In this age of COVID, parents’ needs look very different. Families that were previously interested in more long-term planning with CLEAR are now generally in “survival mode.” Parents are asking, “how do I get my kids to stop fighting” or “how do I get my kiddo to carry up his laundry basket without throwing a fit” or “what do I do about this kid’s attitude?” Well, naturally. Just like being confined in a place with any human, the traits that make people tough to be around, really come to the surface in times like these.
Spoiler alert! This post will not answer those questions above! What I will do, though, is share some of my favorite tips and strategies I have learned over the years that have saved me in times of stress as a parent. Some will work for you. Some won’t. Take what you can use and leave the rest. And in all things, hear this. You rock! You’ve got this! Keep going. We are here for you.
- JUST LOVE THEM. This is one that I learned from my older son’s kindergarten teacher. She was just amazing and I remember asking her how she does it. And she answered, “just love them.”
- BEHAVIOR MOD 101. If you do nothing more than turn toward the behaviors you want to see and turn away from the ones you don’t want to see, you’ve done your job. This lesson came from one of my professors who was just a behavior wizard. I remember him saying that pretty much all behavior principles rely on that one phrase. You can’t ignore or respond calmly to every bad behavior…but whenever possible, don’t put attention on those things you don’t want to see again in your life. Energy flows where attention goes.
- STRUCTURE, PREDICTABILITY, ROUTINE. For kids who are anxious, rigid, or who have a disability, routine is super important. It is hard right now to create those structures. It is okay if they are not perfect and if you have to veer off once in a while. Just try your best to keep a schedule.
- REMEMBER THE “OOPS!.” I worked with a family many years ago, and this one phrase totally turned things around. Both parents and child were just digging their heels in, and the kiddo would simply reject every piece of direction. It turns out this kid was so rigid and such a perfectionist that she just melted at the thought of being corrected. The family started saying “oops!” instead of reacting with emotion to every little poor behavior or bad choice. The essential formula for this is, “respond gently to mistakes and missteps…just as you would hope someone would do for you.” Just say oops! It can make a huge difference.
- EMPATHY IS MOST IMPORTANT. If your kiddo wants to share their story, their excuses, their reason why you are wrong and they are right, simply listen. You don’t have to agree with a word of it. This kiddo’s brain is not fully developed. When things are tense, and you are unsure what to do, stop and really listen to your kid. You don’t have to agree – just understand.
- LET IT GO! Don’t go to bed angry, my grandma used to say. Some days just suck. These little humans struggle just like we do. Whenever possible, laugh and let go. They learn more from that than from the other rules and systems we have in place.
- HUMOR! Households need a mix of these 3: play & laughter, comfort & love, discipline & structure. When our kids act out, we spend way too much time in number 3, which is the least important of the 3 to our brain development. Lighten up people, have a laugh. The sun will come up in the morning.
- PLAY! Don’t forget to take a night off from everything and just play with them.
- DON’T GIVE UP! It will seem sometimes like you are doing all these things and your kid’s behavior isn’t improving. I would say, if you have a good plan in place (keeping in mind that you may need support or consultation to develop this), and you are consistent and persistent, they will get it. Think about potty training. At the time, it feels like you are making no progress. But then they get it and they are fine. Looking at my teenagers now, I realize that about 90% of the stuff I stressed about when they were little never came to pass. People don’t change on a dime. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
- THIS TOO SHALL PASS. Don’t forget to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting younger passengers. Take 20 minutes for yourself. Go gently. Hug yourself. Hug your kids. Take a breath. These crazy days will pass.
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