Let’s be honest: Spring “Break” can sometimes leave your patience broken. In fact, in preparation for my week with three kids, no help and my husband not taking time off, I skipped my shot of optimism (the hangover can be grueling) and opted instead for a pre-emptive dose of reality (goes down much smoother), turning to one of my favorite sanity saviors for advice, Susie Walton of Indigo Village and author of Key to Personal Freedom: How Myths Affect Our Family Lives (and did I mention she raised four boys?). Thankfully she gives Breezy Mama her tips for when you think you might lose it (some of the headers you will see have the same start as “10 Things to Do Instead of Time Out” but keep reading because they offer different advice). Plus! Some of my own deep-in-the-trenches tips I can sometimes follow.
7. Walk Away – While this seems like a ‘no brainer’, disengaging is often the very thing we fail to do. We stay engaged in the upset, our energy & frustration increases – our child’s energy & frustration increase and pretty soon, we’ve got a mess on our hands. If we could begin practicing walking away, then we can calm ourselves down, figure out what we want to be teaching our children and how we want to respond.
6. See Where Your Child is Right – I know this seems counter-intuitive to what we’re supposed to do, but by seeing where your child is right, you can get their perspective, begin to understand their feelings and see how they see you in this situation. In addition, you will no longer be viewing them as wrong which will go a long way.
5. Breathe – Breathing allows your nervous system to relax, gives you some time to calm down and respond instead of reacting and brings new energy to this situation.
4. Look at What’s REALLY Going on – If you find that you are losing your temper repeatedly or over the same situation then take the time to figure out what’s really going on. What is causing that situation to be a “hot button” for you? Why does it bother you so much? It probably has much more to do with you than it does your child and finding out will give you peace in other areas of your life, as well.
3. Do a Make-Up – When we make a mess, we clean it up – When we break something, we fix it and When we disturb a relationship, we do something called a Make-Up. Make-ups are your way of doing, saying or contributing to the one you’ve disturbed your relationship with to re-establish harmony and peace (And it can be fun!).
2. Do the Unexpected – Sometimes the best thing you can do for a situation is to bring new energy to it. So do something unexpected – put on some music, be playful, play a game, anything that will bring the energy up. You can always re-visit the upset afterwards. Chances are that it won’t feel so hard and frustrating when everyone is feeling lighter.
1. Check out your Emotional Bank Account with Your Child – Our relationships are like bank accounts. We are always depositing and debiting them with the things we do and say. If you find that your child isn’t being cooperative, is short-tempered or unusually irritable with you – Ask yourself, “How is my Emotional Bank Account with My Child?” If the answer is that it’s low – take some time to replenish it. You may be surprised at how much more cooperative they become. (This works well with adults as well).
7. Keep Your Eye on the Prize – Just as you think you can’t take another sibling fight or the fact that a pile of dirt was just dumped on your freshly vacuumed carpet, remember that bed time will happen. Something about having an end in sight can get me to calm down before a freak-out of catastrophic proportions.
6. Take a Shower – Sounds crazy, right? It works. When my first-born was two, I walked her in the stroller over a mile to the park with my newborn in the Bjorn. It was nice for all of us to get out and I was even able to sneak in a breast feed without my daughter getting injured or some other pull-the-baby-off-the-boob-only-for-him-to-scream-while-I-attend-to-toddler disaster. Just as the baby fell asleep and I was feeling like Superwoman for pulling off this day, I said to my two year old, “We’re going home now, but I need you to be quiet so we don’t wake the baby and have to hear him cry on the way home.” She looked at me, and then asked me something really loudly. I reminded her to “Shhh..” She then said loudly, “But Mama I want…” fill in the blank. As I was starting to feel my blood begin to boil she began to throw a tantrum. At this point she was fastened into the stroller, but I had over a mile long walk in the heat, pushing a screaming toddler, hoping a newborn doesn’t wake up. By the time I got home, I was ready to spank this toddler. I began saying in my head: Just. Get. Her. In. The. Crib. After I got the baby down, I picked up the toddler – kicking and screaming – walked up a flight of stairs, put her in her crib, shut the door and went into my room and took a shower. After taking deep breath after deep breath, I then had a snack. By the time I was ready to face her again, I felt much more levelheaded and went into her room and she was fast asleep. Clearly, she was tired. Clearly, she was just two. Clearly, she really was just my sweet baby (funny how that happens when they’re asleep). And I was SO GLAD I did not spank her! I still use this method today, but since two out of three are out of the crib, when I am at my wits end, I will turn the TV on PBS, go into my room, lock the door and take a shower.
5. Zip it – You can mentally outwit this child and put them so far down in their place that they will think twice before, um, not thinking again? Not so much. They will do the same wrong doing over and over again. One day it will click and the behavior will go away, but your hurtful words could last a lifetime. Before you spew out what you will later regret when trying to go to sleep that night, just visualize yourself zipping your mouth. Then save the nasty recount of what you would have LIKED to have said for your girlfriends.
4. Moms Night Out– Speaking of which, GET OUT. Meet up with a mom friend (let’s be honest: no one else will be able to relate and comfort you like someone else in the thick of it) for coffee or a drink. Even a brief time out of the house will hopefully leave you rejuvenated for tomorrow. And knowing you will get a break THAT night, will bring you lots of patience during the day.
3. Remind Yourself – This is two fold: Remember how awful you feel after a freak out, so just try to avoid one (read Susie’s tips again). And, remind yourself of their age. Remind yourself that their brains are still forming. I have even told my four year old to remind me, “I’m still learning.” Breezy Mama Laura and I also called this: WIP. Just as you are about to lose it over that stick they whacked the 18 month old with because they make the perfect Yoda to their Luke Skywalker, remember they are still a Work In Progress. It’s your job to teach them that hitting someone with a stick hurts. Again.
2. Take it Easy on the Scheduling – After my son threw a tantrum bigger than James Cameron’s ego in the local library – you know that place where the emphasis is on quiet – and I carried him kicking and SCREAMING, to then not be able to get him strapped in the car until finally I told him if he didn’t stop, Mommy was probably going to get arrested (um, I meant it!), a friend said to me, “You do too much with him.” Um, whhhhat? Isn’t it my English major duty to take him to my happiest place on earth? After thinking it through, I really did start to see all the tantrums I would have avoided had I not done that ONE more thing for the day. Sure, I want him to love the library, but maybe not after a previous activity filled day or a not so great night’s sleep. In fact, I even started to (gasp!) skip our regular hot chocolate date after dropping my other child off at school in favor of reading a book to him at home on days I guessed he would need the rest. And we had a major cut back of public tantrums. Listen, this is NOT to be confused with, “Don’t go out in public,” but again, always be prepared to skip an activity if you already have a feeling that your child’s temperament (or yours) might not make it that day.
1. Swap with a Friend – A true friend has no problem admitting motherhood can be a challenge at times. Ask one of your besties, neighbors, playgroup friends, etc. etc. to take your kids for a couple of hours and then offer to take theirs. Again, the smallest of breaks can rejuvenate. Plus, this is another instance of being able to keep your cool if there is a break in sight.
Have your own tip that works? Please share! We’re all in this together, Mamas!
As a recipient of the San Diego Parent Educator of the Year Award, Susie Walton is a leading expert in the field of communication and relationships with an emphasis on family dynamics. Susie has teamed with various companies and organizations such as Qualcomm, Sharp Hospital, and Children’s Hospital to develop and implement practical and positive change for youth and families.
Susie is a pioneer in parent education and has been leading seminars, hands-on workshops and full length parenting classes, instructor trainings, teacher in-services and one on one coaching for 18 years. In the early 90s Susie acted on her heartfelt belief that true positive change begins in the home and created an organization to help reduce stress and frustration in the areas of family relationships and raising children. Susie collaborated with the International Network for Children and Families (INCAF) and founded Team RCB of San Diego. Susie certifies instructors from around the globe to teach the 15 hour parenting program Redirecting Children’s Behavior (RCB) and the Redirecting for a Cooperative Classroom (RCC) classroom teacher training. All Team RCB San Diego Courses are based in both Mother Theresa’s founding principle that “World peace begins in the home” and Rudolph Dreikurs behavior management work, including that which may be found in his book “Children, The Challenge”.
Susie is also the author of “Key to Personal Freedom: How Myths Affect Our Family Lives.” (click here to purchase)
For more information on Susie and her classes, click here.
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