Summer is here and with that comes a change in routine, even for homeschoolers or those going to summer school whose routine might not seem to change that much.
The following suggestions are applicable to all parents under a variety of circumstances. So take a seat, and enjoy as you “travel” to find the best environment possible for developing your parental skills.
Take a trip to “You Are In Control” island where you learn how to change the way you view your experiences in order to respond sensitively to your children.
Visit the “Whose behavior?” museum and recognize that your behavior is an influential factor in creating the environment that sustains your children’s’ appropriate and inappropriate responses.
Finally, figure out what to do when you ride the “When Things Are Not Working” rollercoaster. It is possible that you might lose your cool due to different factors influencing your behavior but find out how to be flexible and persevere during the ups and downs.
As you think about these stops on your journey, you may see that some preparation is needed. Being patient during the summer requires a proactive, rather than a reactive, approach.
How do we do this? Simple. Follow the journey!
You Are In Control
As you deal with many stressors, especially during changes in routine, be sure to schedule time for yourself.
- Control your daily access to rest. Rest does not necessarily mean hours of sleep. Rest can come in many forms, sometimes silence may be enough to reduce the physiological load when taking care of children. Do something that renews your ability to tolerate stress, such as: mindfulness, stretches, prayer, yoga, meditation, journaling, etc.
- Control your access to movement and exercise. You can exercise by yourself or even include your children.
- Control your daily or weekly routines, making sure it is flexible. When organizing your week, teach your children to transition from one activity to the next with a visual schedule. It is highly recommended to include your children in the development of their weekly schedule. Of course, you are in control of the options for each time slot, but as they make decisions between ‘Activity A’ or ‘Activity B’, they develop social abilities to solve problems in a group setting.
A good proactive technique is to identify your emotional limits. The skill involves taking time to observe the moments that you lose patience (e.g., running late, tantrums, siblings fighting, etc). In your observations, try to withhold judgment, analyze what happened before you lost your patience, and recognize the consequences of your responses (e.g., yelling, speaking out of frustration). With that awareness, make a plan.
The next step is to practice your plan. This may look like:
- Practice communicating with your child. A healthy exchange provides opportunities for your child to communicate back with you.
- Practice listening to your child’s words. The more you listen, the more you’ll see that your child’s words might not mean the same thing as when you say them. For example, if your child says something like “I don’t like you!” in challenging situations, this experience of listening may assist you in reacting differently to their outbursts.
- Practice your responses to potential issues. If your child is running late, for instance, that may trigger your impatience. So, to plan ahead, practice what to do under these circumstances.
- Practice teaching replacement behaviors. Children present maladaptive behaviors that can be reduced by teaching them other ways to communicate their wants and needs.
Remember that the purpose of your child’s challenging behavior is either to get or avoid something. You can control the conditions surrounding your child’s challenging behaviors and make them more or less likely to occur.
Here’s an example of how this can work:
Your child may scream loudly when you ask him to take out the trash. Screaming usually gets him out of taking out the trash. You could simulate the moment you ask him to take out the trash in the following exchange:
Parent: “If you do not want to take the trash right now, you can say, ‘Can I take the trash out later?’”
Child: “Can I take the trash out later?”
Parent: “Ok, you can take the trash out in an hour.”
You can hug your child and praise him for using appropriate behavior.
As your behavior changes, the behavior of your children will, too.
When Things Are Not Working
Sometimes, there are days in which you prepare ahead to save time during a busy morning, anticipating your child’s difficulties with getting ready (e.g., you laid out their clothes the night before, packed snacks ahead of time, woke up early to prepare breakfast), but things are still not working out.
In those moments, losing your cool may be inevitable.
When things are not working:
- Take a step back and observe the situation.
- Frame your thoughts with occasions your child demonstrated growth and achievement.
- Follow the plan and the schedule you prepared. This is the time to be flexible in the face of new challenges but also to balance perseverance with your plan. A good plan should have options (For example, ‘Plan A: Going to the park; ‘Plan’ B: Playing in the backyard) that were selected by your child or made with your child in mind.
We all want to be good parents. We can accomplish this by proactively preparing for the journey ahead. You are in control of your emotional responses. As you change your behavior by preparing, practicing, and executing detailed ‘travel’ plans, your child will also change theirs.
You will encounter bumps in the road, cancellations, and bad weather. These ups and downs are natural events, and as you learn new behaviors that will assist your child in presenting increasingly appropriate responses, your overall journey will be marked with success.