Go With the Flow


If there is one thing I think parents should do (I mean, besides all the other things I think we should do), it’s to RELAX.

I see so many parents around that are  just uptight. Rigid is the word that comes to mind. It’s almost strange to see a mother or father relaxed and enjoying their children’s company when they are out and about. Maybe (hopefully) they are more relaxed at home, and it’s just public situations that put them on edge. But that’s not fair to the kids. 

I get it. It’s easy to get hassled and hurried and irritated with these small people that do such strange things. It’s easy to get in a bad mood when the traffic is bad, and the grocery bag broke, and you haven’t gotten enough sleep in days because it’s that busy time of year for work.

It’s hard to step back and look at the situation from an outsiders perspective. It’s hard to realize that maybe we are being unfair. It’s hard to step out of the easy release of grouchiness. 

Transitions seem to be especially hard for us parents. I notice it often at the park or the lake. A family is having a lovely day outside, and then it’s time to go, and the parents get snappish, and many times downright nasty. 

Transitions when you are in a hurry are even worse. In the past, when I was always rushing to the post office at 4:45, I would start yelling and rushing and panicking, and more than once, we missed going, because I was so rude to Caleb, he burst into tears and refused to move. 

When you are preoccupied with yourself and your problems, the most innocent things your kids do will spark a judgment and some harsh words. It’s so easy to snap at them when we are worried about how we are going to pay the electric bill and the Etsy bill in the next week, when August was $500 short of what it usually is.

If you don’t think parents are too uptight, go to the grocery store or the park or anywhere that parents go with their little ones, and just listen. Or better yet, listen to yourself. How would I have felt if someone just said that to me? Why did I have to restrict Caleb’s behavior in this situation? There was no need for that.

Clue: if you hear the words, “you are always…” “you never…” or “every time…” use that as an opportunity to bite your tongue

If it is necessary to correct or inform our kids of something, it can be done in a respectful way, in a quiet voice. Quiet doesn’t mean pushover. You don’t have to talk in a namby-pamby voice “asking” your kids to behave. Be direct, address the problem, but be kind!

If you are seeing problems everywhere, you are going to make yourself crazy with all the correcting and stifle your kids freedom. So relax. Examine what is making you uncomfortable about your children’s behavior. Is it really as big a deal as you are making it into? 

As the parent, you set the mood for your family. And your mood can make or break an outing. Do you really want your kids walking on eggshells around you so they don’t annoy you? 

The problem with giving in to our bad moods is that it can become a habit–especially if your parents were the yelling kind. You can get stuck in a rut of bad-mood parenting that you never intended to fall into. Don’t you know parents that always seem to be in a bad mood toward their kids?

It reminds me of my fourth grade teacher. She had a headache that whole year, and it was always our fault. (My other fourth grade teacher used to yell at us and send us all into the coat room to get us out of her hair. It was a bad year for fourth grade teachers.) 

This post over at Tynan’s blog discusses how to broaden our perceptions when we are in a bad mood.

Focus on the good things about the situation.

Broaden your view of the day when your child is bothering you.

Broaden your view of childhood  when your child wants to run and climb and explore, and that makes you cringe with fear. 

Broaden your view of your child’s capabilities when they want to do something that you think is too hard. 

And just have more fun. You don’t always have to be so serious.

Some of my best memories of driving home from school include us being crazy as loons in the car, and my mom pulling over, because she said she couldn’t concentrate on driving when we were being this crazy. The best times were when she pulled over and gave in to our crazy release of tension and laughed so hard she cried. (I was in high school, and my brothers were in various stages of upper elementary and middle school during the times I remember, just to give you some perspective. Kids don’t always have to act their ages (or even act like humans— sometimes being wild animals is much more fun.) 

Relax. Go with the flow.