Whilst away on an annual family getaway, Jase and I began reflecting about how we parent our kids. We decided that we want to stop yelling and start hugging more! It’s SO easy to lose your cool and get angry at your kids when they piss you off, fight with each other and whinge non-stop. But sometimes all they need is a cuddle, some extra loving and just the feeling of being safe and secure. SO… I have been reading up on this whole positive parenting thing and we have started making some changes to how we parent our kids, and pretty instantly we have seen results.
Just my usual little side note/disclaimer, this is my story and what is working for us. I did do a major in Psychology at university but I am by no means an expert on this. This post is based on my experiences and all the information I have read up on this topic. Yes, I am a nerd and interested in the psychology behind both parenting and dog training so I love researching and reading up on it all. I hope you enjoy.
I spend a lot of time with my children. Being a mum is a gift, and I am fortunate enough to be able to be such a hands-on mum. However, with all the incredible parts of being a mum, there also comes A LOT of shit and hard work. To be 100% honest with you guys, as I am sure most of you have experienced the same, I go through stages where I feel incredibly angry and get pretty worked up when my children misbehave, whinge, fight with each other, don’t listen, the list goes on. I really do hate that about myself, but sometimes in the heat of the moment, it’s so hard to be calm. Harper (3.5) and Paxton (2) are extremely different kids. This is something you always need to remember when you parent. What works for one of your children, might not work for the other. There’s a bit of trial and error that needs to be done with this “parenting” stuff. Harper is hyper sensitive and emotional so getting angry at her, literally doesn’t work. Anger usually results in her having an emotional melt down and in the heat of the moment she just can’t take on board why I am angry. Whereas Paxton is one of those kids that thrives off being told off. More often than not, if he is doing something naughty for attention, yelling at him and telling him off, is actually giving him that attention he is after and doesn’t help to reduce the unwanted behaviour at all, if anything, it makes him want to do it more. So where to from here?
This is what we have found works for us…
Take a deep breath
This one’s for us parents. As soon as the whinging begins or the sibling start arguing, stop yourself and take a deep breath. It’s so easy to just get angry, intervene and start yelling or to start dismissing your child’s feelings. Before you do anything, just remind yourself to stay calm. Yelling, screaming, dismissing feelings, is not going to fix anything.
Talk it out
After you have taken your deep breath, it’s time to take control and talk to your child in a positive light. Ask them how they are feeling and why? Could they just be tired or hungry or need to go to the toilet? Get to the bottom of why they are behaving the way they are and talk to them about their behaviour. For example, Paxton hit Harper because she had a toy he wanted. Harper overacted and had one of her usual meltdowns. So instead of me going into the situation and blaming one of them or telling them off, I would walk into the situation and first tell Paxton that he must try to use his words and that hurting people is not the answer. Then I would explain the same thing to Harper. I would say, Paxton is your little brother, we need to teach him to use his words when he gets angry. If you don’t like what he is doing to you, just walk away from him, but let him know it is your turn and if you don’t want to play together with him, you will let him have a turn next. It is really important to time your talk with them. For example, there is no point trying to talk it out if they’re having a full blown tanti in the middle of the supermarket. Sometimes, you need to let the moment pass and talk to them about it later, when you know they will be able to listen, respond and take it all in.
Don’t dismiss your child’s feelings and don’t be afraid to talk about them
Harper is hyper sensitive and Jase sometimes struggles with how to manage it. Whilst on our recent trip to Noosa, I really noticed that he was dismissing her feelings all the time and telling her to stop overacting. Being the one observing this, I quickly realised, it was making the matter worse. Plus, it’s not correct to tell her she’s not allowed to feel the way she’s feeling. After some advice we got from a child phycologist a little while back, we’ve been talking about our feelings a lot more with the kids. How certain actions make us feel and make others feel. What makes us happy, sad, excited, brave, worried, nervous, embarrassed, all different types of emotions and feelings we have. Our kids need to know that it is normal and ok to feel what they are feeling. I get scared sometimes too, I get jealous and upset, but I also get excited and feel happy. Start talking to your children about your feelings and emotions and asking them about theirs. It doesn’t just need to be in the heat of the moment when they’re having a meltdown, just try doing it on an ongoing basis. I did this with Harper one day by the pool and she loved it. She loved knowing what made me scared, excited, nervous and then she loved sharing hers back with me.
Positive Reinforcement over Punishment: Ignore the Bad and Reward the good
Punishment doesn’t teach your child what to do. Positive reinforcement does. By reinforcing the behaviours we want to see more, they are more likely to occur more often. When your child does something “naughty”, ignore it or redirect them to something they should be doing. I say this often when it comes to dog training but it is totally the same when it comes to kids too. Especially personalities like Paxton, who thrive off the thrill of being told off. Rather than using anger and punishment when doing something wrong, we’ve been trying to really reward and encourage the kid’s good behaviour. So, when your child does something naughty or cheeky for attention, ignore it!! It’s hard! But unless it’s dangerous and they are putting themselves or someone else in danger, do not intervene or lose your cool, just ignore! They will eventually realise that they’re not going to get that attention they’re looking for. After the behaviour is over, you can then calmly talk to them about why they should not do that. But make sure not to give them that attention they are after at the time. Even yelling and screaming is attention to them, good or bad, they don’t care, they just want you to focus on them.
Sometimes all they need is a hug!
When Harper started kinder this year, her teacher sent out an email in the first week that really resonated with me. I can’t for the life of me seem to find it now, but she pretty much said to us that your child is going to be exhausted. Kinder is new and exciting and their little brains are taking in SO much. When they come home from kinder and they start whinging and throwing tantrums, sometimes all they need is a hug!! This couldn’t have been more true for us. Harper was feral after every day of kinder and at first I was getting angry and annoyed about it. It was enough, it was grinding on me. I was sick of getting her in such a bad mood every day. But after receiving that email from the teacher, one afternoon I got down on my knees when she was crying and just gave her a big hug. I could literally feel her body slump into mine. She was exhausted and emotional and all she needed was to feel safe and loved. Starting kinder and being away from her mum and dad all day long was a big thing. She just needed some security again from us.
Same thing happened again this week in the car. She got into my car after an all day holiday program and lost the plot. Just wouldn’t stop crying. I was coming off the back of a terrible migraine so the last thing I needed was a crying child the whole way home. I literally felt my blood boiling, I was so ready to scream at her to “shut up”, but I stopped myself, I took on board the advice that I’d recently read about, I took a big deep breath and just gave her my hand to hold. She was instantly quiet. She just needed a bit of love, security and reassurance after what must have been a big day. It worked. She was calm and stopped crying. Amazing! Sometimes we forget how little they are and all the need is to know that their mummy and daddy love them and are always there for them at the end of the day.
I know – So much of this is so much easier said than done! I caught myself yelling at Paxton today and then had to just take a step back and tell myself to listen to my own advice. Yelling just doesn’t work for us! Our kids need to feel secure and loved. When they feel secure and loved, they will listen and take in what we try to explain to them so much better. Like I mentioned above, every child is different and parenting is a tough gig! Try different things and find what works for your child. But just keep in mind, before getting angry, that really all they might need is just a big hug!! They are only little after all. It’s so easy to forget.
I’d love to hear from you guys… If you have any stories like these or great parenting articles you’ve read, I’d love to hear from you.
Out of all the articles I read on this stuff, these three were by far my favourite ones. I by no means have any affiliations with these sights, I just stumbled across them and found them very interesting and useful.
- https://imperfectfamilies.com/16-reminders-to-parents-of-a-3-year-old/ by Nicole Schwartz
- http://www.ahaparenting.com/ages-stages/preschoolers/Life-Preschooler/pre-empt-whining by Dr. Laura Markham, founder ofcom and author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings and her latest book, the Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids Workbook.