Accepting a child’s emotions is not something that comes easily to most people. As humans we are conditioned to be comfortable with emotions such as joy, excitement and serenity. Feelings like anger, frustration, sadness and disappointment are more difficult to deal with and as such we do what we can to turn these emotions back towards the happiness end of the emotional spectrum.
TODAY, I YELLED!
I had had an emotional morning for a variety of (non-kid related) reasons. I found myself spiralling out of control as I was dealing with soiled pants, a child who was objecting to being cleaned and another who was struggling with my mood and being extra clingy. When my clingy daughter tried to push the other away from me as I was trying to clean up her poo, I shouted:
“LUCY, STOP IT!”
She immediately burst into tears and ran to her room. I let her go. I needed space but I regretted yelling at her. She was reaching out to me, wanting reassurance that I was still her rock, even when I wasn’t feeling the best.
I went to her room after I had taken a couple of minutes to regroup. I knelt down to her and opened my arms, inviting her in. As she allowed herself to be enveloped into my embrace, I apologised wholly and completely. “I am sorry I yelled at you. I shouldn’t have done that and I wish I hadn’t. It doesn’t feel nice, I know, and I want you to know that I will always be here for you and I love you very much.”
She sniffled into my shoulder as we both paused in reflection. Finally she broke the silence with a surprising, thoughtful response. “It’s a ‘liddle’ bit scary when you yell. You must have been very mad, Mummy.” Tears flowed down my cheeks and she wiped them away. “Don’t worry, Mummy, you can have some of my birthday cake!” she empathised.
How could I have yelled at this child? I know why I did but how could I?
The truth is, it wasn’t her; I wasn’t mad at her. I had failed to take care of me and had taken it out on her. Sometimes life puts us in this predicament and we find there is little relief when we need it most. These are the times our emotions sit teetering on the edge, ready to jump out at the next opportune moment.
Just as our children build up their emotions and send them hurtling out at us when they can finally hold them no longer, we too do this. The difference is, we can and should control them. Whilst we can see beyond our children’s anger and emotions and see a hurting child during their outbursts, a child can’t possibly give us the same understanding, they feel our anger, take it on board and turn from us in fear.
This is why making amends is imperative.
The rest of our day was blissful. Lucy had a new sense of calm and tolerance about her which took her right through until bedtime. Taking that little bit of time out to reconnect and reassure her revived her confidence in me and allayed her fears. This then afforded me the space I needed to work through my own issues.
Today I yelled, but tomorrow I will try not to!
You may also like to read:
Damage Limitation Following a Parental Meltdown ~ Kate Russell (Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids)
Recently, Miss 3 has begun to demonstrate significant separation anxiety at her day care drop offs. She becomes clingy, and desperately upset when I tell her I am leaving for work.
I know this type of separation anxiety is extremely common and although difficult to experience, I have taken some comfort in the fact that she genuinely feels she needs me and would rather be with me than in the care of others.
I also know, however, that I need to help more with her transition into care. It has been getting increasingly more difficult for me to get away on time and her stress levels must also be through the roof. Continue reading
Staying calm with children can be extraordinarily difficult at times. It seems our children are wired to wind us up until we snap. Many parents, including myself, strive to be mindful and considered in our parenting choices but in one moment of distraction it is easy to find ourselves being triggered and unable to stop the barrage that results.
For respectful parenting to work, it is vital that parents are able to keep a cool and unruffled exterior when dealing with a child’s behaviour – that, for me, is the hard part. It sometimes takes all my strength, determination and most of all self-belief to achieve this but I can truly attest to the fact that my children respond far better and thrive the most when I am consistently able to steady myself and keep a peaceful yet firm exterior when they push me to my limits.
The days I am feeling sluggish, stressed or overwhelmed by accumulating housework are usually the days my tolerance levels are lowest. Coincidentally (or not), these days also usually happen to be the days my children seem especially clingy, whingey, demanding and testing!
When I have my own agenda for the day; things I am trying to achieve around the house, this is when I find myself less tolerant and less able to stay calm and accepting of difficult behaviours.
So I have, over time, developed practices which all contribute to me being more mindful, less stressed and better able to remain the peaceful parent I strive to be.
1. Mentally prepare for the day ahead
I do this by reading inspiring blog posts or a chapter of a great parenting book. I am usually woken early in the morning by my children so I normally do this the night before, resolving to put into practice, a new technique or idea I have read the next day. Often just reading a success story or a profound Janet Lansbury post is enough to help me stay confident in my parenting throughout the day.
I write inspiring words or helpful phrases in the notebook beside my bed.
In the morning, I quickly scan these notes and I remind myself how important it is that I stay on top of my emotions and parent calmly throughout the day. Being conscious of my actions rather than just drifting mindlessly through the day really helps me stay focused on the role I have taken on. Like an actor in a play I guess.
Much of this mental preparation is centered around shifting my perspectives of the behaviours. Educating myself about the reasons behind challenging behaviours such as limit testing and tantrums really helps me to deal with them with more empathy when they occur.
2. Prepare meals on the weekend
Freeing up time during the day so I am not stressed about trying to get dinner made by a deadline with children either clinging to me or trashing something elsewhere in the house, is invaluable.
I now try to prepare the week’s meals on Sundays whilst my husband is home to help with the children. This way the weight of this daily chore is lifted. Instead I can use the week days to invite the girls into the kitchen to help, inspiring in them a love of food and cooking as we bake and create healthy goodies together with no stress or pressure to achieve a goal.
3. Make lunches and snacks at breakfast
When my children are happily occupied eating their toast, I often make lunch for my husband to take to work. It occurred to me one day that it would be little extra effort to do the same for my children. So I bought them both lunch boxes with separate compartments for snacks, sandwiches etc and now I fill their boxes ready to pull out when hunger strikes.
So often I have been caught out having nothing prepared and having to scramble something together whilst my children bite chunks out of the cheese, dip their fingers in the butter or cry because I am not doing it the right way.
My stress levels inevitably increase and I sometimes have a hard time staying calm in such moments. Having everything pre-made eliminates this occurrence and also means the kitchen only needs clearing once, after breakfast, because I am not continually preparing food and dirtying dishes.
These Yumbox Original lunch boxes (affiliate link) are fantastic for organising the snacks into containers and keeping them all together. The kids love them!
4. Use care giving moments to connect
The realisation that my babies will all too soon be old enough to take care of themselves and no longer need me to look after them hit me like a tonne of bricks recently. I already knew that care giving tasks were precious bonding occasions but when I truly cherish each one, not only do my children feel more connected and better able to break away from me for extended play periods, I get my own feelings of love, joy and a sense of calm come over me when I give myself fully to my children for periods throughout the day. This further steadies my resolve to parent my children with care.
5. Reflect on the day
This is probably the most effective practice I use for becoming a more mindful, peaceful parent. There is rarely a day go by where I don’t discuss with my husband, a situation involving the children which occurred during the course of the day.
I recount blow by blow, the events leading up to the situation, the dialogue used and the ultimate outcome. Through this reflection I can think, without the pressure of the moment, and decide whether I could improve upon or change my involvement for future occurrences or whether it seemed to be quite successful as it was.
My blog writing further cements this reflection for me as I get the sense that by putting things down on paper, I am owning my actions and becoming more accountable.
I am also given so many opportunities to answer questions from readers which contributes to my reflective practice. It makes me think about scenarios that could come up for us as a family and how I would like to deal with them. It takes out some of the element of surprise, ensuring I am not having to always think on my feet with my own children.
Joining online forums and groups with like-minded parents, is also a great way to read about other people’s dilemmas and give you a chance to think about what you might do in that situation.
These are just a few of the things I have found have helped me remain the peaceful parent I am determined to be. I’m interested to hear what you do to stay unruffled when your children become challenging throughout the day.
You may also enjoy reading:
Tantrums and Meltdowns – My Secrets For Staying calm When The Kids Aren’t ~ Janet Lansbury (Janet Lansbury- Elevating Childcare)
9 Best Ways to Stay (Mostly) Unruffled With Toddlers ~ Janet Lansbury (Janet Lansbury- Elevating Childcare)
Self Soothing (It’s Not Just For Babies) ~ Christina Kessler (Respectful Caregiving)
I am a relief teacher. Sometimes I get called into work early in the morning and have to rush to be ready in time but luckily, more often I am given advanced warning. Today I had received the call the night before and so was able to ensure I was up early with lunches made and bags packed, ready to have everyone out of the house by 7:30am. But even with warning, getting out of the house in the morning is quite stressful and everything needs to run smoothly in order for me to make it to school before the bell rings for class. Continue reading
This morning I was tidying up the kitchen area, getting ready to leave the house when my three year old, Lucy, came in and grabbed a box of crackers from the pantry exclaiming that she was hungry. It was right after breakfast so I explained that the crackers were not breakfast food but I would be happy to make her another piece of toast or get her some fruit, both of which she declined.
She then started banging the box loudly on the bench which was her way of expressing her disgust at the situation. I chose to let it go and simply sportscast “You’re banging the box on the bench and it’s making a loud noise”. She then started banging it harder and louder and consequently lost her grip of the box causing it to fly across the bench, taking with it a full cup of milk which had yet to be cleared.
With milk now covering the walls, floor and furniture, I wanted to say “Now look what’s happened” but I did my best to stay unruffled by taking a deep breath and saying “That was an accident. I will go and get a towel and we can clean it up together.” I came back with the towels and Lucy picked the cup off the floor which surprisingly had a little more left in it. She proceeded to tip it all over the only kitchen chair that was not already covered in milk.
That was the tipping point for me and I snapped “What are you doing? Why would you do that?” (although I don’t know what I expected her to answer!) The annoyance was clear in my voice and Lucy started crying. Still angry myself, I continued wiping up the milk whilst she sat nearby switching emotions between sad and angry. As I wiped, I reflected on the circumstances and realised much of the blame needed to be cast on myself. I had allowed, almost encouraged the box banging. She did not mean to spill the milk, it was nowhere near where the box was and she would not have thought tipping the last bit of milk on the already milky area would be a major problem.
When most of the milk had been wiped up I looked over at Lucy who was standing near me and said “I know that was an accident. I’m sorry for losing my temper and yelling. Would you like a cuddle?” She came straight to me and nestled in my lap for quite sometime. After a while she said “It’s ok Mum. You didn’t mean to yell, sometimes you just do”, which funnily enough is a line out of a book we read regularly together.
It was a nice moment to come out of a bad situation.
For more information about repairing relationships and connecting with children you may find these posts helpful:
Damage Limitation Following a Parental Meltdown ~ Kate Russell (Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids)
Don’t Waste an Opportunity to Connect With Your Kids ~ Janet Lansbury (Janet Lansbury – Elevating Childcare)
How to Reconnect With Your Child When You’re Having Hard Day ~ Dr Laura Markham (Aha Parenting)
Balancing work with family life is a challenge many families deal with at some stage or another. We have been juggling this reality in our house for just over a year now and it hasn’t been easy.
Returning to work was not something I was comfortable with after the birth of my children but unfortunately we have been unable to make the budget stretch for me to be a full time, Stay-At-Home Mum. So we made the decision for me to resume working as a teacher on a part time, casual basis and to enroll our children into day care for three days a week.
We did our background checks on some local day care providers and finally settled on a centre we felt would look after the needs of our children whilst my husband and I worked. We knew there would be a few changes in our daily lives but what we hadn’t banked on was how hard this transition would be for our children and how much it would cost us in emotional turmoil.
The early days of day care drop offs were uneventful and the children seemed accepting of this change in their lives. It was always a puzzle to me, however, when my children would break down in full sobbing tears the moment they set eyes on me at pick up at the end of the day.
Initially I thought it was because they didn’t want to leave but then I wondered if they were unhappy at their day care. I was always reassured by their teachers that they had had a lovely day and whenever I arrived I would take a moment to observe them in play before announcing my presence. They always seemed settled and engaged.
As the months went on, these post care tears diminished and in their place came post care tantrums and extremely testing behaviours. It got to the point where just leaving the day care centre was a huge ordeal. I used to dread the drop offs but now the pick ups were ten times worse! As I gathered up the girls and their belongings I was met with opposition and defiance all the way to the car. Running through doors and shutting them behind themselves to block me from getting through and then screaming when I finally made it through. Climbing onto the rocking horse in the foyer and refusing to get off and then the other wanting to do the same. Screaming because I walked down the steps and not the ramp and then another tantrum after I back-tracked to the ramp but wouldn’t do it a second time over. Climbing into the car and diving over into the boot before I could strap them in and flatly refusing to move back into the seat area. These were just a few of the hurdles I faced every single time I picked them up.
Making matters worse was the fact that I too was tired after working all day and the pressure was on to get the children home, bathed and fed so they could be put to bed at a reasonable hour before full blown over tiredness caused them to stay up well past the time their little bodies needed to close down for the evening. The girls sensed my anxiety and ensured that my patience was completely tested by digging their heels in at every opportunity.
I started using snacks and offers of treats as a form of coercion just to get them into their seats. This worked but was clearly not getting to the root of the problem because as soon as we arrived home, more testing behaviour ensued and by this stage it had kicked into a higher gear. Furthermore, it got to the point where they would demand a treat before getting in. I didn’t want it to be this way, I didn’t want to have to bribe my children into the car.
So, as I usually try to do when I am met with a challenge in my parenting journey, I spent some time trying to determine the underlying cause of the problem rather than trying to smooth it over with a band aid treatment.
I did some self-analysis and personal reflection. What I knew was that I had two children charged full of emotion, tired, hungry and vying for my attention. Cooperation was off the agenda and defiance and limit testing on. From all accounts, I was fairly confident that my children’s time at care was enjoyable, emotionally supportive and had met all their basic needs.
The only thing they did not have during the day was me (or Dad). We are our children’s safe place. We are their rock. We have been since the day they were born. We have seen the best of them and the worst of them and our love for them has never wavered. They know this and are therefore comfortable in letting us in on the strong emotions that bubble up inside them.
When they are in the care of others, however, they have learnt to suppress their emotions and save them up. They never tantrum for their carers. They don’t show them the raw anger and frustrations that we have the privilege of witnessing on a regular basis. Our children trust us and so, when they are back in the safety of our arms at the end of their day in care, they slowly let it all out.
All those genuine feelings they have so valiantly suppressed throughout the day need to be heard, validated and understood. It is a sign that we are doing something right as parents for them to trust us so implicitly that they let us experience the worst of them, confident in our love for them.
So, to help make day care pick ups less stressful for all of us my approach has changed in three ways.
1. Better preparation
To make the afternoons at home less rushed and chaotic, I have begun cooking the week’s meals on a Sunday. This way I am not under so much pressure to get home and get things moving, giving me the time to slow right down and connect properly with the children at the point of pick up.
I usually make two large batches of something and have these on alternating nights for four nights. Friday nights is usually a whatever goes night or takeaway. The girls aren’t in care on a Friday so my husband looks after them during the day and is there when I get home from work, giving me time to prepare dinner if needed.
2. Setting stronger limits
My children are sending me fairly clear messages that they want to release some negative emotions. Setting the limits they need in the afternoon is certainly difficult for all of us and results in some pretty ferocious meltdowns but it also gives them that much needed opportunity, in my loving presence, to be comforted and understood whilst they express the emotions they have saved up.
3. Acknowledging feelings
I have found it hugely helpful to talk to my children about their emotions if I can see they are heading over the edge or even after they have already gone over. I let them know how hard it can be being away from home and us all day. I tell them it is normal to feel sad/mad/frustrated and generally emotional when we come to collect them. I let them know that I want to help them and will be strong for them when they need me to be.
Day care pick ups have become a lot less stressful over the past few weeks since I have been able to slow down and give the the time and space to express. They sense my agenda has disappeared and are digging their heels in less and less.
You may also enjoy reading:
5 Steps to a Peaceful Day Care Drop off ~ Kate Russell (Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids)
Bonding With Our Children Through Conflict ~ Janet Lansbury (Janet Lansbury – Elevating Childcare)
How Do Children Learn to Regulate Their Emotion ~ Kenneth Barish, Ph. D (The Huffington Post)
Car Seat Tantrums – Handled With Respect ~ Janet Lansbury (Janet Lansbury – Elevating Childcare)
This is oh so hard. We hold onto so much baggage from our past and if we had a wish it would be that our children would not have to feel the same hurts we have felt. Many of us have a strong Mama Bear instinct that would have us move mountains for our kids. But we cannot always protect them from the pain of reality and sometimes, it actually hurts our wounded souls more than it hurts them.
There are times when our children would actually be better off without us projecting our fears onto them. Sometimes, what we perceive as an injustice is nothing more than part of a child’s play, especially when they are young,