By: Martianne Stanger
On New Year’s Eve, my children amazed me, not only by making it all the way until midnight to ring in 2013, but also with excellent behavior. I could not believe how pleasantly and appropriately they acted as the hours of playing board games, marching with noisemakers, eating appetizers, and celebrating with family wore on. I was even more surprised when they made it through our family’s traditional midnight silly string and confetti madness without melt-downs. Ah, I was so proud and so happy. But I was counting my chickens before they hatched…
You see, as I marveled at my children’s outstanding New Year’s Eve demeanor, I began to look forward to an easy start to the New Year. One feathered with smiles, laughter, good choices, harmony, obedience…
Oh. How. Wrong. I. Was.
The first two days of the New Year were anything but easy. Sure, there were moments of simple pleasures, but they were overshadowed by marathons of madness. As I dealt with tantrums, bad choices, whining tirades, and annoying squabbles, I wondered if the children’s behavior habits for the entire year would prove the inverse of those displayed on New Year’s Eve. I wanted to believe that the kids’ exasperating behavior was just a passing phase that would end as soon as they had caught up on their sleep, but I was beginning to wonder if the insanity would ever cease.
If it were not for prayer and perspective, I think that I may have lost my mind by noon on January 2nd as Nina was screaming in a self-righteous tantrum while Luke antagonized her, Jack jumped up and down and I, with gritted teeth and great, big, deep breaths, apologized profusely to Jack’s Early Intervention Specialist who was graciously telling me that she understood, kids are kids, I am doing a wonderful job, all moms should be so patient…
Patient? Oh, I felt anything but patient that afternoon. Even though a literal blast of cold air cooled things off in our house when Jack’s Early Intervention Specialist left that day, the kids’ behavior heated up again. Within another hour or two, the cacophony of the kids’ bad behaviors crescendoed to nerve-shattering proportions. Things got ugly, but, thankfully, not too ugly.
Luckily, I remembered Five Ways, a strategy that I have employed intermittently since August. The strategy forces kids to find five ways to kindly use words, hands or feet every time they fail to do so in the first place. Thinking about the strategy, I realized that I could use the challenge to find five – or more – ways to change the pattern of unpleasantness that was possessing our household.
So, I did.
First, I did through words. Honest words named some of the ugliness of the actions in our home. I recognized that the bad behavior was probably a result of us all being overtired, and suggested that we enjoy quiet time together reading a favorite book.
Then, I did through more words — ones that came from the pages of three read-alouds as the kids and I snuggled up together to reset.
After that, we brought about positive changes through our hands, as I encouraged the kids to work at independent, calming tasks, such as indulging in online chess for one child, coloring and crafting for another, and cradling a sleepy cheek for a third.
Then, we used our feet. We used them to walk to the kitchen for some Table Time together, which included focused face-to-face time, followed by a simple, healthy snack. Ah, yes, nourished relationships and nourished bodies tend to result in a healthier home environment.
And, so, finally, there was peace. For a moment. For an hour or two even, before the next overtired outburst reared up again. But that outburst came and went quickly. It did not snowball into additional ill behaviors, threatening to roll the day back to a bad place. Instead, it was easily squelched by the next Five Ways we found to overcome ugliness with kindness.
Now, I think 2013 may be back on track. At least I hope it is.
What strategies do you use to reset when your kids (or you!) are overtired and acting out?