I grew up in an environment where it was normal for 5-year-olds to take care of their younger siblings and cousins. A child sweeping the floor or cooking with a baby wrapped on her back was not a strange sight—my older sister and I looked after our younger siblings with very little to no prompting from our elders. All it took was one look from an elder for us to do something; we knew that if we didn’t do as we were told, the belt or switch would be brought out.
So when I had a baby, I wasn’t prepared for the negotiation tactics I would have to develop to get my son to listen to me. I can’t tell you how many grocery stores I’ve run out of without the items I went in to purchase because my son decided to sprawl out onto the floor and proceeded to lick the ground. Yup lick, as in with tongue and all. At home, I would barricade myself in a room to escape his screams and tantrums. When it got really bad, I’m embarrassed to say I resorted to yelling at him.
Looking back on my own childhood, I recognize that I spent most of it being terrified of adults—something I don’t want for my children. I want my kids to trust and to respect me without them being afraid of me. Since becoming a mom, I’ve learned three ways to be a more mindful parent. The next time my son decides to throw himself on the floor at the store, I can actually get my grocery shopping done.
Ask Yourself, “Why Am I Yelling?”
This is a good question to ask when you’re yelling at your child or even after a yelling session. It gives you a chance to get introspective about your motives and emotional state, and allows you to be kind to yourself. In her book Is That Me Yelling? A Parent’s Guide to Getting Your Kids to Cooperate Without Losing Your Cool, Rona Renner writes, “The next time you find yourself yelling at your kids, take that opportunity to increase your self-awareness: Dig deeper to discover what’s hiding underneath your anger. Come face-to-face with your fear, bring loving kindness to your shame, or forgive yourself for the embarrassment you feel because you yelled in the grocery store. The feelings underneath your anger need recognition, attention and compassion.”
Trust Your Instincts
When my son was born, I received so much advice. While the advice came from a good place, it was confusing and often times conflicting. I wanted to do something one way, but I was being told to do it in a different way. I eventually learned that I innately know what my children need. I now find that I make the wrong decisions when I don’t listen to my instincts.
Use A Timer
When it’s time for my son to move from one activity to the next, there’s usually some fallout. I used to prolong changing activities because I knew what was coming next, but eventually, I realized that using a timer to let him know when it was time to eat or go to bed helped.
“Children thrive on having limits that are fair and are communicated respectfully,” according to Renner. “A timer is a neutral object to help your child with transitions and taking turns… Being able to stop playing and clean up the toys can add to a child’s sense of belonging to a family or to a school where there is order, not chaos.”