Half term already? Feels like they’ve only been back to school five minutes!!!
As most of us in the UK are experiencing local lockdown many mums are feeling the anxiety of being stuck at home with the kids again. How are we going to keep them entertained, happy and under control?
Well the good news is we don’t have to control them at all.
In fact, too much control can restrict our children’s potential to become autonomous, decision making, happy, and healthy individuals. And the reality is, we can’t control our children’s every action or emotion even if we try. It’s difficult enough trying to control our own actions and emotions, let alone our children’s. That’s why the only solution we really have is to release some of that control.
We can do this by acknowledging thatour children’s behaviour can be inappropriate and hard to manage or understand sometimes and accepting that’s okay—we don’t have to control it. If we persist in trying, we’ll only end up frustrated and exhausted. This is when all the toil and struggle in parenting occurs.
As soon as we learn to let go, we will feel a lot lighter, calmer, happier, and oddly enough, a lot more in control. Our children won’t end up out of control if we cease to be controlling. As long as they have fair, reasonable rules and consistent routines in place, there is no need to worry. Rules and routines replace control with love and guidance and discipline for coaching. Creating less restraint and resistance. We can feel safe, then, to let go of some of that unnecessary control by trying out the following exercise.
Today, choose fifteen minutes to spend with your child when it’s safe to let go of control and relax. The only time you should intervene is if they are about to do something dangerous to themselves or others. As a proactive parent, your home environment should be a safe place to do this exercise but be more aware and vigilant outside.
In that fifteen minutes, choose to let it be okay for you to let go of controlling the situation. If, for example, your child is painting or making a mess, pulling all their toys out everywhere, allow them to. It’s okay for those fifteen minutes, you don’t have to control anything.
Really feel relaxed. If you are finding it difficult, remind yourself it’s only fifteen minutes, and whatever it is your child is doing, it’s not the end of the world. They are just having fun, and you’re enjoying the freedom of not having to stop them or tell them off. You know that you can easily clean any mess up later on. If your child gets dirty, they can have a bath afterward, and washing machines were invented to clean dirty clothes. But for now, you don’t need to worry about any of that. Yes, even the crayon on the wall or playdough on the floor. You can just RELAX!
This is your chance to let go for fifteen minutes. Relax and refrain from throwing fuel on their fire. Just step back and watch them and silently say to yourself ‘It’s okay’ as you take in a few deep breathes and exhale slowly. Try not to breathe in and out too quickly or too shallow though, you don’t want to end up hyperventilating.
Over time, as we practice doing this exercise, we will soon realise that nothing catastrophic has happened. Then, gradually, we will master this art of feeling relaxed around our children, no matter what, even when we venture outside in public.
The more often you practice this exercise, the easier it will become. Even if they are throwing a tantrum in the supermarket, it’s still okay. When they finish throwing a tantrum (and believe me, they will probably stop before the fifteen minutes are up, especially if we are staying relaxed and not reacting to them) then we can just carry on as normal and do our shopping as if nothing happened.
It sounds like a word you would find
in business books, that’s because it is.
I’ve found that we have to approach
parenting sometimes, like running a successful business, if we want to be a success
at it and produce successful children.
After all, our children are our business.
We can’t leave how they turn out to chance, or allow anyone else to take credit or responsibility for who they become either. As parents we have the most power and control to influence them, and if we do so positively, we will end up with happy, healthy and successful children.
Simply put, being proactive is taking action in advance, and pre-emp-ting our children’s moves and emotions. In essence, its hands-on parenting.
A lot of us parents are reactive.
We react to situations and our children’s behaviour in the moment. Now I’m an advocate of what I call ‘Present Parenting’, which is all about living in the present moment and being conscious of the time we spend with our children, but what I witness on a daily basis is far from that.
I see parents reacting unconsciously, out of habit, to unwanted behaviour and situations, usually fuelled with emotions.
As busy parents its hard not to react this way, but as proactive parents, we want to prevent those circumstances arising in the first place.
I know it’s hard not to get upset and angry with our children sometimes, but we can lessen the chances of that happening by, pre-empting problems before they affect our children and planning ahead in advance. Taking -action to prevent problems, as opposed to dealing with them or reacting once they have occurred.
It’s thinking ahead of situations and
how they may affect our children, and being sensitive to their individual needs
This approach enables us to take steps to make things easier, not only for our children, but ourselves too. Helping us to feel more organised and in control, and as a result, increases our self- confidence.
Resulting in a lot less stress for
As a childminder, caring for children
varying in ages, from eleven months to eleven years and over, being proactive
is a necessity.
I have to be one step ahead at all
times, as a matter of health and safety.
A simple day out at the beach, can be
like a military operation.
But always, all the children know;
How I expect them to behave?
What will we do before, during and after our
What to do if there’s a problem, such as
someone goes missing or is lost.
Thankfully and lucky enough, that has never happened to a child I care for (other than my own).
But if it did or should it do so in
the future, I know I would have told all the children what to do in the event
of that happening.
It’s not being paranoid or overly
anxious, it’s being proactive.
Now you may only have one child to
care for, so may not feel a back-up plan necessary on an outing?
But there’s been numerous times where I
have found many lost toddlers, wandering around a supermarket in tears, while
their parents are frantically searching for them.
It happens every -day.
A simple; ‘If you can’t find me, go
straight to the security guard on the door dressed like a policeman’ Helps reduce
this stress, and prevents our children crying to a random stranger or wandering
out to the car park to find us, where, different danger could present itself.
I say this because it happened to me
with my own child, when they were younger. And I don’t want it to happen to you,
if you can avoid it.
I can still feel that panic as I
realised, I didn’t know where my child was, what they were doing or who they
As a parent, I bet you can imagine
that feeling now?
a sinking, sick feeling of impending doom and disaster, as a whole host of
catastrophic images flash through your mind.
relief suddenly washes over you, as you spot them holding hands with a lovely
lady, who’s helping them search for you.
While your little one’s innocently smiling, clutching at a bag of sweets that had tempted them to wander off!
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
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
There was no more struggle.
Instead of feeling
powerless and beaten, she was able to manage normally challenging situations,
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
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.