If I have one piece of advice for you, its Stop Reacting and Start Responding !
Do you yell? criticise? or overreact? Do you ignore them, walk away? or throw your hands up in frustration?
Do you inquire? invite discussion and problem solving?
Do you react or respond to your kids?
If you want a strong, positive relationship with your children, you must work out how to respond to them rather than react to their behaviour.
I thought I was a very patient person before I had triplets. I trained as a nurse, someone who would be patient and caring with whoever I was looking after. We had a tough first year with our triplets, being truly blessed that all three survived their extreme prematurity. But there were many times when they were toddlers that I thought I would snap, one of the most testing times in my life. Trying to respond and not react when I was dog tired and just wanted 5 minutes of silence, to hear nothing !
It is so difficult to respond to a whining child, who may be going through a developmental stage, keeping you up at night and sleeping when they like through the day (oh I wish we could too! ) They’re whining and not giving you a second to think….rather than responding with a ‘you look upset, do you need a hug?’ you snap at them ‘ Stop that crying now ! ‘
Reacting to your child’s emotional behaviour with your own fuel charged emotional behaviour sends the wrong message, a message that will make your child feel insecure and unloved.
However, by responding to your child with a positive reply, gives them the permission to test their emotions in a healthy environment with a parent who isn’t behaving like a child themselves. They will express their feelings without being shamed, or criticised but in a loving environment, learning how to deal with these emotions as they grow up.
‘Darn right its not fair ! Life is not fair! Get used to it ! ‘
– What a truly harsh and hurtful way to speak to your child – not showing them by example how to deal with their disappointment –
‘I can tell you are upset with my decision. Come and sit with me and we can talk about it.’
This is a much kinder response that will feel that whilst you have said no to something, its not because you want to be mean or hurtful but you can now
explain why you said what you did, in a supportive, loving way that your child will feel through your words. Obviously the words you use to express your responses will depend on the age of your child. Appropriate words that they will understand and feel your care and compassion as their loving parent will make them feel a whole lot better even if they haven’t got their own way!
Its a real toughie for parents of twins and triplets, where the challenges are doubled or tripled. Its hard to give that one to one time when there are others wanting your time, but even a few minutes of one to one is worth the effort, they need it for their emotional growth as an individual rather than one of a collective.
Sure we all get caught out sometimes… Not one of us is a saint… we are all human beings with buttons that get pressed, especially if we are tired, with too much to do, its easy to snap at your children.
‘Thats ENOUGH young lady! ‘
‘Please don’t speak to me in that voice, use a calm voice to ask me something please.’
Its a really tough call to say this in an unruffled voice, that will encourage your toddler to follow your example when inside you’re screaming to yourself that you are sick of the constant whining and crying that goes on. I snapped a few times with my triplets, but as time went on I realised that I could control my snappiness and be an example rather than a tyrannical mother!
There is a child where I live in Spain, who lives in a neighbouring apartment. She gets dragged every day through the communal gardens at 3 in the afternoons, mother ignoring the child, who screams her head off all the way home. She is obviously tired, maybe been at nursery all day, mother on her phone, ignoring her. The routine never changes. I just wish I could say to that mother, please pick her up or at least get off your phone and respond to what is the most precious thing in your life. Take a stroller to bring her home, give her a snack or a drink to distract her from the fact she is tired and fractious.
It takes time and patience, and a lot of practice to get it right. It is impossible to be the perfect responder to your child’s challenging behaviour so forgive yourself when you get it wrong, but keep on trying! It sends the right messages to your child as they are growing up and they in return will be much happier, contented and in time better parents to their children because they learned by example.
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