Stress Free Parenting – is it even possible?

Is there such a thing? Is stress free parenting even possible? Sometimes it seems like it is. Parenting feels easy and fun. You feel close to your children and you have a great time together. Life is just… wonderful.

When it’s Not Stress FreeSONY DSC

Other times you ask yourself what you are doing wrong – nothing seems to work. Everything is a fight and a struggle. Even the simplest tasks like brushing teeth becomes a conflict of huge proportions. Every day you have the same arguments. Before it even begins you know it is coming.  You see it, you know it but you can’t stop the 30-minute argument.

You ask yourself what is wrong with you. It must be you who is to blame. If it isn’t you, it has to be the child. Someone has to be the reason why it isn’t working. Families around you seem to have it all together. They never seem to fight and have those bad days. (By the way: they do have them too!)

The thing is if you focus on who is to blame, you’ll never solve the situation. Try to find the situation you want to adjust and create a new pattern around it.

Finding the Biggest Problem

At times there is one problem that affects everything else. Or at least a problem that is bigger than the others. You know that if you got it under control everything else would be easier to handle.

You should choose a problem you want to solve. It’s important not to try to solve everything at the same time; one issue at time. If you try to correct it all, you’ll only end up solving nothing. Pick a situation that ends up in fights every single day. It could be a child not wanting to go to bed at night or refusing to sleep in his or her own room. It could be a child screaming in the grocery store if he or she doesn’t get a new toy. Sometimes a child is refusing to do their homework and is prepared to start a fight that will last for an hour just to make sure there will be no time left to do the homework. The situation always ends up the same way. It takes a long time to get passed the situation and by then everyone is mad and upset.

The Snake031

In my opinion, one of the best ways to handle a situation like this is to do a 90 day program which my son and I call the snake. You and your child agree to the rules. The situation you are practicing might be to fall asleep in your own bed in your own room and stay there all night for ninety days. Talk about how mastering this will benefit your child. Don’ forget to talk about the challenges that the child will face and how to overcome them. Every time the child manages to do the assignment – in this case fall asleep in their own room and stay there all night – they cross over one day on the snake. If it doesn’t work, don’t focus on that. There will be a new day and next time it will work. Don’t let your child feel like a failure. Instead, let him/her feel fantastic every time it works the way you agreed on. This will motivate your child to continue.

Now to the fun part, the part that will help your child be prepared to agree with this project. There are rewards! Thirteen to be exact. You should have twelve pieces of 030paper. On each paper, you would write down the rewards you and your child agree on. The last reward, number thirteen, is a different one and should not be written on a piece of paper. Find different kind of rewards. Make sure it’s not only going to be things that will cost money. Find things you could do together with your child. Perhaps the biggest reward will be to have fun with mom or dad.

Example of rewards could be to go to the beach, go to the Zoo, bake a cake with mom or dad, stay up to midnight, get a few football cards, play Nintendo or computer game for an hour with mom or dad, have a “chocolate party” with lots and lots of chocolate, have a movie night at home with the hole family or having a party at home with sweets, dance and music. You know your own child so find rewards that your child will like.

Every day they have managed the assignment they are crossing over a day marked on the snake. Some days have a question mark instead of a number. When the child crosses over a day with a question mark they will draw a piece of paper with a written reward (the cards you made earlier). Make sure they will not be able to see what is written on the papers as they choose one. This way they will not know what reward they are going to get until they read the card. This is exciting!

So you may be wondering what happens on the very last day?  Well, then they have managed 90 days! For this day you should already have chosen a special reward. It should be something big; something that your child really, really wants. This has to be something that will make your child continue even when he or she has a bad day and wants to go back to old habits. An example of a big reward could be to get a new bed, to renovate the room to a princess-like-room or to go to an amusement park for the weekend. Keep in mind the better reward the greater chance that the child will continue with the snake.  Now just after 90 days, they have created a new habit. The best things with habits are that you’ll continue to do them without thinking. Even children do…

Here are the steps again:

  1. Find a problem you want to correct.
  2. Talk to the child about the snake.
  3. Talk about the issue you are going to work on for 90 days.
  4. Talk about how mastering this will benefit the child.
  5. Talk about the challenges they might have and how to overcome them.
  6. Have twelve pieces of paper.
  7. Write down a reward on each paper. Make sure you and your child agree on the rewards.
  8. Choose a big reward when the 90 days are over. Make sure this is something your child really, really wants.
  9. Every day your child has managed the assignment, he or she crosses over a day on the snake.
  10.  If there is a question mark on the day that gets crossed over the child will pick a piece of paper with rewards without looking at it – this way the child will get surprised to see what the reward will be that day.
  11.  After 90 days the child will get the big reward – and you will have a child    with a new habit.

This is working really well for my son and me. Let me know how it’s working for you!happy child 2015

10 Replies to “Stress Free Parenting – is it even possible?”

  1. My oldest boy is only two and I’m starting to be preventative as best I can about keeping him calm and reducing stress for myself and my husband. But this is a very creative idea. I’ll keep it in mind when things start to get really hairy!

    • I’m so glad you like the idea. When my son was six it was very intense. He, like many children that age, knew exactly what he wanted and was prepared to do anything to get it. Finding the snake helped us a lot. Suddenly he was so interested in earning the rewards he forgot to get everything his own way. Then, when we didn’t fight so much, we started to have fun together again. After that the problems were gone. Punishment never worked with him. But for a reward he can do almost anything.

    • I’m glad you find it helpful, Ship. Having a son with autism is very stressful. My son has a cousin with autism so I know how much work it means and how stressful it can be. But also how rewarding it can be. The key is to remember to take time for yourself so you don’t “burn out”. Wish you the best. Marie

  2. My son is 17 going on 18 in a couple of months. He stresses me out every day. I swear he was much smarter, wiser, and had more common sense when he was 12. Great article and I really like the snake idea.

    • Hello Dave, and thanks for your kind words. I don’t know if this is true – I’m not a doctor – but from what I understand the brain of a teenager is almost like an adults… except the emotional part of the brain. This part is growing really fast. When they start to get emotional it overrides the logical part. Having a calm conversation with a teenager they are often very logical and thinks like an adult. But the minute they get emotional, witch happens quite often, they make other decisions. Logically they might know they shouldn’t do something and even decide they’re not going to do it but if they get emotional they go with the feeling instead. So, the good news is – it’ll stop growing and then this situation will disappear…

  3. My child has just been born and indeed it is a lot of stress.
    I will try the snake method once the child is older.
    But I think that I will tweak the snake to 30 days because 90 days might seem like an insurmountable task to the child.

    • Hello Sebastian, congratulations on your newborn child! It is a lot of stress – and joy! This time in your child’s life is going so fast, try to be a part of it as much as you can.

      I think you have a good point with doing the snake for 30 days. I think you should modify this so it will work for you and your family. If you do this with a 5 year old it will be different than if you do it with a 10 year old. My son was 8 when I used it the first time – and by that age 90 days are not quite so much. For us it worked just fine. Had he been younger I would have modified it and made it for a shorter time.

  4. Hello, Marie. Great article. My sons are 40 now, but I would have loved to have this idea when they were young, I think it would have helped in a lot of situations. Keep up the great work!

    • Hi Peggy, thanks for your kind words. It has made my life easier. Instead of punishment my son gets rewards. We don’t have to argue so much. The best thing is that it gives us more time to have fun together.

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