How much easier would parenting be if we knew when and how things were going to happen?
If only I knew that at 2:50pm every Thursday the three year old was going to be over tired and lose his mind just when I need to leave for school pick up, it would be so much easier to deal with!
While I might not be able to predict my smallest child’s meltdowns with such pinpoint accuracy, when I stop and think about it, there is a pattern to some of my kids’ behavior, and there are things I can do to prepare for those moments when things go pear shaped.
If we only ever react to situations when they occur, especially the difficult ones, then we’ll always feel like we are on the back foot, always stretched to our limits, and always having to figure out this parenting gig on the fly. I don’t know about you, but when they happens too often, when I have to figure out the best way to react when I am in the moment, that stresses me out… and when I am stressed I am less likely to be the kind of parent I want to be.
Being prepared for at least some of the tricky parenting situations we find ourselves in, means we can handle them better, and perhaps even prevent them from happening in the first place. Putting in some time to ‘pre-plan your parenting’ can have big benefits all round.
How do yo pre-plan your parenting?
Well here’s how I do it…
Every now and then, when the kids are all in bed and the house is finally quiet, I take some time to think about the issues we are struggling with at the moment, the times when I feel most stressed, or lost as a parent.
Just identifying these things, helps me to see any patterns or obvious issues that I might have missed while trying to manage things in the moment. When do these things occur? Where do they happen? Is it the same child each time?
Once I have figured out what our main issues are right now, I can begin to think about why they might be happening.
This is really key… if I don’t want to be a reactive parent, simply doling out judgments and consequences when my kids misbehave, then I need to look at the reasons behind their behavior, so we can deal with the cause for a long term solution, not just react to the behavior when it happens.
Giving myself a chance to think about why my child might be behaving in that way when I am not stressed and in the moment, gives me a chance to see things from a different perspective. It allows me to come up with ideas and suggestions from a place of clam and love, instead of when I’m stressed out and kinda not loving that kid who is melting down so much right now! It gives me a much better chance of working out a loving, solution that works for everyone.
Once I have figured what, and when, and I have some idea about why, then I try to come up with a plan for when we are dealing with that issue, and to try and prevent it happening in the first place.
I work on a ‘positive first response‘, or two… or three. So when I am in the moment, and my buttons are being pushed like crazy, and I am stressed, and I can’t think straight, my brain can fall back on a preprepared script… something positive that I prepared earlier to start myself on the right track, or at least not make things worse.
How will I react when my boy doesn’t want to get up in the morning?
What will I do when the toddler has a public meltdown?
How will I manage sibling arguments?
What will I say to my anxious child in the middle of the night?
Then I look at prevention.
I take some time to look at the big picture, to see what is missing, or where changes could be made so that we might avoid these struggles all together, or limit them, or at least have them happen at a time when we are more able to deal with them and allow the big emotions.
I look at our routine, is that playing a part in the problem – Is the cranky child hungry? Are they over tired? Are we doing too much? Do they need more time before a transition? Can I change or tweak our routine to make things easier?
I look at my children’s individual needs – Does one of my children need more one on one time? Do they need more sleep? Do they need more physical activity? Do they need more time alone? Do they need more time to talk with us? Do they need more physical affection?
I look at the adults in our family and the part we play – Do we need to be less busy? Do we need to reconnect with one child? Have we been too serious lately and need a little more silliness? Do we need to say yes more often? Are we stressed and overwhelmed? Do we need to allow more time for parenting?
And I look at outside influences – Is school stressing them out right now? Are they having problems with a friend? Are they scared or worried about something?
Of course, I can’t plan for every moment in this parenting gig. Kids are unpredictable, and just when we parents think we have a handle on things, it is all bound to change!
But even when I can’t predict what is going to happen, and even when I can’t figure out exactly what is going on or why, spending time thinking about ways to meet my children’s needs before things go wrong is always a positive thing.
Doing a little preventative pre-planning and putting into place some positive strategies before things go to hell in a hand basket almost always means there are less meltdowns from the kids, and better parenting from me when they do happen.
It’s well worth taking a little time to pre-plan your parenting.
Read the comments or scroll down to add your own:
Kimberly Kleckner says
Kate, I so appreciate your wisdom expressed in this posting. You’ve summarized in conversational “layman’s terms” some excellent strategies that work for Early Childhood educators and would have successful application at home. As a preschool teacher of 3-year-olds, I plan to reprint this as an article to share with incoming parents as a new year of preschool begins this fall. Thank you for sharing it!
thank you for your lovely comment. Before I had my babies I taught three year old preschool and loved it, I often miss those days so I cam glad to think I can help out another teacher somehow