July 2015 archive

If Ya Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em!

Tonight was one of those nights. My husband and I were both exhausted from a long day and our kids were bouncing off the walls – playing, laughing, having fun. They were doing exactly what they were supposed to be doing. They’re kids, after all.

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Typically, on nights like these, when our kids are so wrapped up in their own fun, it feels like quite the chore to get them interested in doing what’s needed to get to bed on time (teeth, potty, pj’s etc). More specifically, they don’t seem to listen the first time they’re asked. Sound familiar? These are the very times parents are prone to yell, bribe, threaten etc.

My husband and I were upstairs and the kids were downstairs having their fun. It was getting late and we knew “the process” (the term we use for what it takes to get our kids ready for bed) was going to take longer than usual. He told me he was dreading it. I understood…I was sort of dreading it too. We were wiped out!

It was in that moment that I said to him, “Ya know what honey? In this moment, we have a choice. We can choose to go down there and start demanding that the kids head up the moment we say or we can choose to join them where they are, connect and make “the process” fun.” He said, “Ok, I’m in!”

So down the stairs we went. We saw they were playing a game. We sat down beside them and said, “You guys look like you are having so much fun! What are you playing?” They each told us with so much excitement. After a few questions about their game, I continued with, “I love that you guys are having so much fun and it’s time to get ready for bed. I see some game pieces on the floor that need to be picked up (there happened to be 4 colored pieces total). I’m going to pick up the blue pieces. Daddy, what color do you want?” We each chose our colors. I then continued, “Who wants to pick up the red pieces and who wants to pick up the gray pieces?” It was amazing how quickly they each jumped in to help. I then said, “Look at what an awesome team we make – we’re getting so much done! Way to go guys! Thanks for all of your help.”

Ok, game ended, game pieces picked up. Two items checked off the list and several more to go. Next, was getting them up the stairs. In that moment, I pictured a rocket ship and went with that analogy. “Ok, guys, I have a rocket ship here, who’s jumping on to blast us up the stairs?” My husband was the first to join, followed by my son and then my daughter. Next thing I knew, we were all “flying” up the stairs, laughing the whole way. Check.

“Hey guys, the inside of the rocket needs to be cleaned, guess what we need to use to clean it? Toothbrushes! Let’s get those insides (teeth) as clean as we possibly can. Do you want to put the toothpaste on or should I?” “You? Ok, great, thank you.” Check.

Fortunately, the kids were already in their pj’s and bathed, so the final item on the list was getting into bed. So, once again, the “rocket” gave each a ride to their room. Hugs, kisses and a “good night” for everyone!

What “tools” helped us accomplish such a smooth evening? Acknowledgement of the fun they were having with interest in what they were playing, asking vs. telling, limited choices and a good, old fashioned sense of humor ūüôā

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Did this take more time and creativity? Yes, absolutely. Will I always be able to muster up that much time and creativeness? Probably not. However, I know that the choice is always there and it’s up to us. We can choose to have things done on our terms, “because we said so.” Or, we can choose to take a deep breath and join our kids exactly where they are – realizing their main language is playfulness and joy. Tonight we spoke their language and chose to connect. The rest took care of itself.

It starts with us.

All the best,
-Debbie

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How to Stop Yelling at your Kids…

Yelling, for many parents, has become their “go-to” reaction. Many well-meaning, well-intentioned parents feel that yelling is the only way they can get their kids to listen or take them seriously. Been there? Yep, me too!
Although yelling may feel like the answer in the moment, it’s important we consider the longer-term effects this behavior has on our kids…especially when it’s happening day in and day out.

Cute little boy, holding his hands over ears not to hear, making sweet funny face

Consider, for a moment, what it feels like to be yelled at. Yelling signals the brain that a threat is looming. When the brain senses a threat, it moves into fight/flight/freeze mode. This is when you may see, for example, defensiveness/back talk/yelling back (fight), running into another room (flight) or blank stares (freeze). Unfortunately, by this point, kids have already tuned out. They’re more focused on self-preservation and will do whatever their temperament dictates as a way of “protecting” themselves. The original message gets lost and the relationship enters shaky ground.

Many parents turn to yelling as a way to exert control, but have you ever noticed that you may resort to yelling when you’re actually feeling OUT of control?? We can’t expect our kids to control their behavior if we’re unable to control our own.

So, to reduce (and ideally eliminate) yelling, begin by coming up with a plan for yourself.

Here are 8 steps to help you yell less and connect more:

1.) Think about the situations that trigger you the most. Maybe it’s when your child ignores you after you make a request. Or maybe it’s when they talk back to you. Or maybe it’s when they throw that wonderful meal you spent hours preparing across the room?

2.) Notice the feelings that come up. Anger? Irritation? Frustration? Powerlessness? Defeat?

3.) Pay attention to the thoughts that arise. “I can’t believe h/she just did that! How dare he/she!” “I need to get a handle on this or he’s going to turn into a delinquent!” “She sounds like such a spoiled brat!”

4.) Challenge and replace those thoughts – “My child is still learning.” “My child is not out to get me.” “I can help him/her learn a kinder way of speaking to me.” “I can handle this calmly and respectfully.” “I need to focus on connecting before correcting.”

5.) Commit to PAUSING when you notice any of the above and do something to TAKE CARE of yourself. For example, BREATHE (slowly and deeply), walk out of the room, count to 10, close your eyes, give yourself a hug (yes, a hug!), grab a piece of paper and write out your thoughts/feelings or just scribble!

6.) Let your kids know about your plan and the commitment you are making to reduce your yelling. Invite them to help you come up with a signal (peace sign, hand over their heart, finger on their lips) they can do when they sense you’re hitting your boiling point. Tell them it will serve as your reminder to pause and choose another tone. The discussion may sound something like, “I know I’ve been yelling a lot. I’m sure it doesn’t feel good to you and it certainly doesn’t feel good to me either. I love you and, it’s not ok for me to yell at you. I want to let you know that I’ve come up with a plan for what I can do instead of yelling. You may see me taking lots of deep breaths, or you may see me walking away. You may even see me give myself a hug! I yell when I’m angry/ frustrated (etc) and it’s my job to take charge of my feelings and reactions and speak to you with respect. I may need some support and would love your help in coming up with a signal you can use when you see I’m starting to lose my patience (ask what they like best). ¬†That signal can help me get back on track. ¬†If you forget, that’s ok. ¬†I’m working on remembering myself. ¬†Please know how much I love you and care about our relationship.”

7.) If you end up yelling, do you best to recognize it, take responsibility by apologizing, let your child know what you will do differently next time and focus on reconnecting. For example, “I yelled at you and that wasn’t ok. ¬†I apologize. ¬†It’s not ok for me to speak to you that way. ¬†Next time, I will walk into the other room and take deep breaths like this (show them). I’m sorry. ¬†I don’t know about you, but I could sure use a hug!”

8.) ¬†Practice, practice, practice and be kind to yourself – you’re learning new skills right alongside your kids!

Wishing you all the best,
Debbie

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