'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."
Pray: Praying allows us to be the hands and feet of Christ to our children. It is the most beneficial action we can do in any situation. Praying also gives us a chance to respond in a manner that gives our children something to model.
I often pray prayers like these:
"Father God, help me to be Jesus to my kids right now. Show me how to give them grace because I want to raise children full of integrity; before I open my mouth, help me be ready to show them your heart."
"Father, what is it that I can teach my children in this moment? Is it kindness to others and patience? Lord, show me how I can give them these examples."
Granted, these steps might seem long and drawn out, but all can be completed within minutes to help you form a game plan while navigating the waters of behavior, holidays, and endless errands. The next time world war three breaks out in the minivan, remember to S.T.O.P.
Some friends and I were discussing the terrible threes when my friend Karla advised us of what she has been doing with her kids. I loved the idea so much, I've been doing it with my own. I'm less stressed and much calmer, and so are my kids.
The next time your child is driving you bonkers, stop and try to identify what her issue is. Instead of exasperating your kiddo (see Ephesians 6:4) and making her feel as if her needs are not important, ask yourself: Is she Hungry, Agitated, Lonely, or Tired?
These are the basic needs our little ones have. When we identify and address the issues plaguing them, they will turn back into our sweet little angels that we know and love. Plus, they'll add life to our holiday season. Addressing their needs allows us to become better parents and accomplish what we need to get done. It's sometimes difficult to gauge what is plaguing our children, so don't be afraid to ask them questions like these:
"Tori, I'll bet you're feeling a little lonely because I haven't spent any time with you today. What would you like to do with Mommy after we get done shopping?"
"Elijah, you seem cranky. Do you need something to snack on? It's close to dinnertime and we aren't finished with our list; what would you like?"
As Thanksgiving and Christmas come at us full-speed, we need to be mindful of our limits and our kids' limits. So when you're attempting just one more trip to the mall to find that perfect gift or you're attempting to visit loved ones, remember to S.T.O.P. and H.A.L.T.
Heather is a recovering mom to three highly active kids, and she's been blessed to have two who are strong-willed. When she isn't playing referee, she can be found encouraging moms all over the state of Nebraska at women's retreats with her book, Mama Needs a Time Out. You can get to know Heather at HeatherRiggleman.com.