We had a pretty busy week last week and by the time Friday evening came around, I have to admit to being tired and a little on the cranky side.
I looked at the menu plan and I was supposed to be cooking Jamabalaya, which I had very much being looking forward to trying. But with a toddler who could not be removed from my hip, two older boys niggling at each other and Possum due to be picked up from a party at 6pm, I thought I just can’t do this!
No matter how well planned I have things, there are always moments where I need to stop and insert what I have dubbed a “circuit breaker” to change the momentum of the situation or; to prevent myself from a screaming banshee outburst or; to change the behaviour of the children.
I have found that the children feed directly from my energy. If I am tired or feeling agitated, they sense this and it creeps into their behaviour. Some days this does feel like a lot pressure to wear, but I have developed some circuit breakers that I have used with success in these type of situations.
There are times when I have had to try more than one of the below to get the desired effect, but the important thing I have worked out is that at these moments, just doing the same thing leads to further deterioration in the situation. It requires me to step up out of my emotions and think about what can I do that will change our moods and the behaviour of the children.
(1). Keep it simple.
Jambalaya would have been beautiful to have for dinner, but as it was a new meal for me to cook, it would have required a lengthy preparation time and concentration. Instead I decided to boil some water and myself and the children would have pasta with cheese for dinner (Mr Infrastructure would eat a BBQ after football training). My children actually love this plain meal, and given for lunch we had a platter with fresh veggie sticks, cheese, homemade relish and fruit to follow, they would certainly survive this evening meal without any vegetables.
(2). Change the Scenery.
Sometimes if we have been cooped up in the house all day, when it gets to around 5pm, the squabbling, whining can raise its head. Getting out of the house to run a small errand, like a walk to the mailbox to post a letter can do wonders for the mood of everyone, including me.
I love music and my children do too. They have a very clear set of favourite songs from contemporary music that they like to listen to. Putting on some music they like and having a dance or a game of musical statues, breaks the cycle of complaints and releases some energy for the kids.
Even having their favourite music in the background can be enough to change their mood sometimes.
When I am in the kitchen at the end of “one of those days” and it is the 10th time someone had come to complain/whine about something, I often find that by stopping what I am doing and bending down and given them a big hug and just sitting with them for a few minutes, is enough to recharge their little batteries.
This direct attention makes them feel better about themselves and the hug tends to diffuse my agitation as well. As I give a little kiss the top of the head and I can feel their little heart beat against mine it is hard to hold on to the agitation.
I have been doing this for a while now and there are times when either the preschooler or toddler, will say to me “I need a hug”, when I ask them how can I help them with their problem. I give it to them and it makes us both feel better.
I realise that this is the opposite to number (2), but each particular circumstance has their own contributing factors. Sometimes there can just be too much going on in the house: music on, loud toys being played/banged, washing machine going, mum vacuuming.
To decrease the stress levels of all in the house, I turn of all possible noise and close doors/windows, if the noise is coming from outside and quieten everything right down. Hopefully this also quietens down the stress levels of us as well.
Setting up a quiet activity like LEGO or a large jigsaw puzzle can also encourage quiet interaction amongst the kids and keep them occupied so they don’t annoy each other.
(6). Mix it up – change the routine.
As you may have noticed, I love to plan and as a family, we have our daily routines that we go through for the different stages of the day. The children normally have their TV/PC 30 minute session at the very end of their day. We have dinner, bath, tidy up and then move on to the TV/PC session.
If I am feeling over tired and lacking in patience, I will swap this routine around and have the PC/TV time whilst I am doing the dinner preparation. This gives me some moments to regain my composure and speed through the meal preparation without interruption. As this is a change from the routine, it also redirects the children’s attention to a new focus.
(7). Get Active.
One way to increase flagging energy levels, is to expend some energy. If I think we are all a little flat, I will invite them all outside with me to jump on the trampoline. Or if the weather does not permit us going outside, I will start a game of tiggy hide and seek. The layout of our house allows for a circuit run, where you can hide behind corners and pop out and catch some one as they run around.
The kids adore this game and it I think they love it because they are free to break the “walking only” policy that is usually enforced in the house. There is always lots of squealing and laughter in this game and I always feel so much better after playing it. If we played this all the time, I think it might lose some of its value, so it is nice to have a favourite rare game like this in reserve, to use as a circuit breaker when the going is a little tough.
(8). Set them tasks.
My children like most, want to be involved and it is often the times when I am busy trying to complete tasks that disruptive behaviour will surface. By allocating a part of the task to each child, they can start working with me, not against me!
I only allocate tasks to those who want to, I don’t force them on to the children, but I generally find, that once one becomes involved the others will follow. If I am folding washing, I can get the toddler to take items to the relevant rooms, the older children can help with the folding itself and Thinker can even put a new load of washing on for me.
This doesn’t mean me belting out a couple of tunes to entertain the kids, but using my singing voice rather than a frustrated (or angry!) voice when asking the children to do things.
At the end of each day, certain tasks have to be completed, and I have found the tone and attitude with which I ask the children to do these, makes a massive difference to how they react.
If I am grumpy and grump at them to “pick up their shoes” or “move away from your younger brother”, I am much more likely to get a negative reaction and perpetuate the cycle of negative energy.
This does make sense, as I know that I don’t like to be grumped at either. If I ask for these tasks to be completed via a rhyming little song, firstly they tend to laugh at my horrendous singing voice, but they will often move to the task, singing some response about how lame my rhyme was. It breaks the cycle of grumpy begetting grumpy.
(10). Read a favourite story.
Often when we are all feeling tired, agitated, grumpy, we are often looking for a bit of attention. I can often think I don’t have time to sit with the kids, but if I stop for 15-20 minutes, and sit down on the couch with them and read a couple of funny favourites stories, it breaks the feeling for the kids that I am unavailable.
This usually then credits with me with some uninterrupted time aftewards as well, as I have changed their patterns of behaviour and they will go back to more purposeful and independent play.
All of these circuit breakers I use at times when either I, the children or all of us are feeling and showing signs of stress, agitation and being overwhelmed. The sooner I realise that some of us are feeling this way and insert a circuit breaker the less disruption their is in the house. This also means that there is less tears and anger – and that is always a positive scenario.
What do you do to diffuse those moments when it is all a bit mad?
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