Look, parenting is hard. Sometimes we experience a gap between how we want to parent and our actual lived experience of parenting. It happens to me when I get stressed, and my kids are all home with me, and we get stuck inside the house. I start snapping, they get whiney, I get snappier.... and on and on. Aside from leaving the house for an adventure, which always works for me, here are five tips for being the parent you want to be.
Three deep breaths. When things are getting a little out of hand, I typically notice my chest starts to tighten and things start to feel impossible and desperate. I remind myself that nothing horrible is going to happen if I just stop, retreat to some un-occupied corner, and take a deep breath. I try to take three. This almost always happens in transitions- when I’m rushing trying to fill sippy cups and find matching shoes and not lose the car keys I just had in my hand. Taking three deep breaths myself allows me to recoup my energy, remember how I want to parent, and respond to my kids in calm, kind ways.
Positive-Language Challenge. Sometimes I notice that despite my best efforts, I spend an inordinate amount of time telling my girls what not to do. It’s true that I find myself telling them not to put their fingers in sockets, not to kick each other, not to push, not to climb up the slide…. And it’s exhausting, right? It’s tiresome for me as their mama to always be shouting out what not to do. Plus, it’s confusing for them- now that they know not to put their little fingers in the light sockets, where should they put them? And then I find myself telling them to also not put their fingers in the bag of flour, in the dog’s eyeballs, or in each others’ ears. I challenge myself to stop that cycle right away, and tell them what to do. I tell them to put their fingers in their pockets, I tell them to stomp their feet on the ground and keep their hands on their own bodies. They oblige so much easier and sometimes I even hear them whisper to each other “hands on your own body!”
Praise Challenge. A while back I decided to praise the girls-exclusively, no negative comments at all- while they “helped” me mop the floor. They loved it! And I realized how much my praise makes them shine, and how little praise I actually give them on a daily basis. So, heap on the praise. There’s no such thing as too much praise, but there is a way to praise that cultivates effort and resiliency. When we praise what children are doing (as in, working on the math problem, trying to sweep everything up, collaborating with peers on something hard) as opposed to the outcome or value associated with what they’re doing (as in, you’re so smart! You’re so clean!), children learn that their efforts are valued, and they learn that trying and even struggling are necessary in order to grow.
Say Yes For A Day. When you’re in a rut with your children, try saying yes for a day. I let mine know I will say yes, and then I follow through. If they suggest we make orange cookies, we figure out a way and go grocery shopping for ingredients. If they suggest we go to the park and have a snack at the top of the slide, I pack some popcorn and get out of the house. Just say yes. Allow the magic to emerge, and follow the silliness of your littles.
Start Singing. Yes, sing. I sing to my kids all the time, especially when they need help understanding something, or when I really need them all to cooperate, or when I am starting to lose my patience as I try to pile them into the car. Here’s the deal with singing: it activates calming neurological pathways in your brain and it is bound to calm you down. It’s really hard to be mad when you’re singing. Plus, children are much more able to process information when it’s sung to them, so that makes this tip not only awesome in terms of your becoming the calm, present parent you were meant to be, but also- singing will actually help your child understand whatever information you’ve communicating to them!