Recently, I’ve been reading a lot about the joy of parenting and the importance of hugging it out.
You obviously have Martian children.
I love my children more than anything on this planet. Really. But that doesn’t mean that there are times when I want to gently bash their heads into the wall. Gently.
I don’t, I promise I don’t. But I sure as hell want to most of the time.
And that’s OK. This is my message to mommies out there.
It is okay to hate your children at times. I promise you. I am giving you the right to hate them for smearing your favorite lipstick all over the couch and the walls. I give you the right to wish you could run away when you find the sides of your super duper expensive heels scratched and covered in crayons. It is okay.
Congratulations! You are a human!
I do need to point out, however, that yelling does not work. At least not with my littles. Yelling does the opposite of what you would think. My kids automatically shut down when my volume goes up. And it totally defies the purpose. So what can you do? Here are a few tips that sometimes work when no one is around.
1. Don’t yell
I promise. As much as you want to scream bloody murder, it simply does not work. I do raise my voice at times to get their attention, and then lower my voice once I kind of have it. Why? Because the instant you raise your voice (or your hand) they shut down. They no longer think about what they’re doing, yet focus on how you’re talking to them. (Think: clingy, naggy ex who misses the point and argues over your tone)
So then what do you do? Walk over to the monster, put your hand on their shoulder and speak your words kindly. Make sure you bend over so you are making eye contact. And do not point a finger at them, they’ll miss the point and only follow it around blindly.
The hand on the shoulder is important. Gentle physical contact soothes them enough to get their attention. A hug is weird, though. I don’t get it. And I’m not going to fake it.
2. Keep them busy
Idle hands are the devil’s workshop. Wenty mish na2sa*. Whether you’re at home or out about. You don’t have to swamp their schedules with origami classes and Taekwondo, but don’t throw them in front of the TV for hours then wonder why they’re building forts with the cushions.
The most important thing is to hide your tricks. Don’t show your hand until you’re ready to play your cards. Whip out a coloring book with five crayons per child. Then take it away about 45 minutes later. Then offer a puzzle. Then turn the TV on. Then the Play-Doh. And on and on and on. Then if you’re lucky, you may be able to reintroduce the coloring book again!
3. Share the responsibility
This is the hardest one for me. I’m a bit of a tool when it comes to the house. I like things done my way. But once you loosen up and accept the fact that these littles are probably going to be a permanent fixture in your home, it gets easier.
Why do you need to share the responsibility of your home with the monsters? Because then they are more likely to keep their rooms clean and not smear Vaseline on the walls.
Explain to them the importance of having a tidy room, but then let them make their bed any way they’d like. It is okay for the comforter to not be folded at a 90 degree angle. The sense of accomplishment they get from completing these tasks is pretty cool.
4. Teach them how to cook
I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. It’s always been my quiet place away from the madness of the world. But a lot of the time, I need to keep an eye on the kids while I prepare a meal. And I do not have the patience or the time to explain every step I take when preparing a roasted chicken.
So what do I do? I throw a few zucchinis or potatoes or whatever you have in your pantry in a pot of boiling water for a little bit. It makes the veggies soft enough to be cut with a kids’ knife. Let them sit at the counter and chop the veggies into shapes then make patterns and maybe, just maybe, eat them!
Give them salad ingredients to prep in a dish. They can even set the table if you want. Set up one spot and have them do the rest. Kids love this shit.
5. Let them set their own goals
Sit down with your little at a calm time when they are in a good mood and discuss your expectations. Chances are, yours are no way in sync with the monkey’s.
For example, if you struggle with a bedtime routine, set it up with them together. Explain that they need to get 11 hours of sleep, then grab a clock and show just how long that is. Let them mark the clock, add bath time, clean up time and whatever bedtime ritual you’d like. Let them schedule it so that when it’s time, they can do it happily.
All they want is to feel like they’re making their own decisions.** We all know that you are the puppet master, but let go for a bit and let them shine. Get them in on the planning process and I promise you, eventually they will do it alone.
6. Get one of those annoying behavior charts
Annoying as they are, they work. Do not add sad faces or black spots or anything negative on it. Life is hard enough as it is. There’s no point in making it suck even more. Add stickers or magnets or whatever for good behavior, but do not take them away. You can’t take away their achievements without somehow crushing their little souls.
Once they complete the chart or the day, they get a prize. Preferably not a material thing. You don’t want to raise a spoiled brat. Let it be something like story time in your bed. Or a picnic lunch the next day. Or a trip to the playground.
Whatever it is, make sure that you can actually do it. Nothing is worse than letting a kid down. These monsters never remember the good you did, just that one time you promised to take them out and didn’t.
7. Keep your eyes on your own paper
Teach your kids that they do not need to own every material thing everyone else has. That’s just boring. They need to be their own individuals. Nobody wants a world full of Elsas when you have cool cats like the Tin Man to dress up as.
Constantly talk to them about how some people have two brothers and red hair. Some people have blue cars. Some people like broccoli. People are different, they like different things, they own different things and those things don’t matter.
These material things add nothing to your worth. If Sally has a beautiful red dress, tell her you think it’s beautiful. You do not need to own the same red dress, because that’s boring. And no one wants to be boring. There’s a big difference between being fair to your kids and raising blind masses.
I hope these tips help you not murder your children. May the odds be ever in your favor!
* Ain’t nobody got time fo dat.
** Refer to this again when they are 16.
WE SAID THIS: Don’t miss Mommy Diaries: A Guide to Potty Training.