Is it the battle of Gettysburg? No. Is it the battle of Normandy? Nope. Is it the battle of Yorktown? No, sir.
This is a different kind of battle. This is a different kind of epic battle. This is the battle between us, parents, and the tiny, tumultuous, yet lovable, periodic terrors that we bore.
One day at home with one child can be compared to a marathon. A day at home with two children is probably more like a high stakes boxing match or an episode of WWE. But, every single day with three or more children, well, I would say that is like going into combat…serious combat. And when you have to go into a barrage, day, after day, after day, after day (you get the point), well then you must be prepped, armed, and ready to go at all times.
At their different ages, each child has their own self-defense skills, as well as “weapons” that they use against you — tears, tantrums, antics, aggression, “stink” faces, etc. As their parent, and unfortunately, their opponent at times, you will need to have your own “weapons” as well. Of course, the end goal is to get them (and yourself) to wave the white flag, surrender to one another, and join forces. However, you still need to be prepared for daily attacks.
Here are my top TEN parent-approved, kid-tested tips for battle preparation:
- Recognize and tend to your child’s needs. I am of the opinion that at least eight times out of ten, the reason your child is battling with you is because there is some need they are seeking to have met. It could be they are hungry, bored, frustrated, tired — it could be a number of things. But, if you are present and actively paying attention to them, their body language, their behavior, and their words then you will be able to hopefully preempt their acting out by satisfying their needs and wants, when appropriate and when desired. Often, we as parents are so busy that we can fall into the trap of neglecting our children under the mask of giving them independence and teaching them to be self-satisfying. Ensure that your child feels they are valuable, and that they are being seen and heard; this should hopefully keep at least some battles at bay.
- Respect your child’s boundaries. The battle lines have been drawn and you are on one side and your child, well, depending on your child’s age, they might be on the other, whether you like it or not. Often times, our children’s tantrum, meltdown, or perceived disrespect towards us is a result of us crossing a boundary with them that we probably should not have. Does your child not like to be hugged in the morning? Then don’t hug them. Does your child like when you rip the covers off of them to get up and going? No? Then don’t do it. Wake them up at a slower pace, even if that means you have to build more time into your morning routine. Does your child want to make her own lunch and pour her own milk? Then let her, even if it means you may have to clean up a mess. Listen, I am not saying that we need or should respond and give in to our children’s every whine and whim, but when appropriate we need to respect their wishes and their boundaries. By doing so, we will likely be preventing them from feeling as if they have no control over their own life. And what do people who have no control do? They go out and seek to find it, get it, and even battle for it when necessary. Do yourself a favor and avert this by merely showing respect for your child.
- Keep an arsenal of snacks with you. No real explanation needed here. You get angry and grumpy when you are hungry, right? Well, so does your children. Feed your opponent and if nothing else, it will at least occupy them for a short while.
- Keep an arsenal of small entertainment items with you. This one is pretty self-explanatory as well. So much of children’s bad behavior stem from being bored, even if you have no clue how they could be feeling that way. By keeping a plethora of inexpensive and small entertainment items with you (i.e. bubbles, mini-notepad and pen, stickers, stamps, rubix cube, handheld gamers) you will be able to offer your child a boredom buster to help them get through a given situation meltdown-free.
- Remember that your words are your best weapon. Words should be your best weapons and they should and need to always be respectful, thoughtful, appropriate, and either responsive or productive. You do need to be careful how you use your words, when you use your words, and that you and your child both understand why you are using the words you are using. You also need to ensure that your child understands what it is you are saying — they need to understand your feelings, they need to know that you understand their feelings, and if you have any expectations from them you need to be clear about those. Never speak in haste, and if you cannot successfully do that then just don’t speak at all — your silence towards your child for that moment will speak volumes to them — then collect yourself and begin again.
- Rest up when you can. Parents are told this from the day their child is born — when your child is napping or resting then you do the same. Well, I never subscribed to that philosophy, but I probably should have. The same goes for when your children are older. If you have a moment of silence, even if it is only five uninterrupted minutes, use them to rest up by listening to your favorite song or by sipping hot tea — whatever it is that helps you stay balanced; take any free time to enjoy some of your simple pleasures.
- Know who your allies are. Know who is in your tribe, your village, your support-system. Know them, seek them out, take their help when offered, and ask for help when it isn’t. These are “your people,” and they are your children’s “people”. It is okay and actually very positive for your children to spend time with other people at the moments when you need a very well-deserved break. Your supporters, they also give great advice and have great listening ears. Utilize them. Sometimes your allies will aid you in your battle, sometimes they will take on your battle for you, and other times they may draw your attention to the fact that there is actually no need for battle. Needless to say, they are very important.
- Take mental note of nearby energy sources. Battles are draining — physically and emotionally. Be aware of the things in your immediate vicinity that reenergize you on a normal day. This could be a snack bar, a cup of iced tea, listening to your favorite song, going for a drive, going for a walk; anything that helps you chill and to replenish.
- Remember your training. Remember past battles, what worked and what didn’t. Remember mistakes that you have made — don’t make them again. Remember what techniques were successful — use those again. Remember what you have read in parenting self-help books, or any recent and relevant articles you have come across. You’ve got this.
- Know when to give up. Do just what it says. In the heat of a battle step away, step back, and look at the moment for what it is. Just that: a “moment”. And what do moments do? They pass. And this one will too, so throw in the flag and surrender. This doesn’t make you the loser and conversely, I would actually contend that it makes you the winner.
Do you feel armed and ready for battle now? I do. Good luck to you.