Recently, my wife left me home with my five kids for the evening while she went to a dinner. She generously stayed home a few extra minutes to feed the baby and rock him to sleep before leaving so I could better tend to the other kids. With a quick kiss and “I love you” my wife was out the door and the rest of us were sitting at the table for dinner. Within minutes my little girl spilled a glass of water which almost dripped all over the baby that was sleeping in a bouncy seat close to the table. That spurred laughter and subsequent “what if” stories between my 2 oldest sons. They loudly barked their stories back and forth as they tried to talk over the other. As I went to get a towel to clean up the water, my 5 year old son was asking me repeatedly to butter his bread. By this time the dull roar of my sons’ conversation woke the baby and he started to cry. To top it all off, as I was wiping the table off, my daughter informed me she had peed her pants.
Parenthood can be crazy. Kids can be crazy. Let’s be honest, life is crazy sometimes. Chances are you’ve been in a situation similar to the one I described above, and you too have felt parenting overwhelm. It can be difficult to stay positive and patient when the noise never stops, and you are always being bombarded with the next thing you have to do, when you’re not even done with what you are doing at the moment.
If you’ve ever been there before, the following 7 suggestions might give you a little more peace of mind and help you maintain the positive and patient demeanor that you really want, even when things get crazy around you.
7 Ways to Stay Positive and Patient
1. Look for the positive and use humor: Don’t just look for the positive in the moment. Look for the positive ahead of time. Write positive statements down. Take those reminders and place sticky notes around the house in places where you need them the most, like the kitchen and living areas of your house. The song Dirty Dishes, by Scotty McCreery illustrates how we can look the things that drive us crazy right in the face and reframe them in a positive way. The chorus says…
“I wanna thank you Lord,
For noisy children and slamming doors,
And clothes scattered all over the floor
My husband workin’ all the time,
Draggin’ in dead tired at night,
My never ending messy kitchen
And dirty dishes”
We all got real still and quiet,
And daddy asked, “Hon, you alright?”
She said, “There, ain’t nothing wrong,
Noisy kids are happy kids,
And slamming doors just means we live
In a warm and loving home
Your long hours and those dishes in the sink
Means a job and enough to eat” (Dirty Dishes By Scotty McCreery)
Using humor can be a simple way to stop the downhill progression of a situation. With young kids you can even just say something like, “Do you want to hear a joke?” That will stop them in their tracks. Then you can share your joke and ask if they have one of their own. Plain silliness can be a fun way to turn a dark, stressful situation to light as well. Talk in a made up language, sing your instructions, just be unexpected and silly, even child like.
2. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em: When my boys are running through the house like wild animals I realize that they are not doing it to make me angry. They aren’t thinking about me at all as they race through the kitchen screeching. They are thinking about the fun, the joy, the excitement they are feeling, and for that I’m often tempted to scold or even punish them. The truly sad thing is that for all of my scolding and reprimands to Stop running!, Be quiet!, or Settle down!”, I rarely get a response that is satisfactory. They may stop for a moment, but after they have calmed and walked beyond my sight to the next room, they begin again. However, I have found that if I join with them in the fun and redirect the game to a more appropriate place, the results are more lasting and acceptable. Instead of shaming them, I teach them the proper time and place for rowdy play, and I build our relationship in the process.
3. Do a fire drill: Do you remember those fire drills in grade school? Remember how the teachers used to teach about what to do in case of a fire, and then the principal would come on the loud speaker and announce there would be a fire drill to practice that fire protocol? The alarm would sound and off the students would go to meet at the swing set. We can do the same thing in conjunction with situations that start emotional fires in our home. Take a few minutes during a fun family night to talk about situations that often start those fires. Collaborate with the kids to find a word everyone could use as an alarm when the heat starts to rise. Explain that when the alarm sounds, everybody stops. Then decide what each of you will do to put out the fire or move to safety. Remove yourself if you need to and calm yourself using suggestion #5 or any other technique that helps you manage the stress a little better. Then practice using the alarm, stopping and doing whatever you agreed on.
4. Set clear boundaries: Parents have needs and desires too. Some of the parenting world would like you to believe that you forfeited those when your kids were born, but it’s simply not true or healthy to believe so. However, the responsibility for maintaining personal boundaries is yours. We cannot leave it up to the kids. Setting clear boundaries is essential to staying positive and patient with our kids, with others in our life and just with life in general. For example, I know that the kids running through the kitchen irritates and frustrates me, but I also know that they do it for fun, not to drive me crazy. If I first, don’t have a predetermined boundary set for where that kind of play is okay and second, don’t have some kind of gentle but obvious reminder of that boundary, I will be continually frustrated and they will continue to run in the kitchen against my wishes. To set clear boundaries I can inform them of the areas for running vs. the no running areas, and then I can put up “No Running Zone” signs that include 3 or 4 options of places they can run. When this boundary is challenged, and it will be, I can simply point to the sign and say, “thank you for going to the appropriate play area.”
5. Use the Quick Calm Technique: If you haven’t learned about the Quick Calm Technique yet, download the free audio and a few other tools in the Quick calm Toolkit that will help you to internally remain calm and positive no matter what surrounds you. This simple 5 step technique will give you back mental and emotional power as well as calm your body, mind and emotions. Practicing this and other relaxation and meditation skills on a daily basis can give you the personal awareness you need to actually apply all of the other principles and skills of positive TRU parenting.
6. Give them an alternative that’s awesome: Redirection is a powerful tool, but it is most powerful when their alternative options are completely awesome. The best options are the things that your kids love the most. Brainstorm activities that consume your children, the things they love the most, and write them down. When things get out of hand, invite them over to the list and ask them to pick one of the available activities. This can help you to keep your cool and offer solutions while allowing them to pursue something positive as well.
7. Enlist their help: Sometimes it’s hard to keep it together and sometimes we just don’t know what to do. That is perfectly okay. We don’t have to have all the answers all the time. Tell your child how you are feeling with calm and kind words and ask them to help you. “I need your help” can be a powerful way to get cooperation. Follow it up with a problem solving sort of question like, “What do you think I, you, or we could do to help chill out right now?” You may be surprised with what they come up with. They often have funny things to say that can help to turn things around. Enlisting their help might also include simply inviting them to join you in a specific responsibility in a positive and purposeful way.
The main tools I used in my situation at the dinner table were first, utilizing the Quick Calm Technique, second, look for the positive and use humor, and third, enlist their help. I was able to get their attention with a ridiculous song about water spilling on the baby and something about wet pants. They laughed and waited for what came next so I said, “Okay, I need some help real quick. Cuylar, will you help Emma change her pants? Eli, please wipe up the water for me and I will grab the baby.” In a couple minutes things had mellowed out a little, all except the baby was still crying, but in time that came to an end too. We all survived and without any emotional casualties.
What do you do to stay positive and patient even when things get crazy?