Positive Parenting During Stressful Times

Positive Parenting During Stressful Times
Image by Libertinus (license).

Note: This is a guest post by Brianna K. Grant of Girl Who Loves to Run.

I love my children. My husband loves our children. We also love when they are sleeping. When our children are in dreamland, we have a chance to catch up on one another’s day, watch a little television, read or even make plans for our “someday” vacation.

Around 7PM we do a telepathic high-five across the playroom, celebrating the countdown for bedtime. If we’re still standing, we can surely survive another 60 minutes. Those last few minutes are really nice ones anyhow: bath time, light snack, reading books, tooth brushing, prayers and a quick snuggle with each child.

It is a nice, consistent, fluid routine. Sounds easy, right? It has been relatively smooth, up until this last week when our 22 month-old, the one my husband recently nicknamed “The Fireball”, decided that she will only fall asleep if one of us is in bed with her. Oh, and if she wakes in the middle of the night, she comes to find us – three times per night, on average. Translation: three out of the four of us in the house haven’t had an uninterrupted night of sleep in at least a week. Not pretty.

On our pediatrician’s suggestion, we’re getting The Fireball accustom to falling asleep without us. This currently involves 30 minutes of repeated walks down the hall to get her back in bed. No eye contact and no talking are allowed, though I sometimes plant a quick kiss on the top of her head. I keep looking for Super Nanny cameras taping my every move, wondering if I’m truly doing it right or if the kiss is a sign of weakness and I’m in need of some professional intervention.

As I prepared for this transition period yesterday I thought back on a similar bedtime frustration when my son, “The Tornado”, was her age. It was a tough time filled with crying, temper tantrums, thrashing of arms and legs and dozens of trips back and forth down the hallway to return him to his bed.

The method eventually worked and he learned to fall asleep with out us beside him, but it left us feeling downtrodden. Thankfully The Tornado is now 4 and is nearly asleep before his head even hits the pillow.

I decided that this round of bedtime challenge with The Fireball can go one of two ways:

1) It can leave me feeling exhausted and rotten like we did the first time.
2) It can leave me feeling like a strong parent who is helping her child develop an important skill.

Yes, re-establishing positive sleep habits is hard work either way and bottom line will be the same (a child who can fall asleep independently and self-adjust in the middle of the night), but the second option is filled with positive light and encouragement. I’m working toward that one.

So here are the things I’ve done the last two nights that help me stay calm and leave me feeling hopeful:

  1. I use the time to focus on my posture and breathe deeply. When I get going with my day I sometimes forget these two important things. Focusing on improving my physical self takes the pressure off my stressed mental self, thus easing the situation a bit.
  2. I make a mental list of all the positive things The Fireball did that day. Focusing on her strengths and heart-warming personality helps me see how important it is for her to get a proper rest so she can tackle the next day with as much gusto. A full day leaves small children just as tired as adults. This refocus also helps me take her meltdowns less personally.
  3. I stretch my tense muscles while I await her search for me. Neck rolls, eagle arms and other asanas from my yoga practice are things I should do everyday, anyhow. This is a great opportunity for healthy multi-tasking.
  4. I think about what my wise mother-in-law told me when I was pregnant with The Tornado: This time is but a drop in the bucket of life. It will pass quickly and become but one of millions of memories you make. Sure, this bump in our bedtime road is very real and very jarring for NOW, but before we know it, we won’t even be able to make it out in our rearview mirror.
  5. I count the times I made it to the bathroom over the course of the day. Not how many times I assisted small children in the bathroom – how many times I was able to go without any company! This mental tally is a comical distraction AND a wake-up call that I should drink more water (which would also help my body filter stress, right?).

Whether or not you have children, I’m sure you can apply the things I’m trying in SOME realm of your life. I nearly laughed out loud when I was thinking how surviving an exhausted, crying child might be likened to enduring a business meeting during which the boss goes on and on and on . . . and the employees are desperately trying to survive the meeting so they can have energy to get on with life when they’re released.

Maybe yoga asanas aren’t always appropriate in the middle of a meeting, as eagle arms are a dead give-away that your mind is someplace else (though my husband claims it is acceptable to do this pose at the coffee machine if you are okay with getting a few strange looks).

Consider that the other suggestions may just make the difference between becoming “that whiny guy” at the office and “that gal who can turn any situation into a positive one”. For now my office is at home, but I like when The Tornado asks, “Why are you smiling, Mom?” much better than when he hints at my moodiness as only he can, “Mom, it looks like you could use some alone time.”

Brianna K. Grant is an award-winning author and stay-at-home mom based outside of Seattle, Washington who blogs about running and life-balance at Girl Who Loves to Run. You can read another article of hers, about adjusting for better life-balance, by clicking here.

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  • Here are some more tips on parenting during stessful times – particularly in view of Christmas…

    Happy Holiday Season Depends on Family Financial Planning

    Many kids have parents convinced that life will just be a bust without the latest video game or hottest cell phone. With the recession looming large though, parents are struggling to shelter the children from their financial and employment woes, yet bestow upon them a memorable Christmas.

    As parents withhold their concerns, their children continue to up the ante for this year’s Christmas take. The risk is either a disappointing Christmas or overwhelming New Year’s bills.

    The challenge is for parents to resist the incoming tide of subtle and not so subtle expectations.

    To reduce the risk of Christmas gift disappointment and overwhelming bills, try some family financial Christmas planning with these strategies:

    1 Be honest and forthright with teenaged children about your financial and employment concerns, without trying to instill fear. Let your children know of your plans to survive the economic meltdown including cutting back on the Christmas gift-giving budget. This may actually put them to ease despite their upset at the impact of the current economic situation too.

    2 Inform your children of your budget and ask them for their gift preferences in line with the budget. When expectations are clear on both sides, there is less room for disappointment.

    3 Involve your children in cost-cutting decisions and making plans for Christmas celebrations. It just may be that if included, they come up with some good ideas. Being part of the planning process, they will then likely enjoy what you mutually determine.

    4 Pool resources. You may not be able to afford that one special gift yourself. However, if you go in on it with a few relatives, it may then be affordable. So the answer may not be how many gifts are given and received, but how many people contribute to that one special present

    Children typically respond and adjust better to change when they are part of the process. The recession is real and discussing it with them can help them to cope better and you to feel better. Children may be initially disappointed and that would be normal and reasonable. However, they too must learn to live within their means and make the best of life and circumstances.

    A memorable Christmas may just be one where everyone comes together with a workable plan to enjoy the day.

    Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW


    Gary Direnfeld is a social worker in private practice. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider Gary an expert on child development, parent-child relations, marital and family therapy, custody and access recommendations, social work and an expert for the purpose of giving a critique on a Section 112 (social work) report.

  • Hi

    Love this post – and I’m not a parent!

    Will keep point 4 in mind for “one day”.
    Point 5 gives me the chuckles, will try that one out (even though I’m alone in the toilet)

    Great names for the little (but not so quiet) ones.


  • I love how you decided to make a conscious choice about your reaction to The Fireball’s current actions.

    It’s not just Pollyanna-ism – I believe that we all have the ability to choose positive or negative reactions to things and in this case by choosing the positive one, you’re strengthening your resolve and likely doing your daughter a world of good by seeing a strong happy mom instead of a stressed and frustrated one.

    Well done!

    PS. I’d love to know what your “someday” vacation is and why it’s “someday” instead of in x amount of time. ;)

  • We’ve always been the mean old parents who’s child falls asleep without much assistance. So it wasn’t that big of a deal. The day we moved her to the big girl bed we wore her out! No nope, and lots of activities then she was way to tired to fight with us. Four lay back downs and it was over two the next day and no more.

    I’ve only made it to the bathroom alone 5 times and 1 shower alone in the last 20 month LOL