Flipping Off Your Kids

Another trick to connecting while correcting
Part 2 in my Gentle Discipline April Mini-Series.
You can read Part 1 here:
Are You Asking Me or Telling Me

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One of the biggest gentle discipline challenges for me is parenting during transitions. Going from one task to another or leaving one place for another can try the patience of the most keyed in parent-child pair. Some of the techniques I’ve used with success to ease the transitions are:

  • Explicitly stating that we will be going somewhere or moving to a different task, making sure to include sharing that this means stopping what we are currently involved in.
  • Getting down on their level, making eye contact and possibly using touch to be certain they understand
  • Explaining how long before the transition will happen and either
      • Let them set a timer or letting them know I am setting it
      • Verbally counting down the time left, along with reminders that this means our current activity will be ending and the new one beginning
  • Talking about things to look forward to after the transition
  • Keeping It Simple
  • Giving them a job to help us get out the door so they feel like they are contributing to our family
  • Affirming their power to choose for themselves, whenever possible, anything they may want to wear, bring or do while going
  • Always using a calm, reassuring voice (even when annoyed or frustrated)[1]
  • If necessary, modeling my feelings of worry about not meeting my needs, etc, using “I” statements.

Some of you may read this list and think I’m going through an awful lot just to get us out the door peacefully. I could simply ignore their needs, bundle them up and get them out the door. But, that will end in tears-usually for all of us. And this is what I would like to avoid by honoring everyone’s needs.

I feel it is my job as a parent to guide and facilitate through things that are difficult for them. They are learning about the world and don’t have the frame of reference that I do (hopefully) as an adult. I try to respect that until they have enough repetition with transitions, this can be challenging for them. Eventually, these tools will no longer necessary and we’ll move more easily from one thing to another.

Most of the time, these techniques allow us to move fairly smoothly from one thing to the next. I rarely need to use all of these techniques at once. But, sometimes I do use them all.

And sometimes I use them all and there’s still a toddlerpreschoolermommy meltdown.

Sometimes there’s a breakdown in our communication. Sometimes a meltdown is inevitable as a pressure valve simply needs release. Sometimes there’s not a reason I can point to.

I have to admit, I do not do well with meltdowns. The noise, that particular pitch of children, goes directly through my bones. I have to use all of my will to contain my feelings of anger. And this is where I gain some understanding of what it must be like to be a child who is so much smaller than an adult;

An adult who can turn the world upside down with one word, look or hand used in anger.

If I’m the (supposed) adult in control here and I’m having trouble not melting down, how must it feel to someone without experience with emotional control? I’ve had PPD and a bit of experience with the fear of having an emotion so large that there’s no guarantee that it will ever stop or that it won’t swallow me whole.

This is what I call “Flipping Off My Kids”

It’s a slightly tongue-in-cheek reminder to lighten up and ask myself:

  • How would I feel if I were in the middle of something and had to immediately drop what I was doing?
  • How would I feel if I declined the request and the person yelled at me? Would I feel it was a request or a demand couched as a request?
  • How would I feel if my needs weren’t listened to and I was made to go somewhere or do something without any say in the matter?
  • How would I feel if all my power was subsumed by someone physically and emotionally larger than myself?

I remind myself of how completely absorbing activities can be for children; how hard transitions can be. I flip my own false belief which leads to the reaction “Look what they are doing to me!” into empathetic understanding that this is what they are feeling without the (supposed) adult maturity and frame of reference to handle such overwhelming feelings.

I slow down. I breathe. I calmly state what I’m feeling. It doesn’t matter whether I think they are hearing me. They will respond to my mood, if not my exact words. If I can let go of our appointment or task, I let it go. I’ll take a break if it means not yelling. Even if I don’t have an adult to spell me out. I would rather close the door on my kids, after explaining that I need a moment of quiet time, than yell something I’ll regret later. I pull out all my stops for self-soothing that I need to get us to where we need to be.

Once I can get to a little bit of calm within myself, then I can figure whether they need me to hold the space for them, distract them, talk with them, soothe them… Whatever works to help them come back from that scary tantrumy place and know that, yet again, they were able to control their emotions, that they are not their emotions, and that emotions are neither good nor bad. Emotions just are.

And most importantly, I want them to know that they are always loved and always Good kids. Nothing they could ever do could change that.

I’ll reiterate that this is one of my most challenging parenting times and I do not always succeed the way I wish. Especially when all three are wailing and I just want to wish myself away, I can often feel most affirmed, most loving, and most alive if, if, I can bring myself into the present moment and be with myself and with my kids.


[1] Although, I do think it is valid to show your emotions in your voice, but always with “I” statements. No matter how much the urge is to punish, shame or blame, I stick to the “I” statements.

[2] This will soon link to an upcoming post about identifying needs

How do you handle transitions? Have you tried some of these ideas or do you have any other tools that have been effective for you? Are there some tools that do not work for your family? Do you think you’ll try “Flipping your kids off?” I’d love to hear from you.

This is a series, but I haven’t written the next part, yet. Are there any parenting issues you would like to see here? Please let me know.[2]

17 thoughts on “Flipping Off Your Kids

  1. Pingback: A September to Remember: Gentle Discipline~Request or Demand? « Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources

  2. LOVE love love this post! Transitions are hard for M and me both. Right now we’re having some success with short-term countdowns. Like, a reminder 1-2 minutes before an activity needs to end when possible, and then “ok, when I count to five we are going to move on to doing ____.” I will have to use some of your other suggestions as well! :-)

    • Thank you, Maya! Oh, that reminds me. We got a new timer-just a cheapee from the grocery store. I couldn’t find a used one. Hopefully, it will hold up well. The kids love setting it and it really does diffuse the “all done” time away from me and onto the neutrality of the timer. One more power struggle gone!

  3. Found your blog via HoboMama and love this post! I figured out the timer idea on a whim last fall and it’s wonderful! I set it anywhere from 15 minutes (generally on Montessori school days) to 5 minutes ahead of our departure (usually more though). It’s a great audio clue, though I also show my son how I am setting the timer.

    There are rarely, if ever, battles (if you will) when it’s time to go. I also add in time so that if he needs an extra 5 minutes, it’s no big deal to me. It has worked so well that he reminds us to use it…his dad told him the other night he had 5 minutes left outside and then Nick reminded him he would go inside “when the timer went off.” It is very freeing for all of us to not be stressed out about departures and while they were never a big deal before, this has made it even easier…

    Oh, and I agree wholeheartedly about being on their level…such an important part that I think some tend to forget at times.

    • Thank you, Jen! I <3 HoboMama. I appreciate your observations. That timer is a lifesaver, isn't it? It totally takes their focus off parents (read: the object for whinification) and onto that timer. Totally diffuses the situation. That's great your son is responding positively. It is all about feeling empowered. If you don't mind me asking, what timer do you have for them to use? We are in need of a sturdier one.

  4. Once again, I completely agree with your ideas and I’m amazed by your ability to describe it and break it down so well. This is so important and can be such a challenge. I feel the challenge with just one child, it must be exponentially more challenging with more.
    I love the “Flipping off your kids” list. I will use that list to remind myself more specifically what she might be feeling. I notice that I’m already getting “tougher” and less understanding as she’s getting bigger and seems so smart and strong. I’m still very tuned into her, but she really doesn’t need even a hint of my frustration or lack of understanding.
    I look forward to your next in the series!

    • Thank you for commenting, Teresa. That is an interesting point you make about being tuned into her. I would bet our kids are pretty tuned into us, too. After all, we’ve been modeling connection for them since before their birth. I wonder what you think about whether she may be able to pick up on the frustration you’re feeling? I feel my kids often vibe off me, and I go through naming my feelings like, “I am feeling angry” “I am feeling frustration” etc. If they see me do it, my hope is that they’ll identify their own feelings (at least to themselves at first)

      I think it’s good for them to see us having those challenging feelings and dealing with them successfully and unsuccessfully. The trick is to keep it “I-centric” and not turn it on the wee ones, right? We keep teaching them that they are not their feelings. Feelings are neither good nor bad. They just are and we choose what we do with them. It’s great when they get to see mom lose her sh*t every now & then, and see what she does from there. Modeling is more powerful than anything else.

      Okay, longest reply ever. Ima stop jabbering (can you tell I’m post-losing my sh*t and thinking about it now?)

      • I agree 100%. I’ve always talked to her about feelings and frustration is a big one. It’s so funny (and good) when she uses those words to communicate how she’s feeling. I think the tuned in, connection is part of the reason she doesn’t get too phased when I’m frustrated… I think she feels that our connection is there, solid and safe. Only once when she was much littlier, did I see her face change and her body freeze when I snapped about something. It was the worst thing I ever experienced. And I’m kind of proud of myself that I never said out loud, “you’re driving me crazy!!!”. Because I thought it a number of times.
        thanks for the discussion, support and ideas!

  5. I am so, so excited to have found you through the blog party! I loved this post, and can’t wait to read more. I am also thrilled to ‘meet’ another triandeming mama. <3 Blessings!

    Dulce

    • Thank you for the compliments, Dulce. I’ve been enjoying your posts in my google reader, too. I’ll have to go check out some of your earlier ones, as well. I’m psyched to meet another tri-andemer, too! *high fives*

  6. This is so important Zoie – I feel like we’ve been brought up to believe that children should know enough to act like adults, and that is where so much of the impatience comes from. That real empathy (on a totally other level from where we are) can be difficult but is so very necessary.

    (and I speak as one who has been guilty of this exact type of impatience with other people’s children – before I was a parent and knew everything about being one of course ;) )

    I’m really appreciating these posts as I prepare for the toddler years…it’s helping me get into a much better mindset around discipline than I had previously. :)

    • Thanks, Kelly. I do expect them to think like adults and even though I know better, they surprise me. I do love how the brains of kids work and the connections they make that help me see things in a way I never expected. Now, I’m working on not expecting 4yo behaviour from my 2yo (or even my 4yo sometimes for that matter)

      I also had the perfect ideas about kids-before I had kids.

  7. I’m really enjoying this series, Zoie. And the blog!

    A mantra for the difficult times: needs and connection … needs and connection … needs and connection. If only I could remember the mantra when I really need it!

    • Thank you, Rachel. I was also pleased to come across your blog through Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. I’m enjoying my google reader.

      Yup, Mantras are the only way I can try to remember, too. Sometimes they pop up when I’m about to lose it and I can cling to them back to calm.

    • Oh, that’s a great topic! That’s a tough one to tackle. I’d be happy to write about it. I’ve got 3 other topics that have been emailed to me so far and I haven’t decided on order yet.

      Have you written anything specific or have any specific situations in mind? How have you been dealing with it? Also, I’m thinking there are different approaches on the same lines for different ages.

      I believe Rockin’ Mama did a good post about this recently, too. I’m on my cell phone, but I’ll get the link…

I love comments and try to reply to each one. I look forward to connecting with you. Namaste

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