Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tuesday Tip: Mama Mia and other discipline tactics for tots

With so many tots toddling around my house, I’m constantly asked “how do you do it?”   I suspect the truth is that we don’t do things all that differently from other folks; in our house, discipline and routine reign supreme.  Here are our Top 5 tactics for maintaining a semblance of sanity when things get insane:

1.     Anticipate:  Like most things in life, anticipation goes a long way toward prevention.  This holds especially true when it comes to tiny tykes who are prone to melt down when they are tired, hungry, overwhelmed or all of the above.  Since I also tend to melt down under these circumstances, my solution is to plan accordingly and be prepared – much like the good Girl Scout I was back in the day.  Pack snacks, plan outings around naptime and know your limits. As long as you’re ready for whatever the day (and quite possibly your kids) throw your way, you can anticipate yelling less and enjoying more.
2.     Be Calm:  I’ve learned the hard way that your tone sets the tone.  I’ve tried to outshout five titans having tantrums more times than I care to count and have yet to win.  When the times get tough, I try to channel my daughter Ciara’s kindergarten teacher; she is the ultimate champion of 5-year olds.  When chaos prevails, she uses a quiet, sing-songy voice.  “Stop, look and listen,” she sweetly croons and much like a mystical snake charmer, she regains control of the classroom.  It doesn’t always work in our house but it does tend to diffuse the situation, allowing us to regain the upper hand we regret having lost in that failed shouting match!
3.     Consistency is King:  We have a rule in our house -- we make one dinner and one dinner only.  Despite the kids asking if I’m a waiter (yes, this has happened), they know with certainty that I am not a short order cook.  If pressed, they would likely say I’m not much of a cook at all but that’s not the point – the point is consistency.  What are kids if not little soldiers in training? They desperately want to be good little soldiers and it’s our job to show them how.  Consistency is one good way to do it.  Kids like to know where they stand and what the boundaries are.  Unlike soldiers however, they will continually push the limits.  Alas, that is part of their job as a kid.  Just as part of your job as a parent is to bring them back in line.  Consistently!
4.     Diversion:  It probably won’t come as a surprise that most kids have a very short attention span.  We often find ourselves frustrated by this but in times of trouble, this is one tiny tot trait that you can – and should – take advantage of!  In our house, we can calm most storms by simply changing the subject. Or game. Or room.  A Lyons Den Peace Treaty – or at the very least a truce – can be easily achieved just by blasting the stereo.  My husband is somewhat humiliated by this but, if our three-year old triplets are fighting over a truck or the “big kids” (now five and six) are arguing about who has more Legos, all I have to do is blast Dancing Queen or Mama Mia.  Before you can say ABBA, our war-torn living room is transformed into a Solid Gold dance-a-thon.  Mission accomplished!
5.     Exhale:  Just do it.  Take a really big, deep breath and then let it all out.  Maybe do it again.  Perhaps a third time.  You will feel better. If your kids are at all like mine, you may need to lock yourself in the bathroom just to take those three big breaths but, you’ll be glad you did.  It will allow you the presence of mind to see that no matter how out-of-control things may seem in any given moment, it is just that, a moment.  And when your tots have toddled off to school and you’re wondering how the time went by so quickly, I’m quite sure these won’t be the moments you remember. 

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