'Tis the season for family gatherings, church plays, school concerts, running errands, and finding that perfect gift for everyone on your list with your children in tow. I don't know about you, but the idea of adding all this to my already busy schedule makes me cringe because it's the perfect storm for meltdowns and tantrums galore.
Fortunately, I picked up a couple of tips when I began juggling the busy shopping season with two preschoolers for company. The acronyms S.T.O.P. and H.A.L.T. will be your go-to tools this holiday season.
When you hear bickering and squabbling erupt for the millionth time, instead of blowing your top or becoming frustrated, try this:
Step away from the situation: When you're in the middle of a crowded department store, take a deep breath and count to 10. Look for a non-crowded area to take your kids. Deep breaths and moving away from the aisle where chaos broke out helps you and your children regain some clarity. This allows you to clear your heads and calms your emotions. You can see the big picture and gain insight into how you should parent your children in that particular moment.
Here are some simple phrases to add to your parenting toolbox for when you need to "step away":
"I'm taking a deep breath; what are you going to do?"
"It's too bad you feel this way; we are going to stand here until we are all ready to tackle our shopping list."
These phrases give you a moment in your mind to step away and calm your emotions. At the same time, you will empower your children to make better choices.
Think: Ask yourself what it is about the situation that is driving you batty. Are you tired or stressed? What is the best way to discipline your child? Allowing yourself to think about the situation gives you an opportunity to respond in a calm, cool, and collected manner. It also demonstrates a bit of wisdom in front of your children about choosing wise words (see Proverbs 14:1).
Objective: Identify what your objective is before diving back to parent. What is the most important thing at this moment? Depending on what's on your to-do list, is it better to teach a lesson or allow some grace to get your shopping done? You can decide to discuss the problem or behavior or put it off until later. If you do decide the best objective is to address the behavior, what is your main focus? Are you going to discuss kind hands, sharing, or respect?
I gauge how I handle the objective depending on my child's attitude. Nine times out of ten, I say something like, "Elijah, I know you're bored, but this needs to get done right now. If you can make it through the store without touching your sister, we can get done faster."