Elizabeth Pantley is totally brilliant at keeping us all sane when it’s sometimes difficult with little ones at home. I hope you enjoy this great piece, that promises to help you keep your cool!
- Learn and practice good parenting skills
Loving your child is easy, raising your child is hard. No one is born knowing how to be a parent. Parenting is complicated, intense, and ever-changing. In order to be a calm, effective, parent you need knowledge and skills, but almost no one is born with these skills.
- Take a bit of personal time for yourself every day
You can’t stay calm and centred and take care of your family if you don’t take care of yourself. Taking some ‘ME TIME’ is not selfish – it’s necessary for emotional health. Try to fit in a little bit every day. A cup of tea and a good book? A walk around the block? Coffee with a friend? For more peace, find a little time for you.
- Keep a written schedule or calendar to prevent haphazard chaos
It’s a challenge to keep track of all the balls you have to juggle. Keeping consistent lists, calendars and charts can help you to keep track of everything and prevent the stress that occurs with disorganisation.
- Post clear and understandable family rules
If everyone knows that dishes belong in the dishwasher after eating, homework must be done before TV, and toys get put away after playtime, then you won’t lose your cool trying to get your kids to do the many daily things they have to do.
- Offer your children choices instead of making demands, when possible
Giving a choice is a powerful tool that can be used with children of all ages. Offer choices such that you would be happy with whatever option your child chooses. (“What do you want to do first – put on your PJs or brush your teeth?”) They’ll be happy to have a voice, and you’ll be happy because it’s an easy way to gain cooperation.
- Make your requests brief and clear
The less you say, the more your child will hear, understand and remember. So get your child’s eyeball-to-eyeball attention, and then make a short, concise statement. Repeat yourself if necessary, but don’t elaborate and lecture.
- Express yourself using “I” sentences; avoid “you” statements
“You never do your chores when you promise!” Finger-pointing “you statements” can bring defensiveness and conflict. So change it to an “I” statement, Saying “I feel hurt when you promise to do the dishes but then you forget.” This will get you a much better response, and also protect the parent-child relationship.
- Get eye-to-eye when talking to your child
You can engage your child’s attention more effectively if you go to him, get down to his eye level, and talk clearly face-to-face. When you do this, you have your child’s full attention. In addition, your child can read your non-verbal communication signs, such as facial expression and body language. This will add to her ability to truly understand what you are saying. And you will be able to read your child’s non-verbal language, which will help you know if he truly understands what you are saying.
- Pick your battles
Not every issue needs to be addressed and corrected. Little things can sometimes slip though the cracks with no impact on anything of importance. As a matter of fact, if you feel you must address every single issue, of any size, you will likely drive yourself and your children crazy! Your kids are bickering over a broken crayon? Sometimes the best thing you can do for your peace of mind is to turn around, take a deep breath and go do something else for ten minutes. By the time you come back the issue will be long forgotten.
- Increase your support system
Don’t try to parent your children in a vacuum. Join a meet-up group, support group or a parent club. Make friends with other parents at your child’s daycare centre or school. Talk to those other parents at the playground or park. Having friends in the same stage of life as you are can be a lifesaver for dealing with your stresses and concerns.
By Elizabeth Pantley, Author of the No-Cry Solution book series for parents