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by Amber Strocel on Sep 04, 2023

Like most parents, I depend on routines to keep the family running on track and on time. 

Our bedtime routines are a big help. Even though we aren’t rigid about adhering to them, we do follow them most nights. I need my routine as much as my children need theirs. My children’s bedtime routine helps ease them into sleep. My own nighttime routine helps me to take care of myself.

My nighttime routine begins when my kids go to bed and I can get time to myself. I revel in the quiet. I can use the bathroom by myself! I eat a bowl of ice cream without having to share it with anyone. I work on something I've been putting off or that I can't do with my kids around.

I’m probably not alone in savoring my evening and probably not the only parent who finds her nighttime hours creeping later and later. I start to feel tired. I know that morning will come all too soon, but I don't go to bed because I enjoy the quiet and freedom. I end up staying up far later than I should. In the morning, I do not wake well rested. Sometimes I am flat-out sleep deprived. 

Still, I do it over again the next night. I don't want to give up that precious time that I have to myself in the evenings after my children go to bed. I need to figure out a better way to do this. How do you do it?

Balancing our time as parents takes intentional routine. We all need to carve out time doing what refreshes us as well as time to spend with others. Which of your routines brings you the most balance right now?

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by AJ on Aug 29, 2023

My toddler daughter has recently started pulling my hair. 

I’ve read a lot of online discussions about parents using timeout to discipline their children, but I’ve also read about time-in.

I first learned about time-in through an article written by Angela White:

"... I talked to a friend who used what she called time-in. Time-in involved getting down on my daughter's level and holding her if she wanted that and talking about the kind of behavior that was acceptable and not acceptable. I realized that many times when my child was acting up, she was really looking for more attention from me. It was a lot better for both of us if I gave her positive attention in the first place and refrained from negative attention like yelling and shaming. ..."

There’s research on the time-in technique, too, by Southern Methodist University (USA). 

Timeout is a form of punishment. It can change my child’s behavior but doesn’t help my relationship with her. 

Time-in gets to the heart of the matter while also improving my relationship with my daughter: Why is she pulling my hair? What is her underlying need? Is there something I can do that meets that underlying need and also strengthens our relationship?

Developmentally, hair-pulling is a common way that toddlers communicate their frustration. At this age, children are just learning how to talk and haven’t learned how to identify their feelings, let alone manage their anger.

After reading about both timeout and time-in, I decided to try time-in the next time that my daughter pulled my hair.

I noticed that my daughter pulled my hair when she was tired and wanted more attention. Instead of sending my daughter away from me for timeout, I kept her with me and talked to her about how pulling my hair hurts me and that it’s not okay to pull someone else’s hair. I then offered her a hug and asked if she wanted to nurse or have some playtime with me.

Had I used timeout, I think she would only be more upset. Punishing my child would have made her underlying need for attention worse rather than resolve it.

I feel that being respectful to our children, by questioning why they are behaving like this, we can sort out half of the problem. Timeout may change their behavior, but timeout cannot resolve the underlying problem, address our child's needs, or help parents better understand their children and grow closer to them. 

What moments during your day do you use time-in in how you guide your child's behavior?

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by Alexis Schrader on Aug 24, 2023

Sometimes I struggle when my child is angry or having a tantrum in public or won't go to bed when I am exhausted and frustrated. 

I navigate these and other high-stress situations better when I have been able to keep my stress levels low and have stayed connected with friends who support my parenting goals.

It’s also important for me to become aware of how often I react in a way I'd rather not and what triggers those responses. I've heard that some parents use wrist bangles, moving a bangle from one side of their body to the other each time they react to their children in a way they'd rather not. I prefer to gently snap a rubber band on my wrist. This helps me become conscious of patterns that provoke a certain reaction from me.

When I’m in the moment, and feel anger boiling up, these are four go-to tricks that work for me:

  1. Do some kind of physical activity. Running around the house, jumping up and down, dancing, or other exercise helps the brain process stress that might otherwise be directed toward my children. It's also funny for little kids to see Mom or Dad suddenly jumping up and down, which can diffuse a stressful situation.
  2. Sing what I would like to say to my child. I can't yell if I'm singing. I also find singing tends to get my kids' attention easier than talking, because it's out of the ordinary. Singing also forces me to control my breath, which helps me calm down.
  3. Repeat a calming mantra. My personal favorite is "Serenity now!" Try yelling that and see if you can keep yourself from feeling better after that. Try writing your mantra on sticky notes hung around the house or maybe on your arm. Bonus points if it makes you laugh.
  4. Leave the room. I've had friends express concern about this because it seems similar to a timeout. The difference is, a timeout is a controlled response by the parent to the child; leaving the room is helpful when you are worried that you can't control your response. Once I'm in the other room, I take deep breaths to calm down. Other parents find they need to scream into a pillow. When I come back into the room with my child, or before I leave the room if I'm able, I explain to my child what happened: For example, "I was feeling frustrated and needed to take a break to calm down." I find this a good way to talk to my children about their strong feelings and healthy ways to deal with them.

Even with these tricks, I sometimes make mistakes. I just make sure to take time to reconnect with my child when this happens and move forward doing the best that I can.

What helps you to stay calm and able to respond sensitively to your child in a moment of frustration?

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