Thursday, January 26, 2012

Practical Tools for Challenging Times

At my best, I am a loving, gentle, compassionate parent who adores my children and strives to be positive and focus on relationship. At my worst, I'm pretty sure clips of my week could be sewn into a reality television show about how not to parent.

So what about the in between? What about when you want to be centered and calm but trials of everyday life become overwhelming? What do you do when you start to become frustrated and need a better way to handle things?

Following are six tips I use around our house when things start to spiral. 

(Or, Six Ways To Get Through the Day When You're About To Lose Your Mind. Not that I've ever—ahem—felt that way.)

1. Chill out. (Breathe, Momma, Breathe!)
This one is soooo hard for me to put into practice. I may possibly have a wee bit of a tendency to overreact. So I attempt to follow the old adage: Will this matter in 10 years? 10 hours? 10 minutes? I try to maintain a calm perspective using the ideas in this fabulous post from Dr. Laura Markham. Can I just tell you how many times a day I mutter to myself, there is no emergency . . . no one is dying?

2. Take a hug break. (Remember: Break before you snap.)
Sometimes all I can do is invite Agent J to come flying across the room into my arms. I just call out "hug break" and she comes running. (Well, 95% of the time, anyway.) When I'm tempted to get angry with her, or to yell at her (again) . . . or when I start thinking this time I'm just going to bag all that gentle parenting stuff and try something different . . . I hug her instead. And I squeeze tight. 

3. Sing a lot. (Talent optional.)
Kids love to hear singing. I don't know why this works so well, but I can get my kids' attention instantly if I sing instead of talk. The louder and the nuttier the lyrics the better. Our favorites include Where Is . . . (sung to the tune of Where Is Thumbkin?) as well as variations on the Kindermusik Hello Song. Works great for diaper changes on a wiggly baby, too. Agent A is a huge fan of the ABC song.

4. Talk really fast. (Topic irrelevant.)
Remember the TV show Gilmore Girls and how Lorelai and Rory would engage in rapid fire conversations that would baffle anyone listening in? Babies love to listen to your voice, and they seem especially interested when you talk super quick. I find that if I just start yammering on about whatever, A will forget all about trying to run away from a diaper/clothing change and actually lie still (for 30 seconds, anyway). Talk about your to do list, your last vacation, a great new website you just discovered, your thrilling plans to clean out the refrigerator.

5. Get really quiet. (Yes; the exact opposite of #3 and #4.)
Sometimes, however, the other extreme can be just as effective. Quiet down . . . to a whisper if you need to . . . and often your little ones will, too. Many days weeks I need to get drastic and just stop talking altogether for a while. It helps me to focus on my words and how often I keep talking when I should really just listen instead. On a related note, having time each day to be quiet with my own thoughts helps tremendously, too.

6. Use labels. (Ooh, wait . . . is that bad?)
We have this running joke that sometimes we all turn into giant grumps and we need names to match, like Eva Grumplepus and Mommy Grumplepus. We've shortened these to initials: E.G., J.G., M.G., etc. Cracks them up every time and helps to lighten the mood. Even my usually serious E can't help but giggle when I call her out on her E.G.-ness. Now she is able to just tell me "hey, I'm just feeling grumpy right now" before things go off the deep end. I already use silly nicknames for all of them so this fits in well around our house.

We definitely don't get it right all the time (and plenty of days I need to re-read some of my own advice). But we incorporate these six things into our routine to release the tension and give us me a chance to get back on track.

Thanks for reading and have a blessed day.


Brenda said... [Reply to comment]
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Brenda said... [Reply to comment]

Sorry about that last comment, I'm struggling. :)

Thank you for the list! I have so much that I could be doing better and this is a BIG help on how to help me.

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