Do you ever find yourself totally at a loss for how to interact with your children? How to understand why they melt down about the most ridiculous things and just feel like you are drawing a blank when it comes to handling meltdowns and you just don’t know where to start? If that’s you, I’m so excited to have this conversation with you today. I want to break it down for you and explain to you the top four things that I believe your children need the most from you.
Hey Mama, welcome back to the show. I am so thrilled to have you here. Like honestly, if there was one thing that I feel like I could talk about all day, every day, it’s parenting. I have been a mother for almost nine years and before that I was kind of a fill in mom. Because I was a nanny for, I want to say three to four families before I had kids. So, I have been experiencing little ones for a really long time.
I used to babysit before I was a nanny and I literally have been surrounded with kids my whole life. I’m really excited to just jump right in and share with you the four things your children need from you the most. I’m going to outline them really quick before we dive in more specifically to each one, but the first one that we’re going to talk about is going to be a present, and hands free you. Number two, attention, number three, control and number four, I’ve bundled together with routines and boundaries.
A Present and Hands-Free Mama
Okay, so let’s chat about the first thing your kids need from you the most. A present and hands-free mama. Now, when I say the word present, I don’t mean that you’re just coexisting in the same space because if I’m honest, a lot of us who work from home are present with our children, right? We’re always around, we’re available when they need us, but when I say the word present, I mean that you are mentally and emotionally there. You are available, you are engaged, and you are present.
Now, I’m not saying that you have to be present all hours of the day and never have time for yourself to get what you need to get done because obviously that’s not realistic. What I mean by that is when you are with your children and you’re playing with them and you’re engaged with them, you are 100% fully present. Also, this means that if your children need you, you’re available to guide them and kind of walk them through what it looks like to interrupt you when you’re doing something respectfully.
I’ve shared this before in another podcast episode, but I think it’s so important to remind you this tip because I love it so much, it works wonders. Teaching your children when they need you not to just burst in the room or mommy, mommy, mommy I need you. Is to have them come in and say, excuse me, and if you’re in the middle of talking on the phone, or maybe you’re having a conversation with your spouse, I guide my children to put their hand on my shoulder and to wait.
So that touch on my shoulder lets me know that they’re waiting for me, and then I put my hand on top of their hand to let them know that I heard, they’re waiting for me and I’ll be right with them. And it’s just this really beautiful non spoken touch that indicates to me they need me, but then when I touch back, they understand that I know what they asked and that I’m going to be available in just a minute. And I know that I’ve heard that somewhere, I can’t remember exactly where. So, I’m not going to take credit for that, but it is so, so important to teach your children that it’s okay to interrupt when they need something, but they do need to wait and be respectful about it okay.
So, the next part of this is to be hands free. And this is something that I really struggle with and I feel like you can resonate as well because as business owners, we tend to be on our phone a lot more often than other mommas who do not own a business. Because we have emails that are coming in, we have Instagram and Facebook and different social media platforms that we’re using. The other thing that I’ve noticed too is that when my phone is within reach, I will check it hundreds of times a day. It’s like a sickness you guys, I don’t know if anyone else can relate to this, but I feel this magnetic pull towards my phone when it’s close by. I always feel like I have to check it, even though I have notifications turned off, I still feel like I’m missing something.
So, what I’ve had to do is when I want to be fully present with my kids, I have to put my phone in a different room completely. Yes, that means I probably missed phone calls and text messages, but I want my kids to know that they’re more important than my phone. And if my phone is around, I just have a really hard time saying no. I read a book last year that completely changed my outlook on parenting, and it was called Hands Free Mama by Rachel Macy Stafford, and her book is absolutely incredible, I recommend it to anyone who has children. My favorite part about the book is she walks you through what it looks like to embrace mundane moments.
She walks you through what it looks like to take intentional pauses throughout the day to connect with your kids. She walks you through what it is like to miss the moments and to let them just slip by. Because our time with our children is fleeting, they’re going to be grown and gone before we know it, and the majority of our life is going to be spent without our kids. And she really talks about this idea of embracing the mess and getting your hair wet, playing in the rain, not doing your hair every day, because that takes time away from spending with your kids. So, I love her message, it’s absolutely beautiful, and I want to reread her book every single year to just be reminded of how important the time with our children is.
So, I want to ask you just a couple of very thought-provoking questions, just so that you can start to assess how you’re doing in this department. So, my first question for you is, does the amount of time and attention you currently offer each of your children convey that they are a top priority? Now, if you have younger kids, I’m sure it’s easier to say yes because they need a lot of your attention. But I want you to think about this as they get older as well. And maybe you have older kids, so mine are five and eight at the time of this recording. And I have to really be honest with myself sometimes and think about this because since they are more independent, they don’t need me as often.
And so sometimes it’s very easy for me to see that they’re playing and just escape and say, Oh, I’m going to get some work done, or I’m going to watch a show, or I’m going to go, you know, organize the closet. I don’t know. It’s just so easy for me to be like, Ooh, they’re occupied. So instead of me going to play with them, let me just go get some stuff done. And that’s the whole premise of Rachel’s book is that we need to embrace the moments more with our kids because there are so many sunset moments that we’re missing, because we’re too busy doing things that are really not going to matter in the long run.
Let’s move on to the next thing that your children need from you the most, which is attention. So, we talked about being present and we’ve talked about being hands-free when you’re in the moment with your kiddos, and also hands free just any time of the day. Because really, it’s such a distraction we need to limit the time that we’re spending on our phones and on other various technology. And so, I want you guys to think about this for a minute.
So, kids typically fall into two camps, right? They’re either whining and complaining, or they are completely defiant. So, I want you to think about this, when your children are melting down or when your child is having a struggle, think about which one are they experiencing? Are they annoying you? Are they bothering you or are they just completely not listening? So, when they are on that annoying side, it’s a red flag to you that they need more attention. And connection is the absolute best way to give your children attention. So not only are you going to acknowledge your child and say their name and let them know that you care about them. You’re also going to spend intentional time with them every day connecting with them.
And so, Dr Laura Markham with Aha parenting, she recommends doing special time with your children every single day. And if you guys follow me on Instagram, I talk about this quite a bit because it’s the number one tool that we as parents have as a preventative measure and also in the moment. So, connection is going to be absolutely huge. So, I want you guys to envision that your children are carrying a bucket that says connection with mom. And every single day when you love them, kiss them, touch them, hug them, laugh at their jokes, you put love in their bucket, and it fills up in that connection bucket.
And every time that you spend time doing what they want to do and you engage with them and you care about what they’re saying and you have a fun conversation centered around them and what they want to talk about, you fill that bucket even more. And once that bucket is full and you get in the habit of continuously filling their bucket, they’re going to be a lot less annoying. They’re going to know that they don’t have to act out to get your attention. They’re going to know that they can count on your attention every single day because you’ve set aside a special connection time that’s only for them. So that special time is going to be 10 minutes a day with just that one child.
So yes, it gets hard if you have a lot of children, but it’s so important that you set aside this time because if you feel like you don’t have time to connect with each of your kids 10 minutes a day, then something else needs to shift. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be you, it could be your spouse and they just need that connection. And if you work very long hours and maybe you’re not home that often, just because of the season of life that you’re in right now is really tough. Even connecting on the phone is an amazing way to still keep in touch with your children. And maybe you find yourself in the car a lot because you have sports or other extracurricular activities. It’s so. Important that you still use that drive time as connection.
So instead of just turning on a podcast and tuning out, have a conversation with your kiddos, play a game with them, let them know that the car time is the perfect time to connect and engage with one another. And of course, it’s not going to be one-on-one like special time, but it’s still a really great opportunity for you to ask questions of your kids and let them ask questions for you and make it fun.
Now, I want to be clear about something, connection should never be used as a bargaining chip, meaning if you were planning to read a book with your child right before bed and they’re having a really difficult night, it’s so tempting to say, Oh, well, no book, right? No book because your attitude is not kind. Well, that only sends the message to them that they only get your love and attention when they behave appropriately. So, when they’re struggling and they’re having a really difficult time, I want you to imagine that they are literally throwing red flags in the air. They are letting, you know they need help, they need assistance, and they need attention.
And so, when you take away their connection, it only makes them feel worse about themselves. And when a child feels bad, they act badly. So, let me say that again, when a child feels badly about themselves, they will continue to act badly. You actually shaped the chemical reactions in their brain, and so you want to speak to your child and uplift them so that they know that even though they make mistakes, that they are still good, they just made a bad choice. So, what I would recommend instead is when your child is having a difficult time at bedtime let’s say, connect with them, be silly with them, get them laughing. I know it feels so weird and especially when like tension is high and you’re anxious cause you just want to get the kids to bed so you can go relax. Remember how important each interaction is that you have with your child.
In my family and our home, my motto is that I want everyone to be feeling peaceful and having a good time. And when things get heated, it’s just not worth it to me to be yelling and to be controlling. And so what I have to do is I just have to take a breath and understand that I can perpetuate the problem, throw gas on the fire by raising my voice and showing my children who “is in charge”, which if you’ve ever thought about that before, it’s so funny. Because we try to teach our children that we’re the authority and that they need to respect us. But then later on down the road, we also try to teach them that they’re in control of their body and that they need to stand up for themselves.
So, I don’t understand that shift why parents don’t start teaching that to their children earlier. Because my philosophy with positive parenting is that your children are in control. They are in control of their body, they’re in control of their actions, they’re in control of whether or not they listen to us and that is a good thing. It’s also a hard thing, but it’s so empowering for your children to know that they are in control. And so, here’s what I recommend, we’re just going to shift right into the control part right now because your children need control.
They need to understand control with limits, right. So obviously they can’t run the house and they can’t do whatever they want. There are boundaries like we’re going to talk about in just a few minutes, but they need control. We’re not raising tiny little robots right. Of course, the dream is that we say something in our kids just automatically listen and they have no objections. But again, that’s not fun because we are not raising robots, were raising tiny adults who are going to grow up one day and they’re going to leave our house and they’re going to be their own person.
And don’t you want to be able to shape the person they become when they’re in your home. And if you’re controlling them and you’re making every move for them and you’re never letting them mess up without punishment or shame and blame, then they’re going to grow up very disoriented. They’re going to not know what to do when struggle comes. Maybe they’re going to lie and they’re going to be sneaky because they want to avoid the punishment they know is coming.
So how do you guys know when they are seeking control and when they need more of it? So, like I mentioned with the attention, you know that’s what they need when they’re being annoying and they’re whiny and they just like, are needy. But when they need control, you know that because they are just flat out defiant. You ask them to do something and they completely ignore you or maybe they do the opposite of what you asked them to do. Maybe they are angry and they’re throwing things and they’re just being blatantly mean, and they just won’t listen, and they say, no. That is a red flag right there that they need more positive control. That means your children need more choices they need more things that they are in charge of. It also means that you need to start saying yes more often. So, when they present you with an idea or they ask a question and they want to do something, and they’re trying to show you that they’re ready for some positive control. If you shut it down and you don’t look for ways to make what they’re asking happen, that is crushing for them. And the more and the more that we say no to our children, the more that they fight back, and they realize I don’t have control because my mom keeps saying no.
So, I want you guys to think about saying yes more often. My children come to me with some crazy ideas sometimes, and I want to just say no because it’s going to be messy or I’m going to have to stop what I’m doing and go supervise. And I mean, there’s just a ton of excuses that I come up with. And then I have to remind myself my kids are showing me that they’re ready for some control, like they are exploring that, and I do not want to shut them down. And so, I look for ways that I can make it happen. And if it’s an absolute no, like it just is not, it just can’t happen. I empathize with them and I say, Hey, I know you really want a cookie right now, that sounds so awesome, right? We can definitely have a cookie after lunch, or we can definitely have a cookie another time. And just instead of saying no, let them know what they can look forward to.
It’s also really important for kids to have responsibilities in the house, something that they can take care of. So, we have two hamsters, and so our children are in charge of giving them food and water every day, and we clean their cage frequently. They also have our dog to give food and water too. So, we have some household responsibilities that they’re in charge of, like their laundry they’re required to do every week because they need clothes and they’re old enough that they can do it themselves. So, I do provide assistance and help, but it’s really helpful for your children to be able to see what’s expected of them. And then I give them control as to when they get it done. So, I’ll say, hey these are the couple things I need you to get done today. You can choose when you want to do them. You can get them done right now, get them out of the way, or you can wait. But at least I’m giving them the control over when they do it.
Boundaries & Routines
Okay and the final thing that your children need from you are boundaries and routines. And this is so crucial because it really sets the tone for how your children will behave. And when you introduce these new boundaries and routines, they should be written with pictures, if your children are younger and also posted. And it’s something that you all create together and something that you agree upon. So, we have a routine every single day, we have a checklist, and their routine is that they have to get their morning checklist done before they eat breakfast. And now they’ve gotten so good at it that they don’t really need to refer to it. They just technically know what was on it, but it’s still posted in their rooms and they still can refer to it if they need it.
So, we have a morning routine, we also have an afterschool routine, and then we have an evening routine. And it always stays the same, and if there’s anything extra or different, I will write a little checklist on a sticky note and let them know like, hey here are the things that I need from you today. Go ahead and get those done, whenever you would like to. It’s also important that you set up boundaries with your children, like we talked about earlier in the episode about interruptions. That is a clear boundary that you set so that when mommy’s on the phone, or when I’m talking to someone, you can say, excuse me, put your hand on my shoulder and wait. So that’s a clear boundary, if maybe you’re working, maybe that would be the boundary. Hey, I would like you guys to go play in the backyard for 30 minutes and I’m going to work, that’s a hard boundary.
So again, things, boundaries, and routines. They need to be clearly explained and they need to be agreed upon by both parties. Sometimes I’ll even ask my children and I’ll say something like, hey guys, I really need 30 minutes to work. Do you guys need anything from me before I get started? And maybe that means they need a book, or they want to play a game with me really quick. Or maybe they’re like, Nope, we don’t need anything, and I can just get right to work. So, I really am very open and honest with my children about what I need. And then also letting them know, Hey, is that okay with you? I need this, are you cool with that? And the more that you work on this and the closer of a bond that you have with your children and the more connected they feel. The less that they are going to feel like they have to act out and be defiant.
So, this attention and power is going to be huge for you being available and a present hands-free mama. This is going to change everything because your kids are going to understand that you’re there for them when they need you, that when you are playing with them, you’re present and that you truly do care about their feelings. And you care about what they want, just as much as you care about what you want. It’s a team effort and I really hope that these tips have been helpful and insightful. And that you start to understand that the more that you say yes to your children and the more that you allow them to be a part of the decisions that go on in your house, the more compliant they’re going to be.
I mean, just imagine that you went into someone’s home and they had all these rules about what you ate when you ate it, all the household chores you had to help with. I mean, everything was micromanaged for you. How would you feel? You would probably feel frustrated and angry and upset because it seemed like all they cared about was rigid routine. But if you start to loosen the reins a little bit, and if you start to allow your children to be children and explore and be creative, you will begin to see a huge shift in your whole family dynamic. Your home will be filled with peace, love, and laughter and I’m so excited for you to experience it too.
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- Hands Free Mama – By Rachel Macy Stafford
- Dr. Laura Markham – Aha Parenting
- KMoreMacro – Krista Moreland
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