Sometimes everything is as good as it gets. The kids are getting along beautifully, they are cooperative, and home life is blissful. Then we go through periods where the kids are fighting, family life is chaotic, and parenting well feels impossible.
My friend and colleague, Wendy Snyder, summed this up perfectly in a Facebook post towards the end of her Spring Break with her kids. Wendy wrote, "Ebb and flow of spring break. Insanity to complete bliss... multiple times...all in a days work..."
Wendy is a fantastic mother to two as well as a Redirecting Children's Behavior Instructor and founder of Fresh Start Parenting. Let's face it, family life is hard for ALL of us at times. It can feel like a roller coaster. One minute its all smiles and laughter and the next minute tears and rage.
When things go haywire, many parents tend to think that the kids need more discipline, consequences, firmness and control. Sometimes this is true! Yet more discipline, when everything is already going haywire, will simply add more fuel to the fire.
Instead of coming down hard, consider focusing on family foundations. Keep reading to learn about how to restore harmony in your home without ramping up your discipline.
Focus on secure attachment
Attachment Theory, developed by John Bowly and Mary Ainsworth, proposes that children are wired to develop emotional bonds with their caregivers for both survival and optimal development. Creating a secure attachment is not something that only happens during the infant and baby years. In fact, current research suggests that parents can focus on setting the stage for secure attachment at any point during their child's childhood. Securely attached children exhibit fewer behavior problems, greater emotional regulation, and lowered stress response throughout their life. When kids feel connected, loved, and nurtured, they behave better.
Focus on responsiveness
The way to create secure attachment aside from a lot of affection and warmth, is to be responsive to your child. This is going to look differently depending on the age. This means PAUSE when you feel angry or triggered. Things between ourselves and our children rarely become better when we take action while upset! Do whatever you need to bring space to the situation so that you can respond from a sense of kindness, respect, and empathy.
Where can you reduce stress?
Children are often over-scheduled and pressured to excel in academics, athletics, and extracurricular. Low to moderate levels of stress are healthy. Yet high levels of stress carry serious health implications. If you are noticing a lot of acting out behavior at home, it will be helpful to take an inventory of your families overall stress levels. Stress shows up in youngsters in all sorts of ways - tantrums, defiance, troubles in school, conflict in friendships, and difficulties with sleep. There are many ways to lower stress from deep breathing, mindfulness, meditation, exercise, seeking support from a coach or therapist, aromatherapy, massage, and various visualization techniques. If you believe that stress is unusually high in your home, commit to lowering your own stress as well as that of your children.
Consider the anchor analogy
In a balanced home the parents are like anchors of the boat. The child is like the boat. The boat will move all about, even thrash around if a storm comes, but the anchor ultimately keeps the boat safe and prevents the boat from getting lost at sea. Be the anchor - holding, rooted in the sand, solid, ensuring safety and guidance while also allowing freedom and the child to go through his own journey and experiences.
Routines are so important. This is true even with our preteens and adolescents. With behavior repetition, our brains develop neural pathways that predict future behavior. This is how habits form! Which can be fantastic (like brushing teeth, daily meditation, reading before bed). Sit down and write up what a perfect day in family life might look like. Focus on details around waking up, meals, getting ready, school, work, after school activity, homework, going to sleep. Then take action steps to instill what you think will work best for your family, allowing for changes and adjustments as needed. Use our brains tendency to form habits to your advantage by creating solid routines that will help shape the rhythm of your day towards more peace and less chaos.
What have you done to create more harmony in your home that was not discipline focused? I would love to hear about it in the comments box below!
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