The Exhausted Parent and the Endlessly Energetic Child

Updated: Oct 12

Do you feel like your gas tank is on E and your child is often full speed ahead? You are not alone.

Raising children takes love, patience, and energy…lots of energy. Does it ever feel like you spend your day putting out fires in an effort to get the kids to stop whining, complaining, and fighting? Does it feel like you are pulling teeth to get your kids to perform the most simple task? It’s exhausting. We only have so much reserves and patience.

What if I told you that investing in a little playfulness, positivity, and prevention could save you time, energy, and parenting headaches?

Wouldn’t you rather focus on more creative prevention than punitive reaction? When we model calm, consistent parenting, kids feel more connected and invested in working as a team and doing the very best they can.

Here are the top 5 ways to parent in a more calm, compassionate, creative, and consistent manner that leads to more cooperative family interactions.

1. Know your child and their needs. What is their behavior trying to communicate? Are they hungry, tired, feeling insecure, anxious, sad, angry, overly excited?

Figure out what is behind your child’s misbehavior and then set them up for success.

If your kids are bouncing off the walls, provide opportunities to release their energy in fun and safe ways. Consider physical games that get kids into motion, like hide and seek, jump rope, Simon Says, Red Light Green Light, a dance party, playing catch, or a sport. The word “motion” is right there in the word “emotion,” giving us a clue that humans can regulate their mind and body through motion. When your kids need help settling, offer a hug or cuddling together and reading a book. Keep in mind that kids may act out or become irritable when they are hungry or tired so be prepared to offer a healthy snack or rest time.

Check in about their day and what went well and not so well. Give kids permission to feel their feelings, and space to talk and release their emotions. You are their container. You are their safe place to hold their feelings and let them know it’s OK to feel your feelings.

2. Consider child development. Young kids often struggle to regulate their emotions, control their impulses, and to focus, sit still, and pay attention. Keep in mind that the human brain is developing well into the mid-twenties and the part of the brain that focuses on rational thinking is the last to fully develop.

Remember that the younger the child, the more difficulty they may have with regulating their emotions, and they will often need your gentle support and guidance.

Let’s consider going to a restaurant with an energetic, curious, and playful two-year-old. What happens when you sit down to order food and wait for it to come? They get pretty wiggly and sometimes a little unruly. When the little one gets their food, they might nibble for a couple minutes and then try to wander and explore the restaurant. While it would be lovely to chat and eat together, we need to recognize young children’s attention spans are short. It’s OK to distract them. This is exactly why restaurants give kids crayons and a coloring placemat. And sometimes kids get bored with coloring too!

Next time you go to a restaurant, store, or doctor’s office, consider bringing a small “busy” bag filled with toy figurines, blocks, and toy cars to keep your child busy and give you a little break. Even older children struggle with the “I’m bored” syndrome, and you might consider bringing puzzles, books, or simple arts & crafts on outings. With time and practice, kids will learn to sit for longer periods of time and enjoy a meal and conversation together.

3. Be positive. Show appreciation and gratitude for your child. Oftentimes, we get busy and distracted, forgetting to savor the small moments. Let your children know how you enjoy time together. Notice when they are sharing and taking turns. Observe when they keep trying, even when things get tough. Appreciate when your kids tell you how they feel and what they need.

When your kids are full of energy, try directing their energy into active play, dance, and sports. Celebrate their zest for life and join in their imagination and creativity.

If we stay attuned to our kids' needs, they feel understood, accepted and loved. Let your children know how much you appreciate them. Thank them when they are kind, helpful, and considerate. When we model be