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The Exhausted Parent and the Endlessly Energetic Child

Updated: Oct 12, 2021

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 being positive, children will learn to see the good in themselves and others and more easily practice kindness and gratitude.

4. Focus on fun. As parents, we can feel the pressure to complete our to-do list and to nudge our children to complete their own to do lists. Between homework, piano lessons, soccer, dishes, bath time and bedtime, who has time for play?

If we don’t make the time, kids will naturally ask for it…and sometimes, kids will ask for our attention not so politely.

Kids crave connection and can have quite a reaction if we don’t carve out 1:1 quality time. Try to find at least five minutes a day of 1:1 playtime if not more. Shut off the T.V., put the phone away, set the chores aside and just focus five minutes on each other and having fun. Get creative on how to make play time fun, using toys, games, art, or sports that you both find enjoyable. Find a time of day that works best for your family. For some families, a quick card game, puzzle, or art project is a beautiful way to relax, reconnect, and wrap up the day.

5. Modeling calmness, compassion, and creativity can go a long way. Positive, playful parenting is a wonderful way to strengthen a parent-child relationship, while often preventing or lessening many behavioral challenges.

If a child’s play is getting overly rough and he’s crashing the cars and shrieking loudly, parents might calmly pick up their own toy cars and whisper, “I’m going to do a slow motion crash with my cars”. The parent playfully models slowly flipping the toy cars through the air using a whisper mixed with a little whimsy. Redirection works best when it is fun, creative, and engaging. Kids will likely follow your lead and calmly join this novel and creative play. If your child continues to struggle to regulate their emotions and energy, you might need to calmly put away the toy cars temporarily and transition to a new activity to help your child reset and refocus.

Remember that your calm demeanor and consistent rules will help kids feel safe, while your compassionate words and actions help kids feel loved.

Focusing on calm, compassionate, and creative parenting mixed with consistency is

a beautiful way to parent with more ease and to foster more cooperative, joy-filled family time.

Want to learn more ways to parent with positive communication, consistency, and compassion? Check out Healthy Focus’s Parent Coaching. If you are a professional seeking to deepen your work with families, check out Healthy Focus’s Professional Trainings.

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