Many people ask me how I take 6 kids to the beach without losing my mind, how I keep my cool with the girls are getting fussy when we are out, and how do I head off personality flare-ups (aka temper tantrums). Honestly, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I lose my cool or lose control of the situation. But most of the time I can turn a potentially bad situation back around by simply making it a game. Remember Mary Poppins getting the kids to clean by making it a game?
I tell people, every child has a weak spot. Think of it like you do in sales… you find the “in” and make the sale. That is all you are doing when you are appealing to a child’s interests and wants- selling a good time. For instance, the girls were poking along in a busy parking lot. Sure I could have yelled at them. Instead I said, “Let’s get to the door like bunnies!” and started hopping. Instantly it became a race and since hopping is fun, the girls started laughing and we got across safety and quickly. Yelling would have set a bad tone for the trip and potentially set off a chain of events in which someone ends up crying… usually me. So I made the choice to have fun while accomplishing my goal.
I asked a friend to give me some situations where she gets frustrated so I could figure out hypothetically what I would do. She mentioned that many times her daughter will simply refuse to do what is being asked of her, like picking up her toys. I have also come across that with AJ, who can be contrary and like to play the, “I don’t know how” card to get someone else to do the job for her. (She is smart and usually Gabby ends up doing her jobs) Lately I have discovered that if I do the job with her it gets done right and quickly. I used to just holler at her to put her clothes away while I clean up my room… I would peek my head in every couple of minutes to see her sitting on the bed or floor, playing and definitely not doing what I asked. Then I would get frustrated and the whole thing would go downhill from there. Reminding myself she is barely 4 and can’t do things yet was step 1. Step 2 was helping her and making it fun instead of a dreaded chore. I will ask her if her shirts go on her bum and start to put things in the wrong spots, causing her to correct me and giggle. So on, and so forth.
There are some situations where I realize that you can’t make it a game… I can’t think of any right now but I am sure that they exist. My problem is not taking the time to appeal to my girls- I get so caught up with my agenda that I forget that things are sooooo much easier if I slow down and get on their level. I waste time getting mad, when it would have been a heck of a lot easier to take the time to make whatever fun. Here are some other ways that you can turn sticky situations into a better experience:
Grocery shopping- give the kids their own list, make a grocery BINGO sheet, play I Spy, let them look at labels and ask them why they pick certain products
Waiting in line somewhere not fun (bank, post office, etc)- make funny faces at each other, tell jokes, play statues or robots
Eating at a restaurant- ask for the kids food first, bring dry erase cards or a small notepad, use your phone to take pictures of everything, flip the place mat over and doodle together
The best advice I can give though is to really think about how your child is viewing the situation and remember that you are in control of the mood. If you keep a positive, sunny, fun attitude then everything will go smoothly. Head off issues before they explode and realize that if your child is upset, there is usually a good reason. (Most of the time, they are not out to purposely piss you off!) Shopping during nap or meal times is a bad idea, don’t take your child places where they can’t touch anything because let’s face it- everyone touches things, and asking more then your child is capable just sets everyone up for failure.
I am still navigating this whole gentle parenting thing, slowly but surely. Getting everyone to clean, not just pick up, but scrub things is my hurdle currently. But I can see the results and even though it take a bit of effort and selflessness, the house is more peaceful. Chances are that your child will just be happier getting more of your time and attention so it’s worth a shot, right?
Are their situations where you lose your cool? What really motivates your child?