Why do you throw rocks before you, the path ahead is smooth?’ A wise Sage once said, he must have been describing parenthood?
Old Habits Die Hard
Habits can work for or against us.
When it comes to routines in our children’s lives such as brushing their teeth, going to school and sleeping and eating at a set time, these are all good for our children.
They are in essence healthy habits.
Even if they fight it, all children need and like the predictability that routines offer. But routines are also good for us parents too.
Routine’s help to eliminate uncertainty, stress and unnecessary arguing with our children, while giving us the time for ourselves that we all need. When we all follow the same routine harmony follows us. It gives the day order, and time serves a purpose in our lives. We become more organised and productive and are able to plan ahead and pre-empt things ahead of time.
That’s why routines are such effective and valuable parenting tools.
They make it easy for us parents to deduce a lot from our children’s behaviour, when followed consistently, on a daily basis.
For example, if our children have had enough sleep, we can rule out them being tired when they misbehave or get upset. But if we know that they have not had enough sleep, then we will be able to see where the problem lies.
Routines also help us to proactively pre-empt beforehand, our children’s likely behaviour. Helping us to better plan and accommodate for those times when there have been interferences in their routines. For example, if we know they have not had their nap, we can avoid taking them to soft play until after they have had a nap.
Having this knowledge helps us limit a lot of unnecessary upset, for not only our children but for ourselves too. Over time with a consistent approach to routines, our children becoming over tired, hungry, bored or over stimulated, will be almost eliminated, as routine’s will meet those needs in advance, before it’s too late.
Also, by offering our children food before they are hungry or by putting them down for a nap before they desperately need one, we help them to feel understood, cared for and content. This prevents tears and tantrums for both ourselves as well as our children, because trying to soothe an over tired baby to sleep, is a very stressful time for all in earshot, so it’s never a good idea to wait until it’s too late.
Even when we have solid, well established routines in place, our children will still push those boundaries along with our patience. But parenting needn’t feel like a constant battle or struggle.
What if there was an easier way to control our children’s behavior, without being a controlling parent?
Easy does it!
When children are proving hard to control, the easy path often seems …. well …. too easy!
So, we dismiss it as an option and carry on the hard way out of habit.
This is when habits can work against us and become bad.
But when we find our children’s behaviour bad, it’s usually because we are trying too hard.
End the Battle & Win the War
One long summer school holiday (you know, the ones that seem to go on for ever, or you soon will!) A Mum came to see me in despair, saying she had lost control of her children and didn’t know how to get it back?
She felt as though she was, (in her own words);
‘Fighting against them in a constant battle about everything, and feeling defeated all the time.’
My advice which surprised her, was to go along with her children whenever she felt totally powerless, and to see what happened?
I wasn’t suggesting she leave her children to their own devices, and let them walk all over her, encouraging them to take advantage of her apathy. I just wanted her to accept and allow their demands temporarily, while she regained her confident, composure and sense of authority and self.
This was to show her children she was not accepting their behaviour powerlessly. Instead, she was showing them that she didn’t mind either way how they behaved.
This reversed psychological approach, not only confused her children somewhat, but as intended, it equipped her to deal with their behaviour.
There was no more struggle.
Instead of feeling powerless and beaten, she was able to manage normally challenging situations, easily.
By her thinking that she was choosing how to feel, she felt empowered, rather than feeling powerless.
The truth is, there’s always a choice and parents are never powerless. We have all the power, all the time.
I assured her that her children would soon get fed up of misbehaving, once they realised, she did not care and they weren’t getting any attention for their behaviour.
PEACE AT LAST
What she soon noticed was, her children had stopped wanting or asking for the things that previously she was not allowing them. By her not disallowing her children the things they wanted, the battle was over.
They hadn’t won the war though, because really, they didn’t want those things they were fighting for in the first place. All they were interested in was the battle. So, she ended up peacefully winning the war.
If its not us battling our children in a war of wills, then its our children fighting with one another. Nothing drives parents more crazier, than refereeing their own children. You love them all equally but when they are squabbling with one another, its hard to be calm, collected and fair.
The temptation is to blame one child, usually the elder as they should know better or tell them all off, even if one child is innocent. The secret to this common parenting dilemma is, learning to go with the flow more (as in the previous example, where the Mum let go of control) as we practice the Art of Intervention.
The Art of Intervention
We are not ignoring their petty bickering; we are merely being a silent observer, intervening only when absolutely necessary.
Knowing when to intervene in our children’s behaviour and when not to, is a fine art to master. It takes a lot of thought, patience and practice.
We have to stop ourselves from flying off the handle at every incident and decide if it’s really such a big issue?
Does their behaviour warrant a reaction from us that is likely to upset not only our children, but ourselves too?
If it’s not that important then, we have to learn how to let it go, nine times out of ten, none of its really that serious anyway. This is not an excuse to get out of correcting our children’s unacceptable behaviour though, they have to abide by the rules, in order to keep themselves safe and healthy.
It’s knowing the difference between those times when we need to correct them, and knowing when they have to learn how to correct themselves. For example, when they are squabbling with friends or siblings, it’s not always necessary or helpful for us to jump right in and intervene.
It’s important to step back and let them get on with it at times, and let them argue amongst themselves as they learn how to resolve their own issues. This is the only way they’ll learn how to get on with other people and how to resolve conflicts, in a safe, nurturing environment.
When our children hurt the ones they love, it teaches them when they have over stepped the mark. It offers them the opportunity to apologise and make up, or forgive the other person too if they feel they were justified. Silly little squabbles can be resolved between children with -out adult interference, so if it’s not our battle, then we don’t need to fight.
Wishing you all a peaceful Easter, until next time,