Are your children always squabbling? Follow these tips to avoid shouting and disciplining every day.
“Stop it!” “You started it!” “You’re so dumb!” “Mom, he’s bothering me!” “I’m going to tell Dad!” “You’re so mean!”
If your children’s arguments sometimes (often?) push you to the limit, these tips may help you better manage conflicts (and spare your frazzled nerves as well).
1Try to keep your voice down
The kids are screaming like crazy? Though it’s very tempting, don’t respond to anger with anger. That will only stress everyone out. Instead, try a lower but firm tone of voice.
Are things threatening to boil over? Create a diversion. Get out of this pressure cooker atmosphere quick and give the family time out for some air: “Come on, let’s go for a walk!” A bit of subterfuge can jolly along even the most ornery: a ride on a merry-go-round, a bike ride, etc. If a family outing isn’t possible, manual activity can bail you out. Consider some timely home decoration. There are endless opportunities: Church feast days, visits from friends, birthdays. Another good idea: board games that bring young and old together. They can be a great occasion of laughter and giggles. On the other hand, video games should be resorted to in moderation.
Clenched fists, eyes bulging … a fight’s about to break out! First, take a deep breath and try to call a truce before the fireworks start. The best thing is for everyone to retreat to their corner. To help calm your children’s nerves, why not invest in a punching bag, or even make a home-made one? The presence of animals can also help calm down turbulent excited children. Another idea: suggest that the children, the little ones as well as the older, keep an anger diary in which they express their feelings. When the storm subsides, you can then talk over what happened together. Finally, prayer is the best stress relief. Curiously, it’s when we’re most tense and tired that we tend to cut it short, or put it off altogether. What if we took the time to do exactly the opposite? The more overwhelmed we are, the more we need to take the time to unburden our worries before (and in) the Lord.
4Remember: Kids don't work the same way
“Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12). Now there’s a challenge! Our reactions to events are so varied, it’s sometimes difficult to understand or, indeed, even put up with those who function differently from us. And yet we must. Never forget that children live in the present; we don’t. When they want something, they express it immediately and at the top of their voices. Remember that not everyone has the same force of character or temperament. After an upset, for example, the most mature temperament will quickly turn the page, while the less mature will brood over it.
5Keep an eye on everyone's fatigue and stress levels
Fatigue isn’t conducive to maintaining a good family atmosphere. It exhausts our reserves of patience on the one hand, and creates a stock of dynamite on the other. And it’s so easy to light that fuse! So, make sure everyone’s had a good night’s sleep. Perhaps one of the kids needs to rest a little more than his brothers and sisters? And what about you? Do you need a breather? If you feel fatigue overwhelming you, get outside for some fresh air.
6Lighten things up!
Don’t hesitate to add a little sweetness and light to daily family life. And then, don’t forget to laugh! We can never laugh enough. By acting on our musculature and our breathing, laughter has a relaxing effect. Watch a comedy together as a family, encourage your kids expressiveness and spontaneity. Why not suggest your family do some improvised sketches of their own? All you need is a theme, two or three props, and you’re off! And don’t forget to immortalize those moments in a few photos.
Regular physical activity improves cardiac and respiratory function, and combats stress and nervous tension. Sports also produce a healthy fatigue. Encouraging your children’s sports activities will help avoid over-excitement at home. It’s better to suffer a few stiff muscles rather than bruises from domestic brawls!
8Music to soothe the soul
Some forms of music have a soothing effect, particularly slow movements of baroque (Corelli, Vivaldi, Bach), classical (Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven), romantic (Schumann, Brahms, Chopin, Liszt), or Gregorian chant. Why not put on some music from time to time to calm the atmosphere?
9Planning ahead helps
There’s nothing like a poorly controlled rush in the morning to create an electric atmosphere. Sometimes it’s just a question of setting your alarm clock (a little) earlier than the others in your household to give you time to prepare a calm breakfast together. And, if everything is prepared the night before (bookbags, lunchboxes, clothes laid out), you’ll all be free to start the day in peace. No more barking last-minute orders that get on everyone’s nerves. There’s no point in running if only you start at the right time. Apply the same rule to meals: if you eat late, hunger and fatigue only increase occasions of annoyance and bad temper.
A family that argues isn’t necessarily a bad one. A good argument can even sometimes get things back on track. It’s a chance to get things off one’s chest, to express one’s grievances instead of letting them fester. As long as we know how to communicate intelligently and with love, it can resolve problems often born of shallow misunderstandings that lead to the inevitable friction of personalities. It can bring us to reel in our selfishness, over-sensitivity, and impatience.
11An opportunity for forgiveness
With all the good will in the world, we’ll never be able to completely avoid arguments. And only God can console us for the unhappiness they cause. However, they offer the opportunity to question ourselves and, if necessary, to recognize our faults. After the tears and the shouting come the apologies. And it’s important for children to discover the power of forgiveness.
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