This is not revolutionary or complicated thinking. It is not a way of strictly adhering to a certain type of thinking.
I recognized early on in my parenting that you cannot say “yes” to everything, nor can you say “no” to everything. But it is confusing, because the parenting experts seemed to have an answer for everything. Any given scenario has a prescribed answer…but is it really that easy?
NEVER give a treat before dinner? NEVER give a lollipop so you can get through the grocery store? AWAYS adhere to the bedtime? ALWAYS make a child hold your hand when walking?
So how does a parent stay reasonable and sane?
I use a scale, and this scale is forever changing based on my children and how they are developing.
And even though the scale changes, practicing this thinking for years has become a habit, and it is now fairly automatic. It helps me with almost every parenting decision, from the big to the small.
Here’s how it works:
At the lowest level in any given situation, the worst possible scenario is death.
Morbid? Of course, but that is how I roll.
So, already knowing that death is lurking everywhere, I have to move up to “serious injury or maiming.”
What is the worst that will happen if I don’t pick up this two year old in the parking lot?
Serious injury or maiming.
So, I pick up the child. Screaming and yelling and kicking ensue, but so be it.
After serious injury, we move into some muddy waters.
So, one of the items on the scale is: I am allowing a moral or value boundary to be moved, and thus render it insignificant?
What is the worst that will happen if I turn my head when I witness my six year old tease a friend?
I am breaking a value of showing others kindness.
Is an extra cookie, while on vacation, breaking a value or moral boundary? No. For me, the worst that will happen is…well, nothing. It is a cookie.
Another item on the scale is: Is this occurrence going to undermine my boundary or routine? How badly?
For instance, the children beg to stay up later on a school night. They want to watch one more Phineas and Ferb. On the surface, this is not a crisis. Yet my instinct tells me that, well, the worst that will happen is that they will be tired and that they will want to start to do this every night!
So, no. The TV goes off.
If it’s a Friday night, an extra show does not undermine my routine.
If they are on vacation, it is does not undermine my routine. If they are vacation, and we need to be at the airport at 6 AM, then it does undermine my routine. You see?
Asking yourself, “what is the worst that could happen?” is a way to tap into your instincts, keep your role as an authority figure, maintain flexibility, and…the best of all?
Asking “What is the worst that could happen?” can start to bypass those pesky worries and fears that keep your thinking too rigid or too flimsy.
For instance, if you have trouble keeping rules, you could ask, “What is the worst that could happen if I give my child this i-phone and don’t monitor it?”
Well, this could get bad. From over-texting to total distraction from homework, this question will snap you to attention that yes! You need to monitor the phone use!
Also, what about “What is the worst that will happen if I don’t make this screaming five year old another dinner?”
Your fears might spring up and say, “Oh God, he will never stop screaming…” But the worst? It is really just yelling and not eating. That is not death. That is not maiming. That is not even a moral boundary. It’s just annoying.
So, try it out. Put some of your parenting worries and quandaries to the test.
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2. Everyone is different, and it is interesting to hear about others struggles, triumphs, and points of view.
4. It is a judgement-free zone.
6. Since it is facilitated by a certified leader, everyone has a chance to be heard.
8. The basic idea that you have the right to feel supported, loved, and heard is so nice. It helps you be a better mom, spouse, friend, and community member.
10. You put your needs FIRST.
Chances are, when you were a child, you don’t remember having too much homework in kindergarten, first grade or second grade. Sure, you had a worksheet here and there, but nothinglike how it is today. Standards, testing, assessments and teacher evaluations have squeezed learning into the afternoon and evening hours, and with no change on the horizon, we can assume thathomework is here to stay.
And when it comes to parent and child, homework is a common lightning rod for struggle and fights. From where the child sits, to the appropriate hour it is completed, parents and children have trouble seeing eye-to-eye about the best way to complete the work.
So, let’s start off the year with some homework collaboration and cooperation! Here are some of my ideas for how to struggle less with homework:
Too much stuff.
Too much food, too much junk food, too much technology.
Too much family, too much sleep (maybe?), too much togetherness.
Too much lack of routine.
Whereas adults enjoy our routine and feel quite out of sorts without it, children need routine to continue to thrive, learn, and integrate their young brains.
Why? A happy and calm mom or dad IS a happy and calm parent.
I AM GIVING AWAY ONE CLASS. (How cool is Kelly to offer this to my peeps?!)
How do you win a spot?
Your lovely and beautiful child is hitting…and hitting often.
When your child is hitting, ask yourself some of these questions:
1) How old is my child? A two year old can hit A LOT. It’s pretty normal. In fact, it is the most violent and aggressive time in a human’s life! Read this for more info!
An eight year old, typically, hits far less. You have two totally different ways of handling different ages. (Will get to this more. The point is: age and developmental stage matter.)
2). What is the frustration causing the hitting? Is it that the language is not there and the frustration erupts as a hit? Has the child been trying to make her point, and no one is listening? Has he been interrupted? Told to hush? Told to suck it up?
3). How can I help the child adapt to this frustration? This means that there is often nothing any of us can do about life’s frustrations, but that doesn’t mean we cannot remain emotionally open and kind to our child. The child will have tears and you can allow it. Those tears are a sign of their expectations meeting with the reality of the world. There is not one more cookie. It is time for bed. The i-device is going away. UGH! This SUCKS. And then, after some tears…I feel better.
This is human. We all do it. At least, we should be doing it.
This is like, let’s say, someone is starving. Literally starving to death. You cannot give the body a Big Mac and a piece of pie (more than it needs). You ease the body into calories and nutrients, until the body can handle many foods.
Children who are easily frustrated and aggressive do not need MORE problems. They need to be eased into frustration, so keep it light. As the child becomes more experienced at adapting to frustration, he can handle more and more!
Regular frustrations? How can the family get through it? For instance, my three year old hits me, and then throws herself on the ground during dinner. Well, this is not totally unusual. We give her some love, give her some time, and welcome her back to the table when she comes back.
When my ten year old hits and yells, this signals me that something is wrong. Hunger? Fatigue? School? Friend stuff? Homework? Worries? I give her space and stay close, don’t take it personally, ask open-ended questions…wait for her to open up. Sometimes it is a problem, sometimes it is hormonal. It is my job to be steady and non-punitive, in both cases. This requires patience, self-care, a solid partnership, and good friends.
I know, I know. If you are a parent; you yell. Maybe you yell 10 times a week, maybe you scream 10 times a day, but you yell. The kids don’t listen. You remind, you cajole, you nag, you bribe, you get fed up…you explode. Everyone, even the most amazingly relaxed people on earth, have a limit. It is human to experience to anger and react to it. Sometimes, it is even appropriate. Yet, we all know that yelling andscreaming at our kids leaves us feeling worse about ourselves, guilty, angrier, and frankly, worn down. Most importantly, yelling doesn’t change misbehaviors!
So, what are the tips I have for the yelling? Here’s why we yell and what to do about it:
1) You are yelling because you are tired. You have a new baby in the house and an active three-year-old, and sleep is hard to come by. Or maybe there is a transition with a new job, an illness, a divorce, or simply your sleep is off from everyday stress. You are feeling wild with exhaustion, and your ability to cope is greatly compromised. I cannot explain how important sleep is, and long term lack of sleep leads to more and more impatience and yelling.
What can you do? Reassess your own routine and make sleep a priority. Avoid caffeine after noon, and don’t turn on the TV or other tech devices at night. Stop eating once you have had dinner, and have a cup of milk or decaf tea. A warm bath can also help! Some people need to hire more help or call in family so that they can sleep…do what you need to do to get the rest you need!
2) You are yelling because your routine is not working for the family. When we are rushed, stressed, or feeling late, stress and impatience are at an all-time high. It becomes easier to view children’s normalbehaviors as threatening challenges, and it starts to feel as though everyone in the family is actively working against you.
What can you do? Pay attention to the yelling and when you are becoming most angry. Is it in the morning? Does the alarm need to be set earlier? What can you prepare the night before? Pay attention to the basic routines in the family and make sure they are running as smoothly as they can (considering they will never be perfect!)
3) You are yelling because you are trying to control your child too much. As your child grows, she wants and needs more choices, more responsibility, and more power. It is easy to fall into a habit where you keep treating her as though she is younger; this is a normal parenting mistake. But it can often result in “you cannot make me do that, I am the boss of myself!” and other behaviors that feel quite defiant. Sometimes, though, when we control our children too much, they can move in the opposite direction and become passive-aggressive. Instead of fighting back, your child is constantly “disappearing” when something needs to get done or they are suddenly useless. This is the child you nag, cajole, threaten, beg, and eventually yell at, to get him to do something.
What can you do? Your children need real jobs. Real work. True responsibility. As young as two, children can be trained to do a whole host of jobs and become valuable individuals in the family! Rather than trying to change (and scream at) your kids, move in the direction of asking yourself: “what job do I need to teach my child so that he can do more for himself?” With patience and training, you can stop controlling your child and start supporting their independence.
4) You are yelling because you are not taking care of yourself or you are feeling unfulfilled. You used to wear good-looking clothes and were respected in the workplace, now you have worn the same yoga pants for five days straight, and “Goodnight Moon” may have too many words for you. You loved your career and felt passionate about your work, now you make grocery lists during meetings and rush to buy diapers on your lunch hour. You feel constantly rushed or incredibly bored. You look like a person you don’t know anymore, and your feel like your body has betrayed you. You don’t see friends enough and don’t have date nights with your partner. You eat left-over food off of plates and don’t exercise. In short, you really are not taking care of yourself. And when you don’t pay attention to your own needs, it is easy for resentment to take root and grow like a weed. Naturally, it is not the fault of your children that you are depressed and angry, but they get the brunt of the frustration and anger. It is easy to snap, yell, and belittle when we are feeling badly about ourselves. And let’s face it, our kids will always forgive us! It can quickly become a bad habit.
What can you do? You have to find a way to start taking care of yourself, from the big things to the little. From possibly leaving a job you hate to going back to work because your bored; from starting to eat well and exercise to joining a mother’s group; from committing to seeing your partner and friends more to going back to school…there are so many ways to start taking care of yourself. And when you are more hopeful, more optimistic, and more yourself, you are less likely to lose your patience and yell. Content people yell less. Parents who pay attention to their own needs are simply kinder to their children. So, from the tiny changes to the big ones, take stock (and responsibility) of your life and make the changes you need! Your whole family will change.
Finally, for whatever you reason you think you are yelling too much at the kids, try to remember that yelling is often the symptom, not the cause of your problems. Try to ask yourself: “why am I yelling?” and start there!
So, your child has a normal worry: the dark, trying something new, typhoons, strangers coming into the house, parents dying, etc.
The child expresses the worry, and then the parent gets busy explaining explaining explaining why that should not be a worry.
The child’s brain cannot comprehend your perspective, but the child DOES understand that you are REALLY paying attention to him or her. The child’s brain (the prefrontal cortex) is making gang-buster maps that say, “WHOA. MOM IS FREAKING OUT. She is REALLY PAYING ATTENTION TO THIS.”
Hence, when little Jimmy wants MORE of your attention he is again, scared of the dark, scared of the stranger, etc.
You keep explaining, even start getting angry, trying to fix the problem, etc.
He keeps getting more scared. You get more frustrated, he gets more scared.
And poof. We have an anxiety problem.
But do we?
The child’s brain is asking the parent (with the fears):
“I am learning the world is big and scary.
Am I SAFE?
AM I YOURS?
WILL YOU ALWAYS TAKE CARE OF ME? NO MATTER WHAT?”
So, you say:
“I know it is dark.
Yes, it can be scary. Let’s find a special flashlight for you.
I will always take of you, in the light and the dark.
I will always be here.
I am in charge.
I love you.”
Could everything end tomorrow? Sure. Who knows. A plane could land on your house.
But love is ENERGY, and energy doesn’t die. Love never dies.
You are sending a message from your heart to your child’s heart,
“NO MATTER WHAT, YOU ARE MINE. I LOVE YOU FOREVER.”
If your eyes tear up to read this, this means that your brain and heart have integrated this information as true.
Simply remembering the different times I have gotten the flu gives me the chills. The fever, the aches, the hours and hours spent in bed…it is awful. And for your kids? It is pretty dreadful, too. And while the everyday cold is obviously more tolerable, it can take a toll too. Feeling run-down and sniffly can bring a whole family down.
So, here are some easy tips for you and your family to help prevent (or mitigate) the cold and flu season:
The rumor that ran rampant when I was little was the “razor blades in candy” story. Do you remember that? I am not sure it ever happened! I think it was an urban legend that everyone glommed onto, and we spent years unwrapping candy and poking it. Now, the fears of razor blades in caramels are largely finished.
These days, instead of irrational razor blade fears, we have an entirely new extreme:
The catalogues for costumes arrive at the end of August, and the candy hits the shelves directly after Labor Day. Our kids are inundated with witches, goblins, ghosts, Frankensteins, skeletons, and jack-o-lanterns so early, and they love it! They sing pumpkin songs and cannot wait to wear their fireman and princess costumes.
The problem? Children have active imaginations that RUN WILD. We cannot wait to take Instagram after Instagram of the cute kids, but by the time Halloween actually rolls around, the kids are exhausted and overwhelmed.
So, when this great day rolls around, how we protect the kiddos from a scary Halloween meltdown?
Have a fun and safe holiday!