As we near the end of the year, it’s often a time of reflection, contemplation and resetting of intentions for the new year. It’s not surprising that after the Christmas parties, end of year catch ups and finishing everything in time to embrace the silly season – we can feel defeated, tired and burnt out.
Once you’ve given yourself time to breath and enjoy the break (which is important!), it is the perfect time to explicitly think about how next year can be even better than this year. If you’re like me, it starts at home. Chaos at home spills over into our careers and everyday interactions. Calmness at home allows for a clear mind and focus for the other areas in our life that require attention. So how do we achieve the calm? Here’s a good start.
- Don’t talk unless they are listening. Seems simple, but when we are busy it is often easy to yell down the hallway instead of walking along it to fully engage their attention. When they are LOOKING at your face, talk. Don’t waste your energy or time by broadcasting to deaf ears.
- Take a breath. Kids can be exasperating (I know it!), however before you respond with a sharp tongue, step back and breath. Think about what will come out of your mouth next. Your responses will dictate the mood in your home moving forward.
- Drop the personal remarks. I know it’s tempting to say ‘you always..’ or ‘how many times do I have to tell you..’ but try and treat every situation with fresh eyes. If we start to cast roles on our children as ‘irresponsible’ or ‘lazy’ they will surely start to fulfil that image.
- Discuss tough topics when you are calm. The best way to address difficult, ongoing issues is by problem solving. However, there is no point in brainstorming ideas for sleep habits at 9pm at night when you are frustrated and battling to keep your child in bed. Try the next day by saying ‘I’d like to talk to you about bed time. Is this a good time for you?’
- Allow kids to make choices. Kids will cooperate more and frustrate us less when we give them a bit more control over their life choices. Make sure you start with choices that move towards a destination you are aiming for. For example, do you want to clean your teeth before the shower or after? Both choices lead to the desired goal of getting teeth clean.
- Tell kids how you are feeling. There is no point in bottling up anger and frustration because it will always rear its ugly head in time. A much healthier way for you to express your frustration to your children is to use a feeling word. For example, ‘It frustrates me to take the bin out, when I asked you three times to do it’. This is also teaching your children to express their feelings – a valuable lesson in emotional regulation.
- Be explicit with your kids. Kids thrive on routine and structure. Make sure your kids know what you expect from them in the morning, afternoons and evenings. Visual prompts and lists that are negotiated can be extremely useful in limiting the use of our voices and enhancing productivity.
- Be descriptive. The less subjective you are in the way you ask kids to do tasks, the less frustrated you’ll become. For example, instead of saying ‘I can’t believe you’ve left your bowl on the sink! How many times do I have to tell you to put it in the dishwasher?….’ Try ‘The bowl is on the sink’. A simple descriptive statement takes the personal attack out of the request and leaves the ball in the child’s court. Chances are they know where the bowl should go!
- Give kids information. They are less likely to fight against requests if they understand why they need to do it. For example, ‘wet clothes go mouldy if they are not hung up’ might encourage them to do something to ensure their favourite shirt is not ruined!
- Talk, talk, talk. Building relationships with your kids is key to enhancing the spirit of cooperation. Let your kids know when they’ve been helpful or kind – the more descriptive the better. When children feel loved, supported and understood they are more likely to help out because they know they are valued and they have an important role in your family. Get it right at home and it will flow through to all other areas in their life… and yours too.