentment and frustration over your child's behavior long after the tantrum is done. A really important part of restoring peace in your home after a meltdown is reminding yourself that the only way your child can behave better is if they feel better. Be able to forgive, move on, and start fresh.

10. "It won't always be this way."

When you are in a dark season, it can feel like the struggle will always be there. But if one thing is for sure it is this... the tantrum will end, the house won't always be this loud or this messy, and you will eventually sleep again.

How reassuring and heartbreaking it is to know… it won't always be this way.

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You will always be their safe space, mama

You are their haven. Their harbor. Their sanctuary, their peace. You are comfort. Deep breaths. Hugs and back rubs. You're a resting place, a nightmare chaser, a healer. You are the calm within their storm. You are their mother.

To your child, you are safety. You are security. You are where (out of anyone or any place), they can come undone. Where they can let it all out, let it all go. Where they meltdown, break down, scream, cry, push.

Where they can say—"I AM NOT OKAY!"

Where they can totally lose it. Without judgment or fear or shame.

Because they know you'll listen. They know you'll hear them. That you will help piece the mess back together.

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This post is brought to you by Staples. While this was a sponsored opportunity, all content and opinions expressed here are my own.

One of the biggest changes in my household once my daughter started homeschooling was that, suddenly, everything and everyone in our home had to start pulling double duty. While I was used to wearing a lot of hats (mom, wife and WFH employee, to name a few), suddenly our dining room was also pulling shifts as a classroom. My laptop was also a virtual teacher. Our living room hutch was also a school supply closet.

If I didn't want my home to be overrun with an abundance of clutter, I had to find products that could multitask. Here are 10 products that are saving this WFH + homeschooling mama right now.

Stylish storage cabinet

Whether I need a place to keep the printer or just want to keep crayons and colored pencils organized, this pretty cabinet provides a mixture of exposed and hidden storage without clashing with my living room decor.

White board calendar + bulletin board

With so much on our plates these days, I need a visual reminder of our daily schedule or I'll forget everything. This dry erase version makes it easy to keep track of Zoom meetings and virtual classes—and I also love using the corkboard to display my daughter's latest work from art class.

Natural Recycled 3-Ring Binder

From tracking our curriculum progress to organizing my family's paperwork, I can never have enough binders. Even better, this neutral version is pretty enough that I can display them on the bookshelf.

Bamboo storage drawers

The instant you start homeschooling, it can feel like you're suddenly drowning in papers, craft supplies and more. Fortunately, these simple bamboo drawers can be tucked into the cabinet or even displayed on top (seriously, they're that cute!) to keep what we need organized and close at hand.

Laminated world map

I love this dry-erase map for our geography lessons, but the real secret? It also makes a cute piece of wall decor for my work space.

Rolling 7-drawer cabinet

When you're doing it all from home, you sometimes have to roll with the punches—I strongly recommend getting an organizational system that rolls with you. On days when both my husband and I are working from home and I need to move my daughter's classes to another room, this 7-drawer cabinet makes it easy to bring the classroom with us.

Letterboard

From our first day of school photo to displaying favorite quotes to keep myself motivated, this 12"x18" letterboard is my favorite thing to display in our home.

Expandable tablet stand

Word to the wise: Get a pretty tablet stand you won't mind seeing out every day. (Because between virtual playdates, my daughter's screen time and my own personal use, this thing never gets put away.)

Neutral pocket chart

Between organizing my daughter's chore chart, displaying our weekly sight words and providing a fits-anywhere place to keep supplies on hand, this handy little pocket chart is a must-have for homeschooling families.

Totable fabric bins

My ultimate hack for getting my family to clean up after themselves? These fabric bins. I can use them to organize my desk, store my oldest's books and even keep a bin of toys on hand for the baby to play with while we do school. And when playtime is over, it's easy for everyone to simply put everything back in the bin and pop it in the cabinet.

Looking for study solutions for older children? Hop over to Grown & Flown for their top picks for Back to School.

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Dear 2020 baby: Thank you

This year has been a mess. But you've been the light in the darkness.

Sweet 2020 baby,

I just want to say thank you.

Because in many ways, this year has been a mess.

A bit of a disaster, really.

But you.

You've been the light in the darkness.

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