Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Meltdown Maintenance

Power struggles, meltdowns, and the sassies have hit our house! In a really big way! I have definitely had my patience tested a lot lately, wondering what in the world am I going to do when these girls become teenagers? I am in serious trouble if I don’t get a handle on this soon!
So as usual, I scour just about every discipline book I can get my hands on, ask other moms for their advice, and even ask my very soft spoken, always patient mother for some advice. Well, the most common themes that I kept getting were, “oh, they are just testing you,” “they want to see how far they can go,” “ you need to try to stay calm and patient,” “ this is just a phase, it won’t last long.”  Ah! That last one is always my favorite.
Remember the post about “Carpe Diem” and the blog that was posted on so many of our Facebook pages? How as mothers, we need to enjoy this time in our lives (and we do)? That it goes by in a blink of an eye (it does!) and that we need to cherish every moment? Okay…okay, we’ve got this! Right?
I am sure most of you moms out there are enjoying every bit of those precious moments with your little darlings; however, I am also sure there are some of those moments that you would like to forget. Are you with me, Mamas?
We are not perfect by any means. We have those moments where we lose our cool, our children throw a massive tantrum in the middle of Target or better yet, at a friend’s birthday party. You start to sweat and feel all eyes on you to see how you are going to respond. Yes, we sometimes give in to those meltdowns and even have to go as far as bribing our kids to do something we want them to do. Anybody else with me?
So having said all of this, we are never prepared what is going to happen at the grocery store, at a play date, birthday party, or right before we are trying to leave to go to school. However, we can be somewhat prepared in how we react to those sticky situations.
Probably about a year ago, our little “situation” was a power struggle over what we’re going to wear to school that day. So I tried having my little fashionista of a daughter pick out an outfit the night before, like probably many of you have done or heard that is the best way to deal with this issue. Well, of course, my daughter was an exception to this rule because even though we would pick out our clothes the night before, we were going to change our mind right before we left for school. Not a great way to start the day. We were both having meltdowns and were both getting frustrated. I knew this was a power struggle on her part. I knew it but boy, it still fired me up! However, I stayed calm and decided to come up with a solution. I decided that the next time my daughter was going to pick two outfits the night before, and then decide what she was going to wear between the two. In the end, it was her decision and she felt good about getting to make her own choice. It gave her a sense of pride!  
So if you have a situation where you know is going to be a power struggle, and then maybe try to give your child some options. For example, if you think your child is going to fuss about what you have for lunch, give them two options. Do you want apple slices with your sandwich or carrot sticks? If they always meltdown because they have to leave a play date or the park, give them advance notice you will be leaving soon and then give them something to look forward to. For instance, say when we get home, you can help Mommy bake cookies, or color while Mommy makes lunch. Also, what has worked with me, is saying “Do you want to skip or hop from the playground to the car?” This way, it takes their mind off what may cause a possible meltdown and it gives them a little control and independence.
Well, after we knocked the power struggle issue off our list, and thought we should win a parent award for it, we have now come across another problem...the sassies and talking back. Oh boy!  Not good! I don’t know if you were brought up this way, but if you talked back or disrespected your elders, you were in deep trouble! It was just not an option!  However, we are living in 2012, where kids have more options, more things and just more distractions.  
So once again, I talked to some other moms about the sassies, asking if this was age-appropriate, confiding in them how frustrated I was (you all know who you are) and at times, how quickly I would lose my cool. I was not the only one…thank God!
Every Wednesday, I meet with some amazing Moms, to talk about our children, our lives, how we can pray for each other, etc. and when we all started talking, we realized that most of our children are around the same age, and that we are all dealing with some of the same issues…meltdowns, power struggles and the sassies.  Lord, help us!
So here is what some of my Mommy  friends and I talked about and decided what we were going to do to try to do to help maintain our cool and most importantly to raise a more respectful  and loving children.
·         Negative or not, it is attention! It does not matter if it is negative attention or not, your child is at least getting the attention they are yearning for.  Again, going back to all the distractions that all of us are guilty of (computers, IPhones, I Pads, etc.) your children are dying for your attention and they don’t care how they get it. So when they push their sister down for no reason or empty the water bowl onto the floor…ding, ding, ding! They have got your attention! Success! So in those instances, try to remain, calm, address the actual behavior, and then move on. Don’t keep harping on it or beating them up about it. Also, try to notice when that negative behavior happens. Is it when you are holding your baby and your oldest wants your attention? Is it when you are cooking dinner and they want your attention? Try to give them an activity during those times that may cause a negative behavior. For example, get them started on a coloring activity, blocks or a puzzle. Make sure you model it first and then ease out of the activity to finish what you need to do. Remember, it is all about how we respond and just being proactive instead of reactive.   
·         Avoid yelling- as one thoughtful mom pointed out in our group…would you like it if your boss yelled at you every day or every time you slipped up? Would you respond positively? The answer would be “no.” No one likes it when someone yells at them. When someone yells at you, you tend to tune them out or can’t even think straight, much less perform how they want you to. So try not to raise your voice (unless your child is in danger) because your child is just going to ignore you or just shutdown.

·         Try to get down at their eye level-so instead of yelling, get down to your child’s eye level and talk to them in a calm, yet firm voice. It gets their attention and it also makes them listen better. When you talk calming and almost softly, they are really working hard and trying to tune in.

·         Remove them from the situation-if your child does throw a tantrum, talks back or has a meltdown, you need to nip it in the bud right then and there. So if you have to take them away from playing or even out of a restaurant, you do it and address the situation head on. They need to know what you expect of them and how they should behave.

·         Make expectations clear and be consistent- when we are addressing a behavior problem, make sure you are clear and that you are consistent in what you say. Don’t just keep saying, in five minutes you have to quit playing your Mobigo and get ready for bed and then not follow through. Or if you hit your sister one more time, you will have to go to your room. You don’t want to keep giving them empty warnings because then they won’t respect you and they will think they can get away with anything

·         Notice the positive behavior-You know how we always notice the bad behavior and really harp on that more than anything. Well, when you notice the good behavior and even the so-so behavior, your child will start to understand what kind of behavior you expect. For example, “Lilly, you did such a good job picking up your toys when you got through playing with them.”  “Thank you!” Or “I really like how you shared your crayons with your sister.” Kids love to please you and so the more you build them up and recognize what they are doing right,  the more likely they will want to behave well for you.
·         Be a good model-So we want our kids to use manners and be respectful to others as well as us. Well, then we need to do that as parents. Kids are watching and listening to you all the time. If you yell, they will yell. If you don’t respect them, they are NOT going to respect you. If you don’t use manners, such as “please” and “thank you” then why should they?
·         Create a bond- Try to make more time for your children, especially one on one time if you have more than one child. When you give them your time, such a reading them a story, doing an art project together or taking them to the park, you are creating a bond. And when you have that strong bond, your children will respect you, do what you ask them to do and most of all, it just makes for more positive parenting.
We know how hard parenting can be, but we also know how rewarding it can be. Parenting is the hardest job you will ever do. So as your friends at Hands on Mom, we want to be that support system for you. We want to share with you what we have learned as parents ourselves and we would also love to hear what savvy ideas and sanity savers you have to share.  Let’s be a support system for each other as we Moms all need that.

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