10 Resolutions To Tame Angry, Defiant Children
- Do you wonder why your child is so angry?
- Do you avoid saying "no" because you don't want the melt-down?
- Do you end up yelling because you didn't say "no" and then feeling guilty about it?
Happy New Year! Okay, okay, it's February but by now our resolutions are all but forgotten, right?
Here are 10 *new* resolutions for you to use to help you avoid having angry and disrespectful children all in the spirit of "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
The following resolutions are NOT so you will try to do all of them. NO! Just pick ONE that resonates with you. And try to make that one change.
1. Keep Emotions in Check
I've been meditating (yeah, me) and that has helped me stay calm. But so does eating well, exercising, and sleeping enough. Being emotionally stable for your children is more effective for good parenting than thinking up all the strategies in the world to discipline them. Whether you have a toddler or a teenager, being emotionally stable gives your children an example to follow.
Just make sure you're modeling the stuff you want them to copy. Your kids will learn to emulate your demeanor when they face resistance. One trick to achieve this is tried and true.
Yes, it’s that simple. Mindful, slow, deep breathing for just one minute can lower your heart rate and help you use the frontal cortex (logic) part of your brain rather than the amygdala, or “caveman's brain.” If you do it for five minutes, wow! Big changes. Twenty minutes...now you're meditating! See what I did there?
2. End the Parent Shaming
Can we just say "bye" to this already? It is common to compare ourselves and our parenting against our peers' styles, gauging our level of competence by judging how others parent. However, if judging others has become the norm and your opinions of other moms and dads are consistently negative and judgmental, then perhaps you would benefit from a more tolerant attitude toward others. A wise woman once told me
For every finger you point at others, there are three more pointing back at you.
Yikes. True enough, when I point my finger, I do have three more pointing back at me. Of course, her sage advice wasn’t only literal. The more I judged others, the more harshly I was judging myself and my own parenting skills. When I released others from harsh judgment, I, too, was released from harsh judgment.
How to start? Put a rubber band on your wrist. Every time you find yourself judging another mom, snap the rubber band. At the end of the day, you might have a sore wrist, but you’ll also have an awareness of how much you judge others and, conversely, yourself. It will be the beginning of letting go of parent shaming and adopting compassion for others and yourself.
3. Reduce “No” and “Don’t” From Your Vocabulary
Did you know that an average toddler hears the word “no” up to 400 times a day? That’s absurd if you think about it, but it could be one of the reasons our children seem to be immune to the word “no” and “don’t.” It doesn’t even faze them anymore. Not to mention that humans, even tiny ones, do NOT like being told "no." And, let's be honest, when we are told "no" we can feel angry about it.
So what’s a better word than “no” or “don’t?” Well, there may not be a better word for these two, but you can reduce their use by engaging your children with good parenting skills. For example, when your toddler is yanking on the cat’s tail you can say "We don’t hurt kitty.” and then follow it up with a positive instruction “Can you show Mommy how to pet the kitty nicely?”
You may have to model the behavior you want then ask your tot to model it. This practice takes a little more effort, but the payoff is well worth it!
4. Listen. Really Listen
Children want to be heard. Often, when they act up or have a hard time, they just need a pair of ears and eyes to listen to them. With our hectic schedules as parents, TV-on, smartphones buzzing and laptops dinging, this simple act has become increasingly difficult for today’s parents. And it has been shown over and over again that multitasking is not productive for our good parenting intentions.
We only have 100% attention.
When we try to answer a text while listening to the TV and hear how your child’s day at school was, nothing is getting your full attention. Don't you feel angry when you're trying to talk to someone and that someone is constantly distracted? And, if you feel your child isn't respecting you because they scold you for being distracted, well, is it really disrespectful?
One simple change I made back in 2017 year was life-changing. I turned off ALL notifications on my smartphone save for the alarm and the … wait for it … PHONE.
Yes, I made my smartphone dumb. Now the only notification I hear is if I have a phone call or if I set the alarm. Now when I want to know if I’ve gotten a text, I walk to my phone and check it. My family and close friends are all aware that the very best way to get in touch with me is to phone me. I now check my texts and emails when it is convenient for me.
I am more productive at work and when my children are telling me a story about, well, whatever, I am not distracted by buzzes or dings. If I hear the phone, they hear it too, and I say “I’ll see who that is later. Go ahead.” And we both know that I am REALLY listening.
5. Commit to More One-on-One Time with Each Family Member
I know, I know, we are spending a LOT of time with our immediate family members right now. But hear me out. For families with multiple children, it is a good parenting habit to have one-on-one time with each member to build special memories. When children feel slighted by the time they're not getting with their parents, they can get angry. The bonding time will initiate conversations with your children early on so that they can learn to trust you with the obstacles they go through as they grow up.
Be intentional about investing valuable time into your children to build a strong relationship with them. Some of you may be thinking “Great; this is not in the budget this year.” That’s okay. One-on-one time does not mean going shopping or spending any money at all! You can do what I’m resolving to do this year:
- Make a list of the big chores that need to be taken care of this year (clean out that closet or junk drawer, detail the family van, collect donations from drawers, etc.).
- Pick a day and time to get the task done (I switched to Google Calendar, and it’s a lifesaver). If your children are online, “invite” them to the event via your calendar app and make that date.
Now you have a good opportunity to spend time with your child. It will make the chore more fun and it will teach your child valuable lessons about how to care for and maintain the things we have. Oh, and yes, your child is not going to be excited about this. Ignore the “white noise” they make before the chore. Put on some fun music and get to work. Before you know it, you’ll both be having fun!
6. Make Time for Self-Care
Being a mom is not easy – it is in your best interest to make time for yourself regularly. That way, you will feel refreshed and invigorated to take on another day to give your children the best version of yourself. When we are exhausted, we're short-tempered. When we are short-tempered, we're more likely to view a child's misbehavior as disrespectful. We’ve all heard the saying
If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
How true this is! Moms are less likely to take care of themselves than dads. Make 2020 the year you buck that trend! The best part of this is that you can do whatever you want!
I mentioned earlier that I am meditating. I took a class and now I'm meditating 20 minutes, twice a day! And you know what? I didn't have time for any of it. But I made time. And once I made time, I actually found MORE time to do other things. I don't know how it worked that way. I just know it happened. What will you do to take care of yourself so that you have more energy to do some good parenting? Regular exercise? Healthy meals? An episode of your favorite Netflix show once a week?
7. Read to Your Kids
As a former elementary school teacher, I know how essential it is for children to have a lot of exposure to all forms of reading. We are told to read at least 20 minutes a day to children, and I had a flashback to how hard it was to fit that in as a single mom. After a very long day and all, I wanted to do was rest.
Reading aloud to my children at 7:30 with a sink full of dishes was just too much.
And if I was exhausted and my kids were goofing off at bedtime, well, you know I was getting angry and that's just modeling that the appropriate emotion at bedtime is anger. Ugh, not what I wanted to teach.
But don’t hire a mother's helper or MIL to read to your kids so you can do the dishes, hire a mother’s helper to do the dishes so you can read to your children.
As a parent, you are the most influential person in your children’s lives. The dishes don’t care who washes them. The children (all ages) care who reads to them.
8. Create a Routine
Children and teens thrive on routines. It may seem like more work for you, but at the end of the day, a consistent routine is an example of good parenting and will help your family navigate the day steadily.
I am not talking about a strict schedule with no room for flexibility. Being controlling isn't helpful to anyone.
A routine allows each family member to have a sense of comfort and feel relaxed about what’s next. Children thrive when they know what to expect and what is expected of them. And they are less anxious. Anxious children are often the children who get in trouble for misbehaving. When things don't go as expected, they have bursts of anger (tantrums!) or may talk back because they want things to go a certain way.
I have several routines as a part of my good parenting strategies, but there is one that is more important than all the rest... chores!
A great way to grow in parenting skills is to practice reflection. The buzz word for that today is “mindfulness.” It does not take a lot of effort to practice this simple task. Thank goodness because moms aren't known for having a lot of extra time.
If prayer is something you want to use, morning is the perfect time to be quiet and allow your minds to reflect on the day ahead. It can often turn into a mental plan for the day and when children ask for something or want to go somewhere, the five minutes you spent in reflection will pay off because you’ll already have an idea of how you want the day to go.
Also, taking a few minutes at night to reflect on your day can be useful. People that are successful in twelve-step recovery programs use this time to see where they might have made poor choices and need to make amends, see what went well with their day, and things that make them feel grateful.
When your child misbehaves, teach reflection. It's a skill that will help them learn from their misbehavior and, eventually, becomes better behaved rather than angry and disrespectful.
Whether in prayer, meditation, or just some quiet thinking, reflection can help us be the best parents we can be.
10. Practice Gratitude
Lastly, allow gratitude into your life this year. Yes, our spouses are not perfect, our children can be a handful, and our careers weren’t what we always dreamt it up to be; but at the end of the day, in what areas of our lives can we give thanks?
Teaching children to be grateful for what they have, helps them want what they don't have less. And their parents don't have to hear as much whining!
NOTE: This is not about ignoring the challenges you have or minimizing your problems. No one has perfectly good parenting skills. No one has a perfect life. There is proof that the simple act of practicing gratitude is life-changing. The bonus challenge is to incorporate this into your family. The best way? At dinner time.
Every family meal takes turns naming at least one thing everyone is grateful for. You will be surprised how enjoyable it is to focus on the positives in our lives. And, your attitude towards parenting may change just by becoming more thankful.