Giving yourself a chance to get back on track
Oh, boy! What a spring! Since March 12, our lives have completely changed. Our daily life has been turned upside down and many families have lost their bearings. The morning routine, daycare, school, work, the return home and sleep routine... It's reassuring for the children, but also for the parents!
Many parents have spent a lot (and a lot!) of time with their children. Keeping the tribe busy, doing the daily chores (dishes, laundry, cleaning, meals, etc.), trying to keep up with the school work that needs to be done if the children have not returned to school, trying to telecommute... This has become a reality for many. Add to that the pressure, fatigue, anxiety, stress of not knowing what to expect and all the personal and external factors; it's enough to make the days long...Doing all this while trying to maintain a mental balance...it's quite a feat!
Many parents have felt overwhelmed and overwhelmed. Many feel like they spend their time rehearsing, quibbling and crying...You feel like you're brooding over the dark...You get into a negative wheel and once you're in it with the kids, you can have a hard time seeing how to get out of it. You get into pockets and you end up feeling guilty!
In this article,I'm going to give you some tips to give you a chance to get back on track with your tribe when you feel like you've got your foot in a negative gear!
Lower the standards.
Going a little easy on yourself and being kind to yourself,that's a good place to start. Dinner dishes are not done, it's possible. The living room is in an indescribable state (like you can't see the floor and the couch), it's possible too. Everything is not as good as we would like it to be, is that so bad? Yes and no! For me, waking up in the morning with a counter full of dishes, it's a horrible morning! I like getting up with a clean counter, it starts my day off on the right foot. In COVID time, I chose my battles. I put my time and energy in more strategic places. As a result, on some nights, it wasn't the dishwasher that won!
If your life is turned upside down, so are your children's lives. I often say that my children are emotional sponges. If I'm sad or angry, they feel it right away and make me feel it. It's the same when I'm tired or impatient. Their mood reflects my mood. By giving ourselves a chance and accepting that not everything is as we thought it would be, we allow ourselves a little respite. For ourselves and our children.
If you feel that you are punishing your children a lot, try to start from the beginning. With the confinement, I felt that my children had completely forgotten the rules, the expectations I had. We were already on our holiday pace. When we had to get back into a certain routine, wants...wants not, they reacted.
We went back to the beginning. I gave shorter instructions. I lowered my expectations by the time we got back into the rhythm. Instead of asking them to tidy up the (monster mess in my) living room, I assigned a small task to each of them. One would do pencils; one would do dinosaurs; one would do puzzles; and the toddler would pick up (as best he could) the blocks.
Together they got the job done, but individually they had a smaller job. They saw the task as less important than if I had told them to put everything away.
Positive reinforcement in stages
I've been using theBehavioural Scale of the Beautiful Combines for some time now. My older one understood the principle super quickly because he uses a similar system at school. My second one, on the contrary, was in big opposition with the tool. He didn't want to know anything about it and didn't understand that his behaviour was having an impact on his pin. He was offended as soon as I shot it down because he had behaved in a negative way.
So I opted to go in half-days. If the child stayed on top (we decided that the porcupine was our landmark) in the morning, he was entitled to a token (for the General Store). Same thing for the afternoon. That set the bar lower for him. He felt the target was within reach. Later, we went up to a full day. With the return to daycare, it made sense.
Going in with the social reinforcement
In teaching, a lot of emphasis is placed on social reinforcement. Encouraging and highlighting children's efforts or achievements pays off in the long run more than material reinforcements.
Often, when I ask my children to do a task (or when I give an instruction), I only have one that is quickly activated. It's always the same one! I point it out aloud (so his brothers can hear him!), congratulating him and telling him that I really appreciate him doing his task or following the instruction. It doesn't take long for the 2, even the 3 others to imitate the behavior to receive my congratulations.
Clear and consistent expectations
With everything that's happened over the last few months, we've all been in survival mode. At home, the stress and fatigue made me give instructions without thinking too much about whether they are clear or easy for my children to understand. The lack of consistency meant that sometimes I asked for more, sometimes less. It was difficult for my children to get a sense of direction. Sometimes they had a consequence and sometimes they didn't... Try as much as possible to be consistent and coherent in your requests and expectations. To help you, I'm leaving you a link to the article I wrote on the importance of being clear as a parent. This will give you some additional little tips.
I hope that these little ideas will help you take a more positive turn. Give yourself time and, most importantly, allow yourself to be gentle. To you and your children. We'll get there, one small positive step at a time.