Things are busy here and set to get even busier.
When I am feeling stretched my temper shortens and I cut corners. I say and do things I wish I hadn’t, especially on the parenting front.
So today I am restocking my collection of ‘positive first responses‘.
A positive first response is a little trick I have up my sleeve to at least get me started in the right direction when it comes to some recurring situations that push my buttons.
This is how it works…
Sit down and think about the kinds of things your kids do that drive you bonkers.
These are the times that I am pushed to say or do something right then and there, and the times when I often say or do something that makes things worse not better.
You know those times with your kids that seem to happen over and over and afterwards you always wished you’d handled them better? Yep, those times.
With those times in mind the idea is to think up better ways to handle them.
Think up something that you can say when you are in the moment. A little script that you can remember and repeat without too much thought.
Think up something to say that might diffuse the situation, something that might buy you a little time to think, something with a more positive tone, something that shows you hear them, something that shows you recognise their feelings, something with compassion.
I go all the way and actually come up with a full sentence, and even say it out loud a few times to make sure I remember it.
“Fair is not equal it is everyone getting what they need when they need it.”
“If you put it away you will be able to find it the next time you need it.”
“Speak calmly to your brother/sister/father/me and we will be able to sort it out.”
“Please be gentle.”
“Rough play is for outside.”
“I can see you are frustrated, can I help?”
“Can you think of another way?”
“I need time to think about it, come back in five minutes and we’ll discuss it.”
I store these little phrases away in the back of mind and I trot them out whenever I’m cornered, or stressed, or tired and need to have ‘a positive first response’.
I’ve decided I need to spend a bit of time intentionally working on becoming a better parent right now… so you’ll see a few more of these types of posts pop up on Thursdays.
If there is any parenting things you are struggling with, or questions you would like to ask please email me. I also share lots of interesting parenting links, blogs and articles over on my facebook page so pop over and check them out.
What kid situations are pushing your buttons right now?
How do you deal with things when you are stressed or tired?
Do you have a store of positive first responses?
Read the comments or scroll down to add your own:
Would love to get your thoughts on 1) sibling fighting, I know it’s normal but it drives me crazy. they always want me to get involved but i don’t think it does any good. should i try to stop it happening or just find a way to stay out of it and tell them to sort it out between them? 2) how to teach kids to be grateful and value things – our family is fairly priviledged and we are lucky enough to have a pretty easy life, in material terms at least. i don’t want to impose some artificial sense of deprivation on them but equally i want them to understand that they are lucky and to have a sense of responsibility for helping people less fortunate (in a way appropriate to their ages – 3 and 6) how do i do this without becoming some sort of broken record going on endlessly about the orphans in India who would be grateful for the dinner they are refusing to eat? THANKS!
Oh Jen the sibling fighting is doing my head in here too so definitely something I need to have a good hard think about!
We’ve also been working on the grateful thing this year and helping our kids realise that not everyone’s life is like theirs so will share some thoughts on that soon.
Thanks so much for the suggestions/questions!
I know it’s years later…. But the book ‘siblings without rivalry’ is great for exactly what you mention here .
I love your statements. I am going to practice them and use them. Thanks :)
Really sensible idea to have something stored away for a ‘stormy’ day. I need to practice this too!
Hi Kate, while working on being/becoming a better parent is an ongoing thing, I just wanted to let you know that I think you are already an awesome parent! The fact that you think about ways to be a better parent shows so much about you and inspires me and I’m sure many others!
thank you… it has been a loooong day here and reading your comment made me smile.
Melissa(Bright Side Up) says
There are some days that I feel the kids KNOW I am vulnerable, and they push my buttons till I break. This is just silly. They are just kids being kids. It is such a good idea to have a strategy in place for those moments when you are teetering on the edge.
I have some of these tucked away too (I love your first one!). The thing that bugs me most about my kids is the not listening thing. Argh.
Save your breath – whinging won’t change the outcome. Do it the first time. Use your inside voices. If we all talk at once, no-one can listen.
Oh love that last one… ‘if we all talk at once no one can listen’ that is so appropriate in our house!
Great post Kate!
A couple of mine:
– I can only helping when you are talking calmly.
– I understand that is the problem, what solution do you have?
Love these two – will try them on Miss Almost 5 :)
I often say “Let`s sit for a bit and take deep breaths” and have one toddler on each knee. Helps me and helps them.
Loved your first one! I also use “keep you hands to yourself” and “be gentle please” often!
Great idea to have these phrases thought out and ready to go. I liked your responses. We’re using “be gentle” a lot at the moment with Maddie (almost 4) and her handling of her 13 month old brother!
A few I seem to use:
-“Please remember that X (eg, watching a tv show) is a privilege, not a right” (you can lose a privilege)
-“Stop. Take a few deep breaths. When you’ve calmed down I want to know what the problem is.”
and, to avoid butting in when I’m talking to someone else (in person or on the phone) and child wants to tell you something, a hand on their arm and a nod to them means “I know you want to tell me something, I want to hear it and will be with you in a minute” (this is something you have to talk about and agree with the child before hand and practice often) :)
Great post :)
I have a child who doesn’t respond well to reason. I can’t seem to find things to say that are reasonable or rational that she will listen to. She actually seems more aggitated when I am calm. She screams louder, says more hateful things and tries harder to arouse me. And it works. I have finally just gotten to the point that I don’t respond to her at all. However, her behaviour is negatively affecting the whole family. Tonight she was saying the usual “I hate you mommy” comments which I was ignoring but my two year old finally piped in. My toddler asked her if she hated mommy and when she said “yes!” my toddler started crying. And my toddler has been trying out the “i hate you” words at home to see how they feel. These are not words I want my two year old saying with ease! Very concerned, exhausted, and just at a loss for what to do. :(
Amber, I have a few suggestions about the child who is constantly saying “I hate you, Mommy.” First off teaching respect might go along way, it is ok to be upset, but saying hurtful things is not ok, and the best time to teach this is not in the middle of an outburst. Try getting some books out from the library that talk about feelings, and then you can discuss the issue when it’s not “hot”. Secondly, if it were my child (which I have had to do this with my own), you can certainly ignore the outburst but removing her to a quiet place to regain her composure would eliminate the toddler being exposed to the rant. I would make a statement that you are going to ignore her and she will need to be removed until she is ready to talk calmly and respectfully. And whatever you say to this child you must be prepared to follow through with, otherwise she is going to learn that she can scream and eventually get her own way. When she calms down you can address the issue (why was she saying I hate you mommy to begin with?). Acknowledge her feelings, for example if she got mad about having to follow a rule, or you said it was bed time or whatever, you can say, I understand you were mad… But no matter what emotion she is feeling, it is not ok to say hurtful things and the rules need to be followed. Always remember to say and show love to your child even after a time when they are difficult to love. Hope everything works out.
Have you filled a bucket today is a great book for teaching respect and kindness. It gives kids a visual aid to help them realize their actions have real consequences even though they may not see them.
I think children need to be allowed to express themselves and a young child saying they hate a parent is totally acceptable. Their expression does not mean the same as an adult with a fuller understanding of the words saying the same, so when you hear it you shouldn’t respond as if it did. Your response will illicit a stronger reaction from them and it will become cyclical. Children get frustrated and upset with their parents and without being able to articulate their feelings better (e.g. I hate that you won’t let me do this/that you’re not responding to me in the way I wish/that I don’t feel you are fully there for me right now etc. becomes simply ‘I hate you’). Yes it’s upsetting to hear but really I think an adult needs to deal with the child’s emotion, not make it about their own feelings. If you stop responding strongly to it, I would imagine a child you use it less often, but if they don’t then I think the advice above was very good, about acnkowledging them – well everything Monica said I 100% agree with apart from disallowing them the use of the word hate. It is loaded with adult emotion, which is why you recoil from it, but it’s just a word, an expression of upset, frustration and sadness, and a child has every right to use it against you.
Another concern I would have with telling a child they are not allowed to express their feelings of hate is that it is the same as invalidating those feelings. Which is not healthy. A child is not unhealthy or bad or anything negative at all for having negative feelings or expressing them. A child can love and hate at the same time. If a child is feeling comfortable to tell you they hate you, then I think that it is positive. They are confident, and not afraid.
Another more sinister result in telling your child not to speak negatively about people may be that in the event where someone is being horrible to them, you’ve taught them, they can’t discuss this with you. They can’t express their upset/anger/hate because doing so in wrong. ‘I hate you’ isn’t intrinsically hurtful; it’s an expression of an emotion. I wouldn’t expect a four year old to say ‘I am angry with you because you wouldn’t let me do this’. But I wouldn’t be surprised if a child constantly told off for saying ‘i hate you’ ends up feeling guilty for feeling those emotions. And I think a lot of people do carry guilt with them for normal healthy feelings. Hate is ok.
Jeepers that’s a great answer, thank you Kt
My girlfriend and I both have two year olds that are just a month apart. This was really cool and exciting at first but now it’s a nightmare! They fight like siblings and her daughter wants everything mine touches. I stay pretty calm but she loses her cool way too fast and it’s become a major problem in our relationship. Ugh, and bedtime routine is a so stressful. Her daughter doesn’t have a consistent routine and keeps mine awake. I don’t know what to.
I’m having issues with my 6 year old becoming very disrespectful lately. It’s like it came out of nowhere, and none of my other 4 children have ever done this so I’m assuming it’s coming from a “friend” from school.
When she pushes my buttons with “you just don’t care”, “you just don’t want for me to have anything”, “you’re SOOOO mean” when actually I do any and everything possible to make sure they are happy and content within reason. She knows I do care very much, so pushing the “you don’t care about me” button when she doesn’t get candy for a snack for example, in her mind is a sure fire way to make Mommy upset and therefore more likely to give in.
I have GOT to break this habit and I’m not sure what to say. HELP!!!
it sounds like you probably already know the answer? if you have said ‘you can’t have any candy today’ you need to respect your words (and therefore both yourself and the child) by not being swayed. When I tell my child I will or won’t do something I *always* stick to it even if she has forgotten, or even if I regret what I said (e.g. I promised her a new pet, or said she can’t have ice-cream and then her friends have one in front of her). Because of the consistency we rarely have melt-downs over things. When there is a melt-down I can always track it back to my own inconsistency. e.g. no you can’t have a snack directly before bed, was always a hard and fast rule. But when moving house it helped her get into bed and sleep. And now she will sometimes be upset and demand one. We lost the consistency.
I imagine at first when you start sticking 100% to what you say there will be more melt-downs, but stay with it, and she will get used to it. If no matter what she says or screams you stick to what you said, she will stop wasting her energy!
Also, try not to get upset about it. You know she knows you care. Remind yourself of that and rise above it. Consistency and security are so important for happiness in children too.
Oh my god, i just wrote zillions and all deleted as i forgot to add my email! Anyway, being a mam of 3, and learning the hard way but getting there~!
Be the person you want your child to be and lead by example, they will be learning at so much from there home. Dont be dismayed, those good traits you are showing them, respect, values ect, some of it will rub off!
childs frontal cortex in their brain does not fully develop untill well into there late teens or even after in some cases ….so, what that means, is that they wont process everything say, in an arguement situation, they dont have a filter, so, they will shout out stuff and rant ect. Our urge is to reply in similar responses, but , as an adult, we have to stop, and think before we react. Dont forget, Mad child + Mad parent= Madder situation. So take away 1 element, and it will fizzle out. My response in these situations are to either 1. tell them , i am not going to speak to you right now. 2. I will not react to what you just said, please go to your room for the moment, as that is really not acceptable to behave like that. 3. we will chat about this when you calm down.
This way both partys are afforded there personal space and hopefully this should have a positive effect. My switch is bed times dragging out. its not working all the time, but as my husband is generaly calmer than me, i would get him to get them going, not fair me being the bad guy all of the time. They are great generaly, hopefully with all the positive reinforcements and chats, they will follow in our steps, I definately am going to note some of the good advice listed above. Its can be a hard but fullfilling job this parenting lark!
This one usually buys me some thinking time…’I love you to much to argue right now” or just simply “I love you too much to argue” I said that in a restaurant and my daughter immediately stopped arguing with me over whether she was going to eat ..a dad asked me to repeat it so he could put it in his phone.