Parenting can be the hardest and most rewarding thing some people will ever do. It is invigorating at times, and so often, it is just exhausting and makes us wonder about our own self-worth. These tips are to help increase our parenting resilience-- our ability to effectively keep it together when our kids are driving us nuts.
These tips are brought to you by UPR's Project Resilience. Learn more about the project here. Tips were written by Vonda Jump Norman, a social work professor at Utah State University and director of the Trauma Resilience Project at The Family Place.
Do your kids fight like cats and dogs sometimes? How do we help them to get along?
- Approach them calmly and ask to hold whatever they are fighting about.
- In a calm voice, notice that they are upset. Ask each child what happened to make them upset (just asking calmly will help them to calm down).
- Repeat what each child tells you and describe how you think they are feeling to see if you got it right.
- Then ask them what they can do to solve the problem. Let each child have a suggestion. Repeat the suggestions, and if you have another one, say, I also have an idea—and say it.
- Ask which suggestion they would like to implement. If they disagree, you can have them keep brainstorming until they come up with a compromise that they agree on.
- Later that day, talk about the issue again, and talk about what they did to each other. Ask how they can avoid hurting each other in the future—what could they do instead?
Do you have a little one with big meltdown temper tantrums? Kids need us to help them learn how to deal with big emotions, and our ability to stay calm is important. There are some strategies to help prevent tantrums, like being consistent in your rules, giving your child choices when possible, giving a warning before it is time to stop an activity, and deciding which issues you are going to make an issue about.
- To deal with a tantrum, first, approach your child calmly.
- Validate her emotions. “You are upset because you wanted to keep playing with your car. It is really fun to play cars. You can play again after dinner.”
- Reassure her; give her ideas for how to calm down. “I am here with you and will be here to help you calm down. When I’m upset, I breathe in and out slowly (and do it with her).”
- Give her ideas for how to get her feelings out—jump up and down, punch a pillow.
Defiance In Kids
What can you do when your children are defiant? First, set them up for success:
- Let them feel your unconditional love by spending quality time with them every day.
- Notice when they do what you ask them to do. A simple thank you will do.
- When possible, let them have control in decision-making—what to wear, what to do first.
- Give them reminders before changing activities.
- Instead of ordering your children to do something, ask how you would like somebody to ask you. “It’s time to pick up our toys now. Please put them in the toybox.”
These strategies help reduce defiance, but it is also normal for children to be defiant at times. How you respond is important.
- Take a deep breath and respond calmly, but firmly. “I don’t like it when you talk to me that way. Please use your respectful voice.”
- Remind your child of the rules.
- If your child continues to refuse, gently and firmly support him. “If you can’t do this by yourself, I can help you until you learn how to do it.”
- Be consistent and follow through on your rules.
Defiance In Teens
Defiance in teens is a push button for many parents, but their pull for independence is normal. There are some things to do to set them up for success.
- Spend time having fun and connecting with your teen.
- Appreciate your teen’s gifts, quirks, and just who he is.
- Make your expectations and consequences clear. Be consistent in enforcing them.
Say your teen is sassy with you when you are talking about the dance he just went to.
- Stay calm and know his defiance is about something within him, not you.
- Tell him you believe he is sending the message he does not want to talk right now, so you will give him some space.
- Be quiet. He will have time to think about how he talked to you as well as what is on his mind.
- Talk about how he could have handled it differently later, when things are calm.
- Give your teen positive outlets for anger, like exercise, writing, art.
Many parents struggle with whining. One way to prevent it is by giving your child plenty of positive attention and connection time every day. Snuggle, talk, play with her, let her know you love her.
- When she whines, stay calm (take a deep breath to center yourself if you need to).
- Matter-of-factly tell her you don’t like whining. “I don’t like whining. Use your big girl voice like this. Mom, please can I have a glass of water?”
- If she is asking for something she cannot have right now, tell her that you like how she asked, and when she will be able to have it. “Thank you for asking with a big girl voice. We can play on the playground after we go to the store.”
- If she is asking for something she is not allowed, thank her for asking nicely, and remind her she is not allowed to have this. Tell her something that she can do or have.
- Be consistent in your expectations and reward positive behavior. When she asks politely, notice it and thank her.
When Your Child Refuses To Go To Bed
Do your kids have a hard time going to bed? There are things we as parents can do to set our kids up for success.
- First, cut off screen time an hour before bed to prepare their brains for sleep. Play family games or just be together.
- Next, include a purposeful routine to begin to calm your child down gradually. You might begin with a more energetic activity like dancing, then move to a slightly calmer one like gentle stretching exercises, and then a shower/bath and brushing teeth.
- Remind them to take a last drink of water before bed.
- Finally, spend time reading them a story before bed, and talking calmly about things you appreciated during the day about each child.
- Spend a few minutes coaching them to breathe deeply and listen to the sounds they hear with their eyes closed.
- Remind them that you love them and you look forward to seeing them tomorrow.
- If a child needs assistance going to bed alone, stay for shorter and shorter periods, and move a little further away from the bed, while reminding your child you are there for them.
The Fight Against Homework
Do you struggle with getting your kids to do homework? This is a common challenge. There are some things you can do to support them.
- Greet them enthusiastically and tell them you’re happy to see them.
- Ask open-ended questions about their day. “Who did you play with at recess today?” “How did you feel about your test?”
- Give them a snack to make sure they’re not hungry and their brains can concentrate.
- Depending on your individual kids, give them a break to relax for a little while, by quietly having them close their eyes as you coach their breathing in and out while noticing the sounds they hear, or play energetic games to get out their extra energy so they can concentrate.
- Go to your quiet homework spot together (like the kitchen table).
- Review your kids’ assignments with them and remind them that when they finish, they can play outside until dinner, or whatever activity you are comfortable with.
- Check their homework to be sure it is finished. Reinforce their hard work. “You worked hard on your homework.”