This year I made a New Year’s resolution to try to be a more calming presence in my daughter’s lives. Our lives are filled with the chaos of two working parents, three busy daughters, lots of social and family events, and multiple extra curricular activities. It is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle, which leads to increased stress and before you know it you are an unorganized, highly anxious, unhappy mother, running around like a donkey with its tail on fire. I want to enjoy events with my children, I like being active and I am happy being busy, so bring on the craziness. I have discovered two small changes in behavior, which have allowed calming vibes to filter into our lives and have helped me manage the chaos.
The first change that I have made in behavior is to allow certain child related tasks to be completed whenever one of my children independently seeks out the completion of the task. For example, I used to have to bug my oldest daughter to get dressed in the morning before school. She would procrastinate (a habit she clearly inherited from her father), I would keep nagging, she would resist, and inevitable arguing, stress, and being late for work and school would often be the outcome. Today, my daughter asked me around 4PM if she could pick her outfit out for school tomorrow. The old me would have looked at her, possibly rolling my eyes, and responded, “No, you can’t pick out your outfit for school tomorrow, we haven’t even had dinner yet!” The new me said, “Absolutely honey, go right upstairs and pick out your outfit.” What I realized is that it doesn’t really matter when she picks out her outfit, as long as it is picked out ahead of time, which helps our mornings go much more smoothly.
Here is another example. Tuesday evenings are swim lessons. Usually, I am running around at 6:15 trying to throw my daughter into her suit to make it to the pool by 6:30. This week, as soon as she got home from school at 4PM she asked if she could put her suit on, absolutely! So what if she walked around in her bathing suit for two plus hours, our house is warm, and guess what, she was early for her lesson! No stress, no yelling, nothing but enjoying the moment of her first swim class.
The second change that I made involves how I handle time outs for my four-year old and my two-year old. I try not to give my daughters time outs. I try to work through any behavioral issues that they are having with open communication, corrective action, and appropriate time to respond to verbal warnings. However, time outs are inevitable, and in the past I used to issue a time out with annoyance or even anger. “That’s it, you’ve had enough warnings, you are getting a time out!” or “Enough! You need to sit in time out!” Since I often tried to avoid time outs I would wait, and wait, and allow for too much time to pass and then I would reach my tipping point and issue the time out. This often resulted in a screaming two-year old, responding to my anger and annoyance by throwing herself off the couch, or thrashing around on the floor screaming and crying. It often escalated the problem to a new level or created more stress, because now on top of the behavioral issue at hand, there is a hysterical two-year old to deal with. It wasn’t working! To bring more calmness to my family I have decided to handle time out differently. Last week, my two-year old pulled my four-year olds hair. I walked into the toy room, took her by the hand, asked her to pick up her shirty (her favorite snuggly) and to please follow me. We silently walked into the living room and sat on the couch. I looked at her for a few seconds and asked her why she thought I took her out of the toy room to the couch. She knew, immediately why she was there. She sat quietly for a few seconds, told me she was sorry and that she was ready to apologize to her sister. The problem was solved without yelling, screaming, crying or added stress.
These behavioral changes may seem obvious. However, they are not as easy to implement as it might seem. It is difficult not to get caught up in the stress and chaos of certain situations, but if you are able to make slight changes to your behavior, the payback is well worth it. So try your best and I will try my best, let’s keep calm and parent on!