I never expected parenting to be easy, but just lately, the middle two children Charlie and Holly, have been really hard work! They’re aged 6 and 5, and every time they’re together tempers flare— usually over the silliest things. Car journeys are particularly tedious with loud squeals emanating from the back seats, before we’ve even left the drive!
“Charlie’s got his mouth open!”
“ Holly’s stroking my arm rest!”
And even when we arrive at our destination, the madness continues,
“ I want to get out first —don’t take you seat belt off before me”!
However, although they drive me mad at home, their cousin, who goes to the same primary school assures me they get on really well in the playground. Apparently they play together beautifully and even hold hands!!
I’ve now come to the conclusion that their bad, and somewhat ridiculous, behaviour is clearly for my benefit (which child will I tell off first?) and I’ve come up with a couple of sure fire ways to diffuse these dire situations.
Divide and conquer; Both children respond well to praise and if they think they’re helping in some way, they’re often very cooperative. When their voices begin to rise and I feel a storm brewing, I quickly give them jobs to do. Each job, you understand, has to be of equal importance, otherwise one child has clearly been favoured over the other. The jobs are usually something really basic, with a compliment tagged on the end
“ Charlie can you go and find me a tea towel please, because YOU’RE really good at finding things!”
“Holly can you come and get the milk out the fridge, because YOU’RE really good at passing things!”
Both of these simple requests are met with enthusiasm and gusto, each child secretly trying to out do the other. A win, win situation! They’ve been separated, but don’t realise it and I’ve not had to tell them off!
- Distraction; A toddler training book I once read, suggested that when your toddler is in the throws of a full blown tantrum, you should grab the nearest banana and pretend to use it as a telephone! I’ve never actually tried this but it made me laugh so I remember it.
Now, I know my middle two are not toddlers, but when they’re all het up and can’t see reason, distraction is much easier than a conflict and my favourite is to open the front door and exclaim:
“ Oh my goodness, you won’t believe what’s just gone past our house!”
By the time they’ve jumped to their feet to see what amazing spectacle has caught my eye, they’ve forgotten why they’re cross. However, I am quickly running out of interesting possibilities! So maybe I’ll resort to the banana phone after all!
When frequent tellings-off start to lose their effectiveness, taking an overly sympathetic approach often works quite well.
“It’s such a shame that Charlie sat near you and breathed in your personal space. Why don’t you come here and tell me all about it. Charlie please try not to sit too close to Holly, as she really doesn’t like people being friendly”
This confirms Holly’s belief that Charlie was clearly in the wrong and as a result has been told off. Charlie also believes he’s experienced a victory. Holly has been moved out of his way,(result!) and no one’s cross with him. How could they be when he was only being kind?
I’m sure I’m going to need some new ideas and solutions soon, but for now these seem to be working. I’d love to hear any of your practised and proven methods for keeping your sanity intact and your children under control!