Ahhh. Summer vacation. I look forward to summer time with my kids. I allow my schedule to lighten up. I plan camping trips, swim lessons, water play at the park etc. But I am certainly not the perfect parenting model by any means, which I was reminded of yesterday while at the park with my children. I was past ready to leave. I had a few work related details on my mind, had received a frustrating voice mail from my MIL, and a call from my husband reporting that the dog has injured her front foot and won’t put any weight on it, or let him look at it, so can I come home soon. And as you all well know, kids are not always ready to leave the park when parents are. It is a usually a process. A process requiring patience. There is at least one round of five minute warnings as the older ones fly by completely focused on the tag game of the moment. There is the process of figuring out with other parents who will be coming over for a play date, without ending up with six or more children myself. Then we have to find the 3 year-olds, remove them from the play equipment, find their shoes, pick up the trail of clothes left by the fountain. Then we deal with the kids reaction to the parent made plan regarding play dates, who wants to go with who, which sister can not stand to be separated from her brother (“Bubby”, in our family). Parents reconvene and modify the plan. Some of the kids, their wet cloths, shoes and leftover lunches come with me to the van. At the van, there is the dispute over who will sit where, which sister wants to sit by which Bubby, in which car seat. It is hot. We are however in the shade. I take a deep breath and decide to try taking the high road. I will not yell, or micro-manage the seating arrangement for the 5 minute drive home. I take another breath. One is crying, one is clinging desperately to her Bubby. I calmly say, ” Ok, you guys can figure this out. I will make a quick phone call to grandma, and when I am done, and when you are all in your seats buckled in, we will go home for popcicles.” Good idea right? Well, I get on the phone with my MIL, which immediately tests my patience more, as we review financial facts that have been reviewed many times already, but that she is newly concerned about, and my son pops out of the van tattling on someone…
SO much for my high road, quietly handling the kids. My poor MIL gets an earful as I vehemently restate my directions to him, as well as a loud reminder that while I am on the phone, he is not to interrupt me, EVER. My MIL asks if it is a bad time, I say oh no, this is how it is, and there is no better time. We conclude our terse conversation, and I approach the van. Miraculously, the children have all settled in to their seats, my own daughter having made the choice to be flexible and give up the seat she wanted. I praised her for her flexibility, and contemplated mine.
Clearly I have more work to do, to yell less, practice patience, model the behaviors I ask my children to display. I have had some good ideas lately. While on vacation last week, I was able to let go of everyday stress, and tap into more creative ways to redirect my children. One intervention that I like is again related to car travel. My 3 almost 4 year old found her screaming voice, as well as her sassy, bossy pants, know it all voice, and frequently unleashes it on her 8 year old brother while we are driving. Mind you, we are often driving to do something fun, like go swimming in the lake with friends. I can feel my frustration rising. How many times do I have to tell her not to yell while I am driving. Do I turn around and go home, cancel everyone’s fun? So my new tactic is silence. I pulled over, (in a shady spot) and turned off the engine. There we sat. My son eventually asked his sister “do you know why we have stopped?” She proposed that we were at a red light. He explained for me that we are stopped because she was screaming. Off we went, only one more stop was needed on that trip.
Some other ideas I have had are whispering, using sign language, and calmly stating that “X” privilege will be lost if I have to ask them to put their shoes on again. Of course these interventions are all dependent on the situation.
How do you tell your children to be quiet, follow directions, stop what they are doing with out yelling it?
To a lovely and peaceful summer,