The photo above is the epitome of what I have been dealing with at night lately. I’m thankful for photos like this because they make me laugh. I’m sure you’ve needed something that makes you smile when you are feeling frustrated.
The thing that has been frustrating me lately? Getting my kids to go to sleep.
You know the story: They get up repeatedly, you can hear them still playing in their rooms, and they come out multiple times to ask for water, a hug, or to tell on each other. You lose it. You get mad and tell them to go to sleep. You threaten to take away toys, treats or other favorite items if they don’t go to sleep. Man, when my kids push my buttons, I consider nearly every option I have to manage their behavior.
Often we find that our threats don’t work. Our emotions get the better of us, and many times they escalate the situation. We all end up in tears and with hurt feelings. Then, at least for me, the guilt settles in for how we reacted in the moment.
I’ve been there. I still get there at times.
I started really thinking about it because this bedtime thing was continuing to be a struggle. I found that if I changed my approach, I was getting better results. If I gave my irritated and frustrated feelings some time to subside I could manage the situation better. I found that if I actually worked to control myself, my children behaved better as a result.
External events trigger emotions in us all day, every day. So, I am about to get all scientific on you. Emotions are actually something called neurohormones (yes, this is a real thing) which are chains of amino acids that flow through the brain and body carrying messages. These chemicals affect literally every living cell in our bodies (ever notice how emotions can make you sweat, get red in the face, heart race, etc.) Research shows that it takes about six seconds for these chemicals (or feelings/emotions) to be broken down and completely absorbed in our body. So, if we choose to escalate and feed into that feeling, we are extending that timeframe and will continue to feel that emotion because we are choosing to do so. If we simply take a deep breath, objectively look at the situation we are facing, and manage our own emotions, we can create positive change. How and why? Other people feed off of our emotions, especially our children who are still learning how to manage theirs. They tend to mirror our behavior.
So, I’m taking the approach of being present in these moments, taking a deep breath (smell the flowers, blow out the candle), and responding in a way that diffuses the emotions, and demonstrates to my kids how to respond effectively. Of course, I’m not perfect and I know my emotions will get the better of me at times. I’m just telling you to give it a try. I don’t view this as weak parenting, and I’m still laying down the law with my kids. Since they learn to manage their emotions from watching me, I need to be more aware of how I’m managing mine.
Bottom line, give yourself six seconds to let the feelings sink in. Take a moment to reflect not react. I am already noticing my kids responding more positively.