Mama Mantras

Motherhood is crazy. But you already knew that. Last week was a crazy, crazy week for me. I was getting the family back on schedule after a 3 hour time change and “vacation schedule” for 10 days. Plus I had back-to-back calls and daily home visits. With each call and each visit I repeated the same quote: “Say YES to your child’s emotion while you hold the boundary on the behavior.” We can still empathize with our child’s strong emotion without “giving in”. But empathizing with a screaming child take A LOT of self-discipline. How do we not either freak-out and yell or completely shutdown when our kids are losing their minds? Self-talk. 

For my family action plans, I even listed out possible mantras for parents to use so they can stay calm while the child works through their big emotions. So here are some of my favorite mantras that I use for myself:

“He is safe. I am safe.”

“This is not an emergency.”

“This too shall pass.”

“He is still learning.”

“He is having a hard time. Not giving me a hard time.”

“He needs my calm.”

“Be the calm.”

“He needs my help, not my anger.” 

“Breathe."

In the great words of Rebecca Eanes, “Instead of asking: How do I deal with tantrums? or How do I deal with aggression? or “How do I deal with this sleep problem? Ask, “How do I help this little person whom I love? That’s the best starting point for knowing how to help your unique child.”

These mantras are meant to calm your mind. Keep you in the upstairs brain, so your child may slip into the “fight or flight” mode, but there’s at least one fully functioning brain in the room. They are also meant to shift your perspective. If we perceive our children as small people who need to learn, then we are more likely to teach than to punish. 

Teaching will strengthen our relationship, corrects the behavior now, and helps our child learn how to handle the situation in the future. Punishment damages our relationship and teaches our child how to avoid punishment. 

So pick your mantra. They may change or evolve over time, as parenthood always does. Use it to help you through the crazy. Because parenthood is awesome. And crazy. 

Seven Tips To Stay Sane With Siblings

August 31st marked the one year anniversary of me being a mother of two. Throughout the past year I have learned so much through this personal journey that directly impacts how I coach other parents. Even with my background in early childhood development, special needs, and behavior management, this past year challenged me. I’ve learned a few things along the way AND had many opportunities to put theory into practice and thought I’d pass along some wisdom. So here’s some practical tips for staying sane with siblings:

 

  1. Cut toys in half. And in half again. Seriously. Most of us don’t need 75% of the toys in the playroom. If you can do this before the baby is born DO IT. If you already have a sibling - DO IT. If you already have 3 kids that are bickering JUST DO IT! Cutting the amount of toys will do a few things such as: cut down on everyone’s feeling of overwhelm, allow you to rotate toys so they seem new and interesting, be more intentional with the toys that are out to maximize creative play. 
  2. Check-out some Montessori set-ups. One of the characteristics about Montessori that I looooove is the emphasis on independence. Using this mindset when setting up your child’s bathroom, bedroom, playroom, etc, is a GAME CHANGER when prepping or adjusting for a sibling. One example that we use in our house is hanging all of my three year-old’s clothes up. I hate when kids dig through drawers and everything ends up balled-up or thrown on the floor. By hanging everything, they can see everything and make a selection without moving anything else. Bonus - no folding miniature clothes! 
  3. Pay attention to your children’s buckets. Kids are hardwired to crave parents’ love and affection. It’s a survival instinct. They need our attention to survive. So next time you catch yourself saying “UGH! He is just looking for some attention!” Rephrase it as “He needs my attention,” and give it to him! Fill his bucket! 
  4. Be a neutral party. This is SO hard. Especially when you have an innocent baby that becomes the victim of a curious, jealous toddler. But stay neutral. Don’t turn Mama Bear of your own cub. First, make sure all parties are safe. Then, narrate the situation for both kids. Avoid shaming tones of phrases, which will just escalade the situation. Remaining neutral and empathizing with both parties will help validate all, and deescalate the situation.
  5. Encourage independent play. As an adult, is there anyone we can stand to share every moment of every day and space and toys with constantly? I’m going to answer for myself with a “NO!” Kids are the same. They need a break to decompress. Give them time to decompress. Whether this is quiet time in your house, room play, etc. Figure out a system that encourages children to have some separate time away from their siblings. 
  6. Create a “safe space”. This is huge for all young children but especially when you have an infant and toddler. We used baby gates to create our safe space. It should be a space that enables the toddler to keep “special toys” safe. So if the baby keeps grabbing a toy or knocking down a block tower, you can redirect them into their “safe space”. 
  7. Snacks. Snacks for everyone. Don’t leave home without them. Low blood sugar means Hot Mess Express behavior. In our family, we call it Code Red (Code Purple is worse!!). Sometimes we get so caught up in just remembering all the kids, we forget the essentials. If your kid starts acting a fool and it’s been a couple hours since meal time, throw them a snack! Worst thing that will happen is they’ll throw it back at you and you’ll get to eat it! Protein snacks are best - you’ll avoid the sugar high and CRASH that follows. 

So there you have it. Seven tips for staying sane with siblings. These aren’t magic but hopefully give you a couple of things to try-out and see some positive change. Sibling transitions are major for the entire family, so just as you empathize with the older sibling(s), empathize with yourself, and extend a little grace.