I don’t have perfect kids. (Then again, they also don't have a perfect mom, so I guess that makes sense.)
Fighting, whining, and toddlers getting into trouble DOES happen in my home. But the beautiful thing is, there are seasons when it doesn’t happen at all.
I started noticing patterns when my children would consistently misbehave or get on my nerve, and found there were a few main reasons my children would resort to fighting, whining, and making messes.
There are simple solutions for them!
LACK OF ATTENTION
When children feel a lack of attention, any attention will do. They’ll take a yell when they can’t get a smile. They’ll take anger over no emotion at all. They’ll take a disappointed look, over eyes that only stare at a phone. They’ll take the worst of us when they can’t have the best.
When I see my child’s "acting up" from this angle, my heart breaks for them.
Being loved isn’t enough. We all need to be convinced of it every single day.
Solutions. (No lucky charms, but some ideas to try.)
You know your children best, but here are a few places I personally start.
a. Before we became a smart phone free home, I would delete my social apps, and bury my phone 6 feet under. I’m joking, but only because most of us couldn’t do the second half of that sentence. I do think it would be best for our families though. I delete my social apps when I sense my children acting up often, because it’s too easy to think I’m being a present mother, when really my children feel they are in competition with a device for my love.
b. Look them in the eye. How often I ask my child to do something or tell them what to do without looking in their eyes and making a connection.
c. Keep them with me. This became so manageable when I realized special time with my children doesn’t have to mean sipping tea and asking a thoughtful list of questions. If a child is not getting along with their siblings, whining, having a hard day, or deliberately getting into trouble, I call them to me and ask them to help or watch whatever I am doing.
This takes them out of the disagreement and allows the other children to play happily together, keeps them in my line of sight so I don’t have to worry about the toilet paper being unrolled while I’m picking up the mud dumped on the bed sheets (yes, this happened) and gives me an opportunity to hear my child’s heart.
Some of my best memories with my mother growing up, were sitting on the kitchen barstools visiting and venting while she made dinner. While the rest of the house was buzzing, I felt I had a safe place to share my heart, and receive comfort.
LACK OF CAPABILITIES
Sometimes children fight and get into trouble because they don’t have the skills they need to do much else. They haven’t been taught to play. They don’t know how to stack blocks. Or play a card game. Or color, or poke pipe-cleaners through a strainer. They don’t know how to build a fort because they’ve never seen one made, and they don’t know how to be creative, because they watch so many screens they are used to being entertained.
Playing and working with my children each day is essential for them developing skillsets they can use by themselves. My four-year old learned how to shovel when we were gardening, and now he has a corner in the yard where he digs holes for hours with his little shovel.
He’s able to feel productive and grow his confidence and self-worth, instead of kicking around wondering what to do, and throwing a rock at my window and his sister.
These little activities can be as simple as kicking a ball into a turned over laundry basket. Jumping off a chair onto the guest bed. Or stacking cans in the living room.
Smart kids get into some of the most trouble. So pat yourself on the back if you have a little trouble-maker. You have to be three steps ahead of these kiddos, because they need new things to conquer!
We do thirty minutes of school in the morning to workout those little brains and fatigue them in a productive way. When we present our children with challenges like memorizing scripture, learning an instrument, or working on a pattern sequence, they don’t have the mental energy to be as devious in the hour or so following. Often they are content to not dream up any scheme.
These little ones brains are so quick, I cannot spend all my brain power coming up with things for them to do, so again, I simply call them to me and engage them in whatever I am doing. If they cannot help directly with the task, I might set up a drawing or reading station close by. Ask them to peel a potato, or create some other problem for their little brains or bodies to solve.
These tasks can be simple. But having that child close by so I can engage them or challenge them is often best if messes keep happening.
We don't watch much around our home these days aside from French lessons and documentaries. But when cartoons snuck into our daily rhythm I found emotions peaked in a hurry. I'm a cold-turkey kind of girl, so I just pulled the plug and the begging stopped within a day or two. I find when my children have zero access to media via screens, they are more happy, creative, and content playing with each other.
I replace screens with books on tape, and music CD's to dance around to!
Our children's ability to emotionally regulate is identical to the brain circuits that manage paying attention. So if there's a lot of distressing emotion coming from our children, there's a good chance they can be overstimulated by "fast-fixes."
If it's not realistic to cut all media in your season (hello, postpartum and illness, and especially-trying-times), I like to allow slllllowwwww boring, documentaries with moving pictures and old-man-talking-heads, instead of animation. (Chances are, all of a sudden playtime will look a lot more enchanting.)
As always, I'm learning with you!
If you are looking to create more systems that simplify your home, check out Katie's Free Masterclass to learn her top three tips for creating a peacefully productive home!
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