Calm Parenting: Conversations with Aaliyah

Calm Parenting: Conversations with Aaliyah

I have been working with Aaliyah and her family for a few months now and, last week, we covered this important topic. Perhaps you have the patience of a saint, or perhaps you are blessed with children who are just really calm and easy to be around. But if, like me, you have neither, then you might well enjoy the latest in this question and answer series. Thanks again, Aaliyah!

Hi Anna, I hope you well. Thank you for all your advice and for the Zoom chat last week. I am trying to follow what you said about reading but I feel sometimes I am not doing it right and it makes me feel so frustrated. By the way, do you get angry with your children sometimes? How do you control your anger when they just don’t listen? I am struggling with this at the moment, too. I really appreciate all your advice and your time. Thank you so much. Regards, Aaliyah

Dear Aaliyah,

It’s really nice to hear from you again and yes, of course I get cross sometimes. My three are young as well and it can feel chaotic; however, you are right to address this, as raising your voice or snapping definitely shouldn’t become a default. So my main advice here is:

1. Set your alarm early and start the day right. If you get up before the children, shower, dress, have a coffee and feel prepared for the day, it will always begin better and you will be ready for anything that is thrown at you.

2. Make sure they are eating right. Limit sugar, refined carbs and fizzy drinks. Children behave totally differently when they are influenced by these things. Instead, make sure they are eating home prepared food which is healthy and filling, such as toast, porridge, pasta, soup or a sandwich.

3. Walk away from conflict. The more you find yourself shouting, the more you will shout. It’s because you get into a habit of shouting, plus the children become unresponsive to it, making you feel that nothing is getting through to them. Instead, always breathe and take a count of 10 to figure out another way of approaching the issue. I always find that crouching or kneeling down to the level of my younger ones and looking them in the eye when we discuss issues, is the best way to establish a connection, understand their point of view and move forwards from a behaviour issue.

4. Remember that with homeschooling – even if this is a temporary phase – you will have more success if you allow the children to lead with what they want to do, rather than trying to make them do activities that you perceive as valuable. So, rather than telling them ‘now it’s time for maths’, try looking at what they are keen to do, for example making a tunnel for toy cars or perhaps baking, and see if you can find the learning in that moment. “Okay so we are going to need 100g of butter. How many grams are in the block? Can you read that number? What is half of that?” Conversational learning is incredibly important; it is how human beings have passed on knowledge for thousands of years.

5. Switch off all notifications on your phone. Juggling several things at once can push anyone’s stress levels up and I totally get it; like you, I am managing the kids, the house, and working from home. Constantly checking your phone, however, because email or Twitter alerts keep popping up, can upset the day because the children feel aggravated that they don’t have your full attention and, in turn, you might get frustrated that you can’t simply reply to a work email in peace for one minute. Instead, cut all notifications and popups in ‘settings’ on your phone and wait for a moment in the day when the children are happily focused on an independent activity. This is when you can quickly clear anything work related and then refocus your attention on the children, without disrupting the day.

6. Prepare yourself mentally for bedtime. This can feel like the point in the day when everything blows up, because you desperately need a break to recharge for tomorrow and the kids just don’t want to play ball. Because I do bedtime on my own every day (my husband works evenings), this can really push my buttons too, so I literally give myself a pep talk most days as I’m moving from bath and stories to actual bedtime. This helps me to stay calm and focused, because I am aware of my own exhaustion and feel more in control of it.

Good luck and let me know how you get on! Check out my post 101 Homeschooling Ideas for a list of fun things to do with your kids, but there’s a lot more material and homeschool pedagogy on the website, if you have a look around.

Again, is it okay if I use this as a blog post? You do keep hitting me with great questions.