“Things Are Going to Change Around Here!” 10 Ideas to Help your Family Shift

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It was a bad day. I was impatient with the dilly-dallying before school, bad tempered over a broken glass, and yelled about the amount of laundry piling up. I saw upended dresser drawers, muddy shoes, and piles of Legos beside the bins they belonged in, and I made sure everyone else saw them too with my sharp voice and stomping around. It had been weeks of bad days where everything seemed out of control, there were a thousand messes to clean up that I hadn’t made, and all my time was squandered on tasks I would have to do over and over and over again like the movie Groundhog Day, but without a happy ending. I was fast becoming a bitter mother.

Things had to change.

I drew a deep breath. I bought Oreo cookies and cut up apples. When the older kids came home from school their eyes widened at the unexpected treat. We sat around the kitchen table and while they ate I told them how I felt—that I was doing all the work, that it seemed they didn’t care, that I had no time to be a good mom because I was picking up after all their fun, and I was not having any fun myself. It made me a cranky mama and I did not like the sound of my voice or the way I was treating them. I need help I said. I told them a story when I was girl and one day there were no clean clothes to wear, and no food on the table, and no stories at bedtime.
“Your Grammy went on strike,” I said. “She refused to do anything until we all helped her, and I don’t want to go on strike, I just want your help.”

The kids ate more cookies and nodded. I pulled out a paper and pencil and wrote down all the things I did in a day. It was a long list of jobs that surprised even me. I let the kids choose what they wanted to do, wrote the selected chores on note cards, and passed them out. I would love to tell you that the change was instantaneous and permanent, that I never had to put away toys again, but it wasn’t. However it did shift things enough to bring peace back into our family and allow us to adjust to a better normal.

Here are 10 Ideas for shifting from the bad to the good. This works for toddlers as well as older kids. Never underestimate the ability for pre-verbal children to understand. They can comprehend almost everything you say, even if they can’t express it. Most of all, remember that anger will not bring about the change you wish to see. It will only alienate you and prolong the situation!

Talking_to_child_1000x750-600x4201. Decide what you want to change. The sleeping situation? Better manners? Back talk and sass? Limiting screen time? There may be many conditions you long to change, but start with one
2. Keep it simple and concrete. If the change you would like to see is complicated and filled with conditions, the odds are it won’t take. Be simple: We are going to cut down on the number of shows you watch. Be specific: You may watch one show a day.
3. Introduce what you would like to see happen while you are calm and not in the heat of the moment. Adding an unexpected element like Oreo cookies can make your child more open and interested.
4. Make the complaint credible, not a nag session. I did 4 loads of laundry today that I had to collect from all your rooms. It took 4 hours that I wanted to use writing. Then it feels like the truth and not an emotional diatribe.
5. Don’t be afraid to make it emotional. Vulnerability when used wisely can be a real game changer. Explain why your family needs the change and stay in your heart, not your head.
6. Add a story to your idea. Stories have the power to illuminate and can send the message to the part of the brain that remembers long after the asking. Sometimes even making up a story works (“I once knew a father who….”)
7. Make the change sustainable. If you cannot hold firm to what you are asking don’t even try. If it is something you feel your family can reliably maintain day in and day out, you are on the right track
8. Be consistent. Consistency is key to making the change stick. Come up with consequences together: If you do not get your laundry in (do your homework, stay in bed, back-talk me…) what should happen? Kids can come up with amazingly effective consequences and abide by them. Stick to the promise you made yourself—that things are going to change around here!
9. Be adaptable. Perhaps your child believes his jeans are clean, but you scoop them up for the laundry resentfully. Talk about a compromise: You can use these jeans for playing outside, but not for school. Be flexible enough to give your child an off day every once in awhile, tell them you see he is having a rough time and yelled at you because of it, for example.
10. Your perception determines reality—see all the good, all the micro changes that are struggling to emerge. Consider what is done, not how far there is to go. That view from the mountain can change a bad day to a good one.images

 

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