OK I have cracked it! I have got the only parenting tip you will ever need! If you have this in your parenting arsenal you are all set. Your sanity can be saved so what is this amazing parenting tip? Drum roll please………………………………….
What? I hear you cry… I am serious excuses are your best friend.
Have you ever bought something and spent time justifying your purchase to yourself? No – well it goes something like this:
These shoes may be twice my monthly income, but they are actually a bargain as they are a classic and will never go out of style
I can totally dress this up or down so I will get loads of wear out of it!
Well I have realised that if you take the same approach to parenting you will feel so much more relaxed. It is like nothing is your fault. You will have seen people using this technique at various soft play centres you have endured
This is essentially just a version of the wonder weeks for older children only far less based in science and fact and more based in amusing myself. I loved that book. Every time I had a little one who was being clingy or whiny there I was flicking to the relevant week and breathing a huge sigh of relief to discover the torment that was all night crying could be put down to a development leap and not just a child with a really difficult temperament. Sometimes it is great to feel ‘normal’ and the ‘reasons’ for behaviour help us to do that.
So this is my gift to you lovely readers a ready prepared list of go to excuses to make yourself feel better when your toddler – teenager is just being hard work. You’re Welcome!
‘They are just tired’
‘He is teething’
‘She is probably just frustrated as she can’t communicate what she needs’
‘It is probably a testosterone surge. I read that they have them at 5 and 7’
‘He is just testing boundaries’
‘It’s the end of term – they are exhausted’
‘They just went back to school. It’s the beginning of term – they are getting used to it again’
‘It’s just before Christmas, Easter, their birthday… INSERT ANYTHING YOU NEED’ so they are excited’
‘We are on holiday so it is a different environment’
I could go on…
Now for the serious bit!
Joking aside I am not saying you want to be entirely like aforementioned soft play couple as we don’t soft play centres to become no go zones; or do we?! I am more than a little excited that my time spent hanging around soft play centres bargaining with my children to leave when I say or scaling dizzy heights when someone gets stuck at the top of the slide are almost at an end. Seriously though all our littles need boundaries and need to learn what is and what is not acceptable. Ultimately as their parents it is our job to teach them right from wrong and they have to learn to control their emotions and feelings so that whether they are tired or just having a bad day they don’t take it out on others. So I am not saying ignore poor behaviour in fact I have written recently about the importance of consistency in behavioural management .
Having your list of excuses just stops you as the parent beating yourself up about it and can create a bit of laughter between you and your partner as you try to find the perfect excuse for that occasion. I also genuinely find if I have an excuse or justification to hang the bad behaviour on I find it easier to be calm when handling it. Understanding our littles or at least trying to understand the reason for their behaviour is a really important part of managing it. I really try to get them to verbalise why they did something even when they are quite little. Clearly I need to lead that conversation the younger they are, but I still find value in doing it. Then as they get a little older and develop more empathy I also engage them in thinking about how they would feel if someone ‘said that’ or ‘did that’ to them.
It seems to really help them understand their own behaviour if we talk through the reasons and then try to come up with an alternative behaviour that they could use when faced with the same situation again. For example my eldest was recently being really mean with his words to his brother and me and was also being really over emotional when challenged on his behaviour. Ultimately he had to have some time out and when he came back we talked about why he was being this way. It turned out that he had really struggled to get back to sleep the night before after going to the toilet and so was extremely tired.
Now I was very clear with him that being tired is not a get out jail free card, but also explained that if he felt that way he should, in future, communicate that to me. I wanted him to know that if he did I would help him. I explained that if he was tired I could let him perhaps watch TV quietly or go to his room and read away from the hullabaloo that is our house. He agreed that this would have been better than being awful to others and that he did need time away from the noise when he felt tired – I am with him there! We also talked about ways he could help himself to get back to sleep if he wakes up so he has some practical tools to take away from the situation.
I think he really understood that being tired was not an excuse and through getting to the reason for behaving badly he could recognise the bad behaviour and genuinely feel sorry that he had been like that. Surely there is some learning in that process? I feel like it is vitally important, especially for boys, to be able to talk about their emotions so I hope that this approach is a step towards that being OK for them as they get older too.
Although I jest about this being the only parenting tip that you will ever need. I do think that determining the reason for a behaviour is part of the battle for changing that for the better. I should also say that behind closed doors I am still fairly sure that everything can be written off and blamed on teething until they are at least 15.
So next time you are at the end of your tether with your little ones come and have a look back at the list of excuses, pour yourself a big glass of wine and pick your favourite!
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