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Purposeful Parenting

How to Avoid the Epic Meltdown: Understanding Your Child’s Cues



How to Avoid the Epic Meltdown | Chaos & Kiddos: Mommy's Survival Guide
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How to Avoid the Epic Meltdown: Understanding Your Child's Cues - Infographic

Duh, duh, duh….the dreaded meltdown. With one kid, this can bring the strongest mommy to her knees. With multiples, well…the word “epic” takes on a completely new meaning. In the worst possible way.

My system certainly isn’t perfect, and my kids give new meaning to the word tantrum (I have one that goes “no bones, limp baby, immovable and impossible to catch” and one that goes “cement block that weighs a bazillion pounds and can’t be bended, lifted and/or manipulated in any fashion,” with both adding crazy decibel, ear-splitting screams to boot). At some point in the insanity, I learned to anticipate the meltdown.
My husband and I can spot a meltdown coming from a mile away. We’ll give the other that “It’s time to go. Stat. Grab the kids and sprint. NOW. Forget your shoes! Leave them! Run!” look and as the rest of the human race looks on in bewildered dismay, we quickly head for the hills before things get ugly. I think we have our exit down to about 46 seconds these days (58 if I get to grab my shoes).
On a day-to-day basis, I’ve developed a couple of tricks that stave off most meltdowns. IF I’m paying attention. This is where the understanding your child’s cues part comes in to play. You have to catch the cue before it’s too late. “Practice makes perfect” is the phrase of the day here. Or is “trial through fire” more resonant? In any event, here are my go to lifesavers:

1. Mini Baby Blanket with Attachment Loop – Cold is the enemy. Nothing brings on the whine, which brings on the frustration, which brings on the ultimate refusal to act like a normal human being like frigid weather. I was lugging around blankets to tuck the kids in to their car seats (Remember to avoid bulky coats when strapping kiddos in!) and they were getting tossed, dropped, forgotten, you name it. Then I realized my mother-in-law had given us these super cute sensory blankets with a loop that could attach to a stroller and the light bulb went off. I strapped both blankets to the side of each car seat (they are small and hang to the side if unused, so unobtrusive and the loop is short and sweet, so no wrapping around anything else) and they’re always there when I need them. The link above is one of many Etsy shops that make these small wonders, and ours are even sports themed, so the husband is happy.
2. Baby Sign Language – I admit to being one of those people that eye-rolled the idea of baby sign language when I was pregnant. Never gave it a second thought until my kids starting screaming for reasons that I couldn’t seem to identify. A friend suggested I take a jab at it, and purely out of desperation, I did, still with a bit of attitude and skepticism. And then the boys started signing back. HALLELUJAH! We did only the basics – “More, All Done, Hungry, Please, Thank You” – and that opened up whole new worlds for us in communication. Not only were they excited to sign and overjoyed that I knew what the heck was going on, but I was immensely relieved and didn’t feel like Failure Parent of the Century. Big win. I eat my humble pie proudly. I was an idiot to think this was lame.
3. Snacks at the Ready – Baby Cooler – If cold is the enemy, hunger is the Antichrist. I’d say a good 50% of the time, the boys’ tantrums stem from being hungry. We’re usually in transition to our next meal when the tank slips below E. Low fuel = channeling Satan. And the perfect timing for this special little stream of insanity was pick up from day care. The kids were tired and spent and ready for dinner. Like, 5 minutes before I got there. The first words I heard daily were “Mommy! I need my milk! Hungry!” They were whining, crying, going all sorts of Apocalyptic on me because the last thing they wanted was to be strapped into their car seats for the ride home. They wanted to be teleported straight to the dinner table. I got tired of this daily warfare, especially at the end of my own long day at work, so I started packing snacks and milk in this convenient little cooler (which as an aside, a friend gave me with the promise that it would be one of the most handy baby items I received – she was right). It gets stashed in the community kitchen at work and I grab it on my way out the door each evening. Every morning, I repack and head off knowing that I’ve crossed one tantrum off the list for that day. Yay me.Insert random cuteness here…I mean seriously, people, how can these children have meltdowns that rival the End of Days?

Photos Courtesy of Somer Anne Photography

Moral of the story? A little organization and forethought can go a long way. Considering WHY my kids were throwing tantrums and then exploring what I could do to prevent them before they started has saved me a million tears. Like I said, it’s not a perfect system. But every little bit helps.

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Purposeful Parenting

How to Speak the Right Language: Understanding Your Child’s Cues



How to Speak the Right Language | Understanding Your Children's Cues
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Every day I pick up my children from day care to hear “They are such great kids! They had a blast today and are some of the best listeners we’ve ever had. They’re so well-behaved!” Yay, Mama win! And then we go home and they act like total demon-infested, hell-raising psychos and won’t listen to a word I say. Weekends can be brutal and I sometimes find myself praising Jesus that I decided to keep working and not stay-at-home.

What was I doing wrong? Who were these little hellions and where were those
sweet kids from day care?
Purposeful Parenting - How to Speak the Right Language: Understanding Your Child's Cues Purposeful Parenting - How to Speak the Right Language: Understanding Your Child's Cues

Best Thing I Ever Did: I went to pick the kids up one day and they were enjoying themselves, so I decided to just sit and watch for a bit and let them play. Funny thing happened. I started listening to how the day care teachers communicated with my children and how they responded. And the light bulb went off. I don’t know how to speak the language my kids understand.

I started listening harder. And then I came back the next day and did it again. Now, every time I drop off or pick up, I listen. How are they talking to my kids? What are they saying? How are the kids responding? And then I mimick it at home.

Major win!!! My kids are starting to see an extension of their daily routine back into the home and it’s making sense. I say certain words they’re used to hearing and like magic, they listen. Not every time (which I suspect also happens at day care), but the majority of time. Major improvement. We are starting to speak the same language.

Sometimes I forget (or refuse to admit) that I am not my children’s primary care provider. For those of us that work outside the home, most often our kids spend the majority of their time somewhere other than with us. Sometimes, being reminded of that hurts. A lot. But truth is, they develop routines, cues and references that we’re not familiar with. We need to learn the language they are used to hearing every day so that we can communicate our needs in a way they understand. I need to speak my children’s language.

Phrase Adjustments that Worked for Me: 

  • “Walk away please” instead of “No!” or “Don’t Touch!” 
  • “Are you using your listening ears?” instead of “Listen to me!”
  • “I’m going to go to work for awhile, but Mommies always come back!” instead of “Say bye to Mommy. I have to go to work.” 

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Emily Speaks

11 Alternatives to Self Harm: Emily Speaks



Alternatives to Self Harm | Emily Speaks | Chaos & Kiddos: Mommy's Survival Guide
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If you’re just connecting with the Emily Speaks series, be sure to check out her first post, Cyber Bullying and Self-Harm, to catch up. Today, Emily will be sharing 11 alternatives to self harm to help those hurting to make healthier choices to cope with emotional struggles. 

11 Alternatives to Self-Harm: Emily Speaks

I know it can be hard not to self-harm if you’re being bullied, but you need to try to think of other ways to deal with the pain. Cutting leaves angry scars on your body. You should try to deal with your hurt in other ways. Here are 11 good examples that will hopefully help you out a little bit.

1. Try talking to somebody about what’s going on so that you can get it out of your system.

2. Go outside where nobody is around and just scream as loud as you can for as long as you want.

3. Take a rubber band and keep it on your wrist so whenever you feel like cutting you can just take that rubber band and snap it on your wrist (softly – not to where it harms you).

4. Get an old teddy bear or stuffed animal that you don’t want and take your anger out on that.

5. Go on a jog or go out and ride your bike or long board or whatever you have and just ride around to calm yourself down.

6. Go hang out with your friend(s) and get your mind off things that would make you want to cut or do anything else to harm yourself.

7. Sleep it out and take a long nap and see how you’re feeling when you wake up.

8. Go hang out with your family and just relax.

9. Listen to some music.

10. Read a book.

11. Get an art journal and draw out your feelings. You can paint, draw pictures, even just scribble hard.

These are some of the ways that I stop myself from cutting, because I do still think about it when things get rough. When that happens, I try to do these instead and it helps. It does! You need to do anything that would take your mind off of any bad thoughts you are having and make you want to hurt yourself. This might not be the best list of ideas, but if you take a chance and try them out, they might end up working for you. You’re not only helping yourself, but you’re helping everyone else around you by making a better choice to not self-harm. 

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Purposeful Parenting

Parent Teacher Conferences: Get in the Know



Parent Teacher Conferences | Get in the Know | Chaos & Kiddos: Mommy's Survival Guide
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It’s that time of year again. Parent Teacher Conferences. When I told my husband about them, he looked at me and said “What? For the boys? They’re only two!” And I went “Heck yeah and they are so crazy super helpful.” You may remember this post (Understanding Your Child’s Cues: How to Highlight Unique Strengths) from the last go-around that opened my eyes to some glaring personality traits in my kids that I had simply overlooked in the chaos. My children’s teachers are my lifeline to understanding their unique cues and developing the best approach to their care and upbringing. While I can’t be home with my kids all day, every day, this is absolutely the next best thing for them. Their home away from home is beloved by our entire family and the support we’ve all received has been invaluable.


So. What did I learn this time? That my boys are brilliant (as if I had any doubt!). Ha. Seriously, I was thrilled to hear that they were both right on track for their age and even a little advanced in some areas. As a preemie mama (Life in the NICU: 5 Tips to Surviving Life as a Preemie Mom), this is music to my ears!

I was also able to be frank with the teachers about some of the challenges we’ve been facing at home recently and ask for some help. And praise be to Jesus, they had suggestions for all of our problems and I can’t wait to test them out at home.

Parent Teacher Conferences: List of Helpful Tips for Using Your Resources

1. B is pretty much full potty-trained at school, but regresses at home. He even went so far as to tell me that he doesn’t have to use the potty at home because he has a pull up and only needs to use the potty at school. (I told you he was crazy smart. Little negotiating lawyer wannabee.) J is off and on and informs me the second he’s gone, but won’t actively go on the potty. If I ask, they both always say no and don’t want to go. Unless of course it’s bed time and they’re stalling and magically, the potty is their happy place.

ACTION PLAN: No more pull ups. It’s time to go all out and put them in underwear around the clock. They’re smart enough to be lazy when they are in pull ups and know it won’t cause them any major discomfort. Time to take away the safety net (I admit…this thought exhausts me). They know they are supposed to go on the potty and are capable of doing it, so they need to do it. And no more asking if they have to go. Build in potty breaks and tell them it’s time to go. If they resist, make it fun. “Time to hop to the potty!” or “Pretend to be a bear and roar your way to the potty!”

2. J is still struggling at times to verbalize his frustrations and has recently regressed to more and longer tantrums where he just cries and cries and cries. Breaks my heart to see him this way (and it’s also crazy frustrating and grating on the ears and nerves).

ACTION PLAN: Repeat a specific conversation they hear in school all the time when they get upset. “J, I don’t understand why you’re crying. I don’t understand tears. I understand words. And I know you have lots of big words you can use because you are such a big boy. Can you calm down and please tell me how I can help you with your words?” If he doesn’t respond and continues to cry, walk away for a moment with a “Let me know when you are calm enough to use your words so that I can come back and help you to feel better.” Also, ask them to look you in the eyes so that they break away from their thoughts and focus on your positive energy.

3. Weekends are long, hard, brutal warfare. By Sunday night, we’re totally zapped of energy and overwhelmed at the constant bickering, all out throw down fights, tears, not listening, you name it. I admit, there are weekends where I am counting down the seconds until I drop them at day care again. This can be super frustrating when all I hear at school is how awesome they are. We struggle to move from one thing to the next (even with my singy songs!) and the minutes seem to drag. Painfully.

ACTION PLAN: Develop a specific weekend routine with the boys. As in, literally sit down with a big piece of poster board and talk to them about how you will spend your weekends. Write it out with pictures so that they can come back to it throughout the day and see the visual cue of what the next part of their day looks like. When I mentioned that I was trying to be more lazy and laid back with our weekends, they said to schedule in lazy time and explain to the boys that it was time when we hang out and do nothing. Communicate what they can expect from the day and create as strict a routine as you can and they will follow it to the letter and the fighting will decrease. Use a timer to keep them moving from one activity to the next. When the timer goes off, it’s time to switch toys or get in our seats, etc. etc. This helps shift the “blame” from you as the parent (and them as the testing child) to the phone, which is a novelty.

I guess the moral of the story here is two-fold. One, surround yourself (and your family) with resourceful people that can contribute great support and love to your lives. Being surrounded with people who truly have your best interests at heart and love your kids to pieces can be pivotal in those dark parenting moments. Two, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t feel like you need to put on a shiny “my kids are perfect” front. Admit your rough spots and seek guidance. That’s not weakness, it’s strength. Honestly, I wish they held parent teacher conferences more often. Since they don’t, I ask questions constantly. “How are the boys doing? Anything new I should know?” And I continue to watch them at day care and listen to how they interact and then mimic it at home. Use your resources! That’s what they’re there for. 🙂

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