While I don’t personally own any chandeliers, I imagine if I did, my kids would attempt hanging from them! What's the deal when kids start climbing the walls, squirting honey onto the floor, taking down wall decorations and running around with them like trophies or engaging in other emotionally charged shenanigans? Answer: they’re anxious. And it's likely that you are too in that moment, even if you don't realize it.
Kids show their anxiety in strange ways, but here’s a response that may get you looking forward to that next burst of anxious chaos at your house.
Say it, shout it, sing it or rap it, I don’t care how, but let everyone know it’s hammer time.
Doing the dance moves highly increases the effectiveness of this technique. (a. because its funnier and b. because it breaks the feedback cycle of emotions.)
To clarify, these can be used one at a time, and are specifically for when your kids are annoying you, not necessarily when they are being aggressive.
Use the word ‘hammer’ to remember these 6 simple ideas:
H is for Hands. Press your palms together and place them in front of your chest in prayer pose. Close your eyes and bow your head slightly towards your children. As you do this, say or think, “thank you”. If you let it, chaos and conflict will be an opportunity for learning and healing. Thank your kids for their role as your guides toward change. (My kids get so perplexed when I do this and it shifts the mood.)
A is for Air. Take three deep breaths. The body’s natural response to prayer pose will likely be a deep breath, but continue breathing with your eyes closed for at least three large inhales and exhales. Imagine you’re sending that breath downward through your body toward the floor and outward through your head toward the ceiling. (And the littles will follow your lead.)
M is for Mindfulness. Become aware of the moment, your body, your thoughts, your feelings. They really are all connected. Notice shaming, blaming or judgmental thoughts thoughts such as: I’m a terrible parent. My kids are disobedient and ungrateful. Nothing ever goes the way I want it to go. Use these as clues into the underlying cause of your own anxiety. Then, accept the moment as it is, your internal chaos included. Remember, accepting is not the same thing as approving. Try adopting the phrase: "this moment is as it is" and use it as a mantra.
M is for Move Over. Let your demands, schedule and agenda slide out of the way for a minute. Let go of the thing you’re pushing. That lesson, those manners, enforcing that rule, that etiquette thing can wait. Slow down. Invite some patience and move over for a minute. Walk out of the room if it helps.
E is for Empath Awareness. Admit that you (and those children currently stripping the sheets/blankets/pillows/mattress topper off your bed) are probably all empaths. So the likely thing triggering your kids wacky behavior is a subtle shift within your internal state of being. You probably don’t think they can tell if you’re stressed or worried or desperate to check out, but they can. Empath kids sense parental disconnect with laser sharp skill. I don’t care if you’re smiling on the outside, they can smell the fear on your breath and it freaks them out. Get to know yourself better in these moments and your children will respond accordingly.
With that being said, there are also times when those feelings are just theirs. They are dealing with something from their day or responding to a physical distance between the two of you. (<<think: you’ve been at work, on the phone, or trying to talk with another adult, etc.)
It's important you consider the empath situation so that things can improve. Otherwise that awful feedback loop, aka, "emotional merry go round" will just keep spinning.
R is for Reach Out & Reconnect. If you recognize the swirly whirly situation is because of you, then reach out for support. And by that I mean a real live person. Tag team your partner, step outside or go to another room, distract the kids with electronics or other entertainment, give them water and paintbrushes and send them outside, just do whatever works! Then text, call or email one of your listening partners or someone who won’t interrupt, judge or give advice. Use the clues you gathered in the mindfulness step to tell them exactly how you feel in that moment.
Say all the things you’re NOT saying to the kids (ahem, screaming swears and such) Describe all the things you’d like to do to the kids (cruel punishments and the like). Explain the whole situation and why it has you reeling. Keep talking or typing as long as you can or until you find release. Hint: it doesn’t usually take long. If you find yourself needing more time, set up a longer exchange for later that day. Knowing you’ve got time to work out your stuff later will help you get through the rest of the day.
Don’t have a listening partner yet? Click here & here.
If you recognize the swirly whirly emotions are coming from the kids, your job is reconnection.
Get down on their level, make eye contact, offer food and suggest deep breathing, set limits, be available for stay listening or get silly and start play listening. Invite them to the couch and read a giant pile of books, try a vigorous snuggle or let them play “baby”. You can even teach them to chant, "Go hammer, go hammer, go hammer, go!" while you pump your legs like a rock star. My version of the dance gets lots of laughs but that's okay because laughter = connection.
Laughter = Connection
Hammer time is one way you can respond well when things go haywire, but I would love hearing your thoughts. What are your go-to gentle parenting tools for rowdy, anxious kids?
Noticing you’re an empath? Need fresh eyes on your home or parenting situation? Need support for getting off the emotional merry-go-round? Let me help. I offer individual parent focused sessions over the phone. You'll get to know yourself in a way that will strengthen your soul and your role as a parent.
You can also join our community of like-minded parents at The Parenting Well Facebook page. Find out about upcoming events and the next free session of our Parent Resource Group, where you can find a listening partner and more.
Let's connect. Let me know your questions and thoughts or how I might support you. Initial phone calls and discussions are free and welcomed.