EMERGENCY PARENTING: The One Word That Can Save The Day

Sibling world war 23756 breaks out just as I’m trying to get tea.   I’m tired and frazzled from a long day and too many thoughts going on in my head and too long a gap since I last stopped to clear them.   The cries and screams get louder and l can feel my heart rate increase and little bubbles of irritation start to expand in my chest.

The urge to yell, “Oh for goodness sake, what’s happening now??  Can’t you all just play nicely just for ten minutes whilst I get tea ready?” is enormous.  The urge to slam my knife down on the chopping board and release my annoyance onto the most obvious (but not necessarily the actual) perpetrator is huge.

But another part of me remembers that I’ve been here before.  Well, several hundred times actually.  And this part of me is ever so slowly learning that this is not a productive solution.  This is a satisfying release of tension for maybe five seconds.  But then things get worse, and dealing with the aftermath takes time and energy and is frequently messy.

But as the screams get louder, my mind goes blank.  All that stuff I’ve read and learnt over the years about dealing with situations like this, damn, where’s it all gone??  What am I supposed to do and say again??  That wise list of ‘Ten ways to ease sibling conflict’ that I saved the other day, yep I can remember the picture, the font it was written in, but what the heck did it advise??  In this precise moment, when I need it most, I have no clue.

Can you relate?

Do you sometimes feel like you are drowning in parenting advice; ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ and’ shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’ts’, and endless lists, and helpful phrases and memes.  Which all seem perfectly logical and perfectly helpful at the time of reading.  But in that moment, the moment you really need to use it, everything flies from your head and you are left with nothing but a floundering, half-baked, auto-pilot reaction.

If so, you most definitely could do with this; this one utterly awesome word:

UNRUFFLED

Yep, this one word, that I picked up from the brilliant Janet Lansbury, has got me though a lot of tricky times of this sort.   When all else fails, it’s the only thing that I strive to remember.   I think I may get it tattooed onto my hand actually.  UNRUFFLED.

Take a breath and just think or say UNRUFFLED.

This is the perfect description of how you want your mind to be.  How you want to think.  And how you want to speak.  This is what you want to mirror to your children.  This is what you want them to feel.

Being UNRUFFLED will allow you to calmly take stock, find some objectivity, and detach from the emotional heat of the situation.

Things have become highly charged, but here you are, calm and UNRUFFLED.  Not taking sides, not accusing or judging, not yelling or punishing.

Yes, you may have to intervene and separate them if there’s a danger of someone getting physically hurt.  But doing this firmly yet calmly and in as UNRUFFLED a manner you can muster will always be the best way.

Being UNRUFFLED will signal to your children that there’s no imminent danger, no threat.  This will help to override their fight-or-flight response quicker and re-establish the ‘stairs’ to their upstairs brains (see here).

Being UNRUFFLED will allow you to commentate on what you’re seeing in a balanced and fair way.

Being UNRUFFLED will allow you to pause and let them express their big emotions if they need to.

Being UNRUFFLED will allow you to give them space to come up with their own solutions.

And however much they are fighting and however emotionally messy and tense it becomes, if you succeed in being UNRUFFLED, at least you won’t also have your own guilt at how you handled it to deal with and ruminate on later.

I can’t promise it will work for you.  Or that it will work every time.  All I know is that it’s very often worked for me and for lots of other people too.

So why not give it a try?

Finding the self-control to resist from having your own tantrum is excruciatingly tricky.  But it’s most definitely worth it.

Need more help with this?  Contact me here.

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The other day my 7-year-old was engrossed in ‘den’ making and called for me to come and help tie a rope. I was mid making pancakes and knew that’d I’d be liable to char the lot if I allowed myself to be distracted. So I said, “Yes I will, in a minute, I’ve nearly finished”. He puffed in exasperation…

EMERGENCY PARENTING: The One Word That Can Save The Day

Sibling world war 23756 breaks out just as I’m trying to get tea. I’m tired and frazzled from a long day and too many thoughts going on in my head and too long a gap since I last stopped to clear them. The cries and screams get louder and l can feel my heart rate increase and little bubbles of irritation start to expand in…

THE ONLY WAY TO AVOID WEEKDAY MORNING STRESS (for me, anyway)

The absolute game changer for me is getting up before the kids.  A good amount of time before the kids.  If I don’t, sometimes the morning goes okay, sometimes it doesn’t.  But if I DO get up early, I can pretty much guarantee that it will.

Why?

Because whatever state the kids are in, it doesn’t matter.  I’ve had some me-time so I’m centred and relaxed.  I’m showered and dressed so I’m organised.  Lunches are done, or nearly.   I have time to focus on making breakfast or helping the kids get dressed, finish homework, or whatever else needs to be done.

And, most importantly, I have time and space and energy to connect with them.  Being asleep is actually a pretty big separation for children and it’s very common for them to wake feeling disconnected and distant.

Some kids find the transition to the day harder than others and they all seem to deal with it differently.  My eldest, for example, wakes up and reads his way into the day, whilst the littlest tends to want to go straight to his dinosaurs and cars and play his way into the day.  My middlest struggles the most, and more often than not, groggily mopes and grumps her way into the day.

In this state, asking her to put on her clothes or get herself breakfast or happily cooperate in any way is just never going to happen.  I’m talking from LOTS of experience.

She needs more time to wake up than the other two, but even more crucially, she also seems to need more help to re-establish her connection and relationship with us and have her ‘love tank’ re-filled.

This can mean snuggling on the sofa for five minutes reading a story, playing a quick game of cards or silly chasing games, engaging her in making breakfast (she loves cooking), or even just talking to her one-on-one for five minutes about her day or anything to do with her really.  It doesn’t really matter how, the key is that she feels our warmth, desire to connect and belief in her especialness; we quite literally need to re-fill her with love after a long (to her brain) night apart.

I know it perhaps sounds a little hard work for first thing in the morning, but I promise you it’s worth it.  Because once they are re-filled, it’s like re-programming them back to their natural state of ease and co-operation and the rest of the morning tends to flow so much more smoothly from there.

But if I get up late, or haven’t taken time to organise myself, not only can they feel my stress and haste, but I just don’t have the time or space to re-connect like this.  And that’s when I find things can get very messy, very stressy, and a pretty rubbish way for everyone to start the day.

For me, getting up early has also been a way to get some consistent and vital me-time.  It’s often the only time of the day I have to myself and I absolutely treasure it now.

I have never previously been a morning person.  Never.  Always a night owl.   But I happened to come across Hal Elrod’s ‘Miracle Morning’ and was inspired to give it a go (you can find his books on Amazon and he also has a very large and active Miracle Morning Mums Fb group).

The early starts were a struggle for a couple of weeks but the benefits became apparent pretty quickly and I was soon hooked.  Hal advocates a very structured early morning routine including six elements (exercise, silence, reading etc.) but I’ve gradually adapted this to suit my own preferences.

To be honest though, just getting up and having time to get yourself ready before the rest of the house is up makes all the difference in the world.  And if you also have some time to get a few chores done too, you’ll be laughing your way through the rest of the morning.

UNDERSTANDING FEELINGS: PART 2

Seeing feelings as guides and exploring why this is helpful

IT SHOULDN’T BE THIS WAY

Because actually, we don’t need to be scared of any of our feelings or struggle against the flow of them…

HELPING KIDS WITH SCARY THOUGHTS

I was very struck by my 5-year old’s use of the word ‘dreams’ to describe the scary thoughts he was having about monsters before he went to sleep the other night. At first, when he said he was “scared of his dreams” I thought he meant he was scared to go to sleep...

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Here’s one of the most basic but USEFUL things to know about our kids (and ourselves) and to pass onto our kids.  But also one of the hardest to get and accept because of the way most of us have (innocently) been conditioned.   ALL FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS ARE NORMAL AND...

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I knew something had shifted when I stopped reading books about parenting approaches, strategies and techniques and stopped feeling the urge to write ‘how-to’ posts or step-by-step guides. And it wasn’t because I suddenly knew it all and everything was sunshine and...

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What if we treated our children like we do any other close, sacred relationship?   What if we didn't see them as inferior, but equal?   What if we trusted they have everything they need already, even before they arrive in this world?   What if we saw them as already...

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A doctorate in child development and years of working with children and families did not prepare me for the sheer frustration and stress of feeding my own family. Three different children with three different preferences and three different eating patterns and bodily...

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I never assumed parenting was going to be a walk in the park. But one thing in particular that I was not at all prepared for was quite how angry I would find myself becoming at times. And the very worst of those times were apparently all because of a two-year-old?? Yep, who knew that a…

DO PEACEFUL PARENTS LET THEIR KIDS DO AS THEY PLEASE?

I have found that as soon as you acknowledge the way you parent in terms such as ‘peaceful’, ‘positive’, ‘freedom’ or ‘respectful’, you are opening a rather large can of worms for a rather large number of misconceptions. And one of the biggest tends to be that...

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Choosing a gentle approach to parenting that doesn’t rely on coercion and punishment is very often the easy bit.  The tricky bit begins as your innocent baby turns into a curious toddler.  All of a sudden, you realise you need to find peaceful ways to keep them safe...

IS YOUR PARENTING UP-TO-DATE? (WITH THE LATEST BRAIN SCIENCE)

It is probably true to say that most of us were brought up by parents who expected and enforced a pretty high degree of obedience and conformity to rules, and they did so by liberal use or threat of punishments and/or consequences. There is no judgement or blame…

HOW TO PREVENT TOYS FROM TAKING OVER YOUR HOUSE…AND YOUR SANITY

Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the number of toys in your house? Do you struggle to find places to put them and to get your kids to help keep them tidy? Someone asked me the other day what my thoughts were on managing and tidying toys…

HOW NOT TO POTTY TRAIN

I suspect that one of the problems for the old woman who lived in a shoe (and perhaps one of many reasons why her children were so unhappy and unruly), was that once she’d found a couple of approaches that worked with the first few of her children, she assumed it...

ARE YOU A CURIOUS PARENT? How To Ask Questions To Deepen Connection With Your Child

The other day my 7-year-old was engrossed in ‘den’ making and called for me to come and help tie a rope. I was mid making pancakes and knew that’d I’d be liable to char the lot if I allowed myself to be distracted. So I said, “Yes I will, in a minute, I’ve nearly finished”. He puffed in exasperation…

EMERGENCY PARENTING: The One Word That Can Save The Day

Sibling world war 23756 breaks out just as I’m trying to get tea. I’m tired and frazzled from a long day and too many thoughts going on in my head and too long a gap since I last stopped to clear them. The cries and screams get louder and l can feel my heart rate increase and little bubbles of irritation start to expand in…