Supermarket meltdowns, school-run tantrums, bomb-site bedrooms and food wars every night? I’m not talking about YOU – I mean your kids! Is it even possible to have a (mostly) calm, happy and productive home with sticky little fingers and boisterous feet everywhere?
Must the grey hairs multiply and our blood pressure shoot off the chart as we navigate the off-track rollercoaster that is parenting?
We have been blessed with countless compliments about our “contented” children. Are they always mellow? Absolutely not. Are we always floating on a cloud with cheesy Brady Bunch smiles? Hardly! But we have been asked what our ‘secret’ is so many times I thought I would jot down a few of our top tips.
Now, our eldest is only 8 but before you tell me the ‘ahhh buts’ and threaten anarchy when they hit their teens – stop. We don’t speak that into their lives and I’ve learned not to let others do it either.
When our boy was just 6 months old and the happiest wee fella you could imagine, I was warned ‘ha! wait until he hits the Terrible Twos’ … but they never came. Then when we had to move him to a new nursery we were told to expect disruptive or insecure behaviour – again, no biggie. Then as he turned four; a polite, happy, inquisitive soul we were told ‘just wait until he starts school!’ ….. but he was still content. Then along came his feisty little sister and again the warnings of sibling chaos, juggling attention and financial stretching. All these things are true but do we want these inevitable challenges to rule us or do we make the effort to learn how to deal with them?
I know we will have ever-bigger challenges ahead like any other family. But I also know we work really hard at parenting. We read, we listen, we change things that aren’t working for us and we slather the whole shin-dig in earnest prayer!
Hunger, Tiredness and Confusion are the main causes of discontentment in all humans, and our kids are human too!
So here are our Top 7 practical tips for helping your kids become, and stay content:
1. Watch your words. I cringe when I hear parents call their own kids “little monster”, “devils”, “monkeys” etc.. I know it’s meant to be endearing but our words create worlds so swap out any negative names for positive encouragements. E.g. “Star”, “precious”, “sweetheart”, “champion” etc. Try to avoid branding your child ‘naughty’ or ‘cheeky’ but refer instead to naughty or cheeky behaviour.
Your child will dutifully play the part in the script you give them – YOU are in charge of how they see themselves.
2. Listen hard. This is so challenging in our world of media, smart phones and all the other demands on our attention but make giving your kids your full on attention whenever you possibly can your top priority. How do you feel when you know someone isn’t really listening to you. After a while, you stop bothering. Even if they are talking gibberish – ask questions, smile, laugh with them.
3. Understand how blood sugars work. Yes, really! Smarties half an hour before bedtime is always going to work against you! Equally, carrying snacks around with you and not allowing your kids to get over-hungry is a major key to keeping everyone’s sanity in tact. Hunger and tiredness are the two top causes for funky behaviour from kids. If they are acting up ask yourself in this order 1. Are they hungry? 2. Are they tired? 3. Are they confused? You will find your answer there, 99% of the time – I guarantee it.
4. Respect their limits. Kids cannot cope without routine. Yes an occasional late night or change of plan does no harm but expect them to be sluggish the next day and make allowances for it. Do less the next day and let them recover.
You wouldn’t want to go for a jog with a hangover, so let them recover from any break to their sleep routine.
If they are clearly tired – go home and put them to bed! My pet hate is seeing parents dragging screaming children round the mall in the evening (or in the day during a should-be nap time!) just to suit their schedule. It is the height of selfishness. How unfair to push a child past their limits and then expect angelic behaviour.
5. Be OK with Plan B. We have gone home early when one of our kids was under the weather, cancelled social events, skipped dessert in restaurants and missed out on parties when we felt our child, for any reason, would not cope well with staying any longer. I guess it’s about short-circuiting any build up to a meltdown and my goodness it works so well! We obviously have cause to do it less and less as they get older and it’s important to keep trying new adventures as a family but be cool if, for the sake of peace, Plan B has to be actioned.
6. Get Organised. Now, depending on your schedules, commitments, number of kids and approach to managing your home this could be a massive challenge. It has been for us – particularly in terms of meal planning and de-cluttering (read more here about how I gave away most of our kids’ toys) but we are working hard on this. Why is being organised so important? Clothes are ready when they are needed, items can be easily found, healthy meals are planned and cooked without stress, money and time are saved and your home becomes a sanctuary for all of you – instead of being the cause of stress!
7. Apologise. We screw up. We shout, we yell, we jump to a wrong conclusion, we misread the signs. Tell your child you got it wrong. Explain that grown ups make mistakes too and that you are sorry. Now, don’t turn into some whiny wimp who answers to their child’s every demand but fess up if you know you were overly harsh, insensitive or just plain wrong. Teach them to be forgiving. But make sure any recurring mistakes on your part are properly dealt with. Know when the issue is yours, not theirs. If, for example, you keep losing your temper – speak to someone and work out the root cause and fix it. Don’t dump your baggage on your kids’ shoulders.
And remember the Golden Rule: If you’re starting to feel your stress levels rocket, ask yourself :
1. Am I hungry?
2. Am I tired?
3. Am I confused?
Share your top tips for keeping kids calm by replying below.