For the majority of families, there are daily battles no matter what age or stage your child is at. Parent Coach Aoife Lee shares her advice on creating a calm space at home.
We often feel like the grass is greener for everyone else when it really isn’t. It may feel like that at times but it’s the common one-liner I hear on a regular basis – "I’m so glad I’m not the only one!" Life, in general, is busy, especially when we are juggling schedules of one child or more as well as our own.
When we see and experience a variety of personalities and temperaments within one family, that too adds to the fun and antics of everyday life. It can become overwhelming at times, so much so that we lose sight of what we are doing. When you recognise this, it’s about taking a step back, observing and then deciding the best approach.
There is no one right or wrong way however sometimes the smallest changes can make the biggest impact and if that means keeping home life that bit calmer – we will try anything!
Pressing the pause button & choosing your moment
When you see an argument fast approaching with your child or you are very much in the middle of it, it's time to press pause. This is usually the point that we want to discuss the rights & wrongs of the situation.
We all know it’s unlikely we’ll resolve it there and then, particularly if all parties are angry or upset. If you need to talk to your child about something important or you need to resolve a challenging situation it’s a lot more effective when everyone has calmed down.
When emotions spill over a chemical is released in the brain that puts us into a fight or flight response so we either get into the argument or we walk away, neither allows us resolve anything at this point, only that we are at loggerheads!
The top three moments that parents identify as the ideal times to talk are at bedtime when the days’ pressure is off, when we are doing a job together or when we are driving in the car; our children are more likely to chat when our focus is on the road or task in hand and not solely on them.
When we actively listen to our children, we are able to repeat or rephrase what they are saying
Offering a Listening Ear
Listening is such a significant part of how we communicate. When we actively listen to our children, particularly when they are very upset, we are able to repeat or rephrase what they are saying, name what they are doing and how they might be feeling. This happens during the day to day conversations – whether those chats are simply fresh and easy going or are more part of challenging behaviour.
Often, by repeating our children’s words we can acknowledge the trickier feelings too which can diffuse a situation very quickly, for example: "I can see and hear that you are really upset/angry/sad/frustrated about what happened and completely understand why you are feeling like that."
Listening to your child makes them feel appreciated and understood, the very same way adults feel too!
Choices Provide Healthy Control
A great way for parents to assert themselves is handing over some healthy control to the child - in the form of allowing the child to make some choices. Rather than trying to insist children do something, you offer them a choice between doing what they are asked and a consequence for not doing so.
For example, if they are reluctant to do their homework but really want their time outside "when you finish your homework then you can go outside" or if they are on a mission to have that snack before dinnertime, "It’s time for dinner, you can have your cracker or yogurt afterward or not at all, it’s your choice".
Choices work because they give control back to the child and let them decide how to respond. In the long term, they allow children to learn to take responsibility for their actions.
Remember that making changes to our approach takes time, consistency, perseverance, and hard work - but it pays off, especially when we see positive results!