I've tried everything and nothing works! It just seems like I'm coping some days and barely making it through the day. It's one catastrophe after another, and I just seem to be the family referee. I'm running behind them, breaking up fights, cleaning up messes, correcting behaviors, disciplining, and trying to escape for "me time". (Blogging and coffee is often "me time") They seem to interrupt me constantly and I get frustrated, which quickly turns into anger, and then all hell breaks loose! Watch out! MOM IS MAD! The yelling and accusations begin, the kids cower and run from me. I am chasing them around and around the house, I've got to catch them one of these times. Then they're in their rooms, doors shut, and I am in the living room deep breathing and wondering how that happened. Not a pretty scenario, but one all too familiar to all of us, I'm sure. It's a vicious, vicious cycle.
What to do?
Confess. First to the kids. Tell them you are sorry that you lost your temper with them. (Don't let this turn into a guilt trip held over your head by the kids. Once you've confessed, it's over. We don't bring up the past. Ever. Refuse to even go there.) Then confess your weakness to God. He removes our sin from us as far as the east is from the west. That's awesome!
Start over. Now is the perfect time to start over, which is really quite convenient seeing as it is always 'now' and never 'yesterday' or 'tomorrow'. Now is truly all we have, for when and if tomorrow gets here, it will not be tomorrow, but will be now.
Make a plan. Take as much time as you are able, when the kids are out of your hair, in bed, whatever, to sit down and make a plan. This sounds boring but will save your sanity. Think of the behaviors you want to target and how you are going to deal with them, and then stick to your plan. Changing the plan all the time puts you back at 'I've tried everything and nothing works'. Whatever plan you come up with, stick to it, and DON'T go back on your word! When you have a plan, you don't have to stress in the moment. And remember, you don't have to deal with things as they happen. Take a breather and then decide what to do. Don't just react.
Say what you mean and mean what you say. For example, if my 3 year old is being over the top crazy bad, I would choose not to say, "That's it! You are not going to _____'s (her foster brother) birthday party this weekend!" I have every intention of taking her to that party, not because it's a fun party and I just couldn't take away a birthday party (I can, and I would if that's what was needed) but I would not say it because the relationship she has with her foster brother (who no longer lives with us) is highly valuable to me and to her and we don't get to see them very much. So to take this away, in my opinion, would not be a good idea. I would say, "I'm sorry that you are having trouble, Sweetheart, I'm going to have to take away all of your privileges for a week." (tv, computer, the playroom, desserts/sweets, etc) Don't bother saying this if you know that the next time it's 'convenient' you're just gonna stick em in front of the tv. If you're not going to follow through (which is a lot of work and takes determination) then it's better not to say it in the first place. Threats and warnings(just a fancy word for threat) are your worst enemy. They tell your child, "I'm a spineless parent who isn't going to do anything anyway, you can get away with whatever you want."
Pile on. I only use this strategy for something really serious that I never want to happen again. It looks like this: Child does or says something that is highly inappropriate. (calls me a name, hits me, hurts a sibling) Everything stops. I do nothing for this child beyond the basics. I do not tell them this is happening. Every time they ask to do something or to have something, the answer is, "No, I'm sorry, but you hit your brother, so you can't do that now. You must never hit anyone." This could last for a day or a week, whatever you think is needed. The consequence needs to be severe if you don't want to see that behavior again. If it's not, you will see a lot more of that behavior and you'll start feeling like a referee and like "nothing's working".
Have authority. The parents are in charge. Period. So take authority. Don't ask your kids, "Sweetie, would you mind picking up your toys? That would be great, cuz I'm going to need this room cleaned up cuz we're having your friends over soon and we wouldn't want the house to be a mess when they get here, okay?" Too many words. Try this, "Sweetie, pick up your toys." You don't need to explain why, ask if they'd like to, or anything else. Don't stand over them and see if they're gonna do it. Walk away. When you see that it's not done, just call the friend and say, "I'm sorry, but something happend and we are not able to have company today. Maybe we could try tomorrow?" B doesn't happen until A is completed. So whatever that kid wanted to do, doesn't happen if they've not done what you told them, the first time. So if they go and clean up the toys after you've canceled the visit, don't re-invite the guests. It's done. Try again next time. No changing your mind. (By the way, they're gonna say it's not fair. Just giving you a heads up. And yes, it's not fair that they didn't do what you said the first time) And don't warn them, "If you don't clean up these toys right away I'm going to have to call your friends and tell them they can't come." That's a warning and a threat. The only warning ever necessary is this: "Darling, from now on (and don't say this if you don't mean it) when I tell you to do something, you must do it right away. If you choose not to, there will consequences and you won't like them."
One liners. These are my lifesavers. When I feel like I'm about to lose it and go over the edge, I just throw these out there and it helps me cope. Sure. Yup. Mmhm. Probably so. You're right. Nice try. Yes, dear. I "step away" from the situation in my head and use these one liners to get me through the thick of it until I have time to calm down and think clearly.
Relationship. Relationship. Relationship. Your kids are a blessing from God. Sure we need to do the dishes, and the bathroom has to be cleaned, and we have to mail that letter, and pick up some milk, and check our email (of course), and answer the phone, and call the school, and make lunches, and bath the baby, and and and.....but these (as my friend, Tyler, puts it) are not my priority. *My children are not the interruption. They are the priority. Everything else is an interruption to my relationships with my kids. Sure these other things are important and sure, they need to be done. But not at the expense of the deep relationships with my kids. So this means, when I'm blogging, I might just need to take a break and go have a tea party with my 3 year old daughter, or stop and help my son out with his homework, or take a few minutes and have a cuddle time with the baby.
Plan into your day, every day, special times alone with each child. Even if all I've got is 5 or 10 minutes, that's enough. My mom did this when we were kids, just for a couple of months, she spent 15 minutes a day, alone, with each of us doing something we liked and telling us stories. I remember it like it was yesterday. Read a chapter of a book, tell them stories of when you were little or when they were little, talk about their day (kids really don't care to hear much about our responsibilities, they wanna talk about the show they watched or some game they played, or a funny joke they heard, or how their sister has been bugging them), give a head massage, watch an episode of their favorite show with them, whatever. Do something with them that they want to do. Let them guide this time with you. It'll be more fun for them and better for your relationship. With little kids, involve them in whatever you're doing. They love to learn and they love feeling like they are contributing to the family. Being mommy's big helper makes them feel important and loved. It's gonna make things take longer and they won't do a good job probably, but don't "fix" what they do.
And when things go downhill, go back to square one and start over....again. We've all been there, some of us are there right now, you're not alone. Bring everything to God in prayer. He is our strength in times of weakness. You're never alone. How we feel is not as important as what we know.
*I quoted my friend, Tyler, and below is a link to her blog.