Posted in Keeping your sanity, Parenting, Working Parent

How Parenting My ADHD Kids Became More Effective and Fullfilling

Back in 2017 I started to wonder about behavior of my older two children. They were well into elementary school by this time. And while I was trying my best to be a patient and positive role model for my kids, filling up their little cups with positive attention and special time, I still felt like things weren’t quite within my grasp — that something was just beyond what I felt like was “normal” behavior. My first breakthrough finally came in October 2019, when my middle guy was diagnosed with ADHD. And it wasn’t just the hyperactivity we were dealing with — he had the entire ADHD package: impulsivity, Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD), and General Anxiety/Depression Disorder (GAD). After several years, from preschool until the beginning of 5th grade, of trying to manage the barrage of screaming fits, belligerence, argumentativeness, overly rash behavior, and sadly over time, very real symptoms of depression, we finally had answers and help was on the way. It wasn’t long until our other children were also diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, but their symptoms nearly weren’t quite so severe. These diagnoses catapulted my journey of understanding my children’s behavior much more deeply and fully, something for which I’ve always been extremely grateful. I spent the next few years, between then and now, soaking up whatever literature and therapist blogs (!) I could find on ADHD so I could understand how their brains worked, and why they behave in the way they behave.

I write about this because parents of ADHD kids, especially the roughly 50% who also have ODD and GAD like my middle guy, often feel isolated and alone. I certainly did. I didn’t even want to admit it for a long time. I wanted to hide it! I felt like I failed in some way — that maybe I did something wrong while I was pregnant or even sometimes blamed the scary moment when he stopped breathing after he was born. But the truth is that this is simply how he is, and it’s my responsibility for bringing him up the best way I possibly can. While I was grateful we could get him medical help and regular behavioral therapy, I felt like I was the only parent in the world dealing with the full ADHD package. I’d often ask myself: “Why can’t he just act like a normal kid?” “Why won’t he be compliant like his siblings and friends?” “Why this, why that?” Well, the answer is that he’s just not wired that way. And while I was diligent about keeping up good communication with his teachers, which is vital to helping us to help him, I worried that his teachers didn’t understand him either. Even with his medication and regular therapy, he still got in trouble fairly frequently and just did some pretty “dumb stuff.” I feel like I’m always apologizing to them! I needed more understanding, more help.

If my first breakthrough moment was the diagnosis and medical and therapeutic treatment, my second would probably be all of the legitimate online help I sought and, mercifully, found, as mentioned above. If you’ve kept up with my blogs, you know that I follow positive parenting techniques, ways of teaching kids through encouragement, positive attention, role playing, etc. These certainly helped, but my frustration came from the fact that the authors I was reading, both parents and experts, were probably dealing with and studying neurotypical children, and so my original parenting books sometimes fell short in my lived experience. So I started doing more digging and found a particularly great resource: the ADDitude Magazine. This resource, in combination with my positive parenting resources, has proven invaluable. I get tips sent to my email inbox from ADDitude, Big Life Journal, and AHAparenting, so I have little tidbits of information, tips, encouragement, or advice that I can easily access everyday. These resources have helped to reinforce some of the parenting skills I have already developed, but, in the case of ADDitude Magazine, they have taught me about ADHD, and why my children, particularly my middle guy, act the way that they do. Another invaluable resource is my son’s and daughter’s respective therapists. I’ve also had several brief talks with their therapists about their experience with ADHD kids, what advice they may have, and, because I’m always digging around and reading (remember those therapist blogs I mentioned?), sometimes we discuss the latest research and techniques that are available. By understanding how my children’s brains work differently and understanding their behavior more fully, I can parent more effectively. I can get at underlying causes of behavior problems more efficiently. My kids and I can be open about our discussions on behavior and expectations. I also feel like my relationship is even deeper with my children. Am I perfect every time? No. But I’m sure to apologize, ask for forgiveness, and move on. My children are still the intelligent little people I’ve always known them to be, and to watch them shine through their struggles is such a reward for both of us! If your kids have ADD/ADHD don’t be afraid to get help and don’t lose hope! It’s easy to get discouraged (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried), but they will pull through. Give them the encouragement and positive attention they crave, line up your support system, and watch them (and yourself) shine!

Posted in Uncategorized

My Board of Encouragement

Awhile ago I blogged about the benefits of using words of encouragement over words of praise. Encouragement offers children support for positive behavior and motivates them to continue that wanted behavior. Oftentimes, behavior problems stem from children feeling discouraged and disheartened. The good news is that we can start today to focus on using encouraging words as often as possible!

While I work diligently on making sure my children’s cup is full of these uplifting words, I wanted to go one step further. I keep an “encouragement board” going in the corner of my children’s giant dry-erase board. I have written, “My kids are…” and then I follow it up with a word or words that inspire the kind of behavior I want to motivate. I change out the word every other day or so, plenty of time for them to notice it. I want them to know that I am always grateful for them, appreciate their efforts, and happy to celebrate their achievements with an eye toward keeping them motivated.

Encouragement goes such a long way toward positive behavior in children. By filling their little cups with heaps of support and inspiration, they feel secure about their actions and secure in your love and attention, so their behavior mirrors that positive reinforcement. Anytime we start to have problems or we start to have a series of days where we are backsliding, it is usually because I haven’t been as on top of offering them encouragement. I just forgive myself and promise to redouble my motivating efforts the next day, and I can start with my encouragement board! You can easily find encouraging words or phrases online if you need help getting started, but remember, encouragement is not the same as praise. Build a vocabulary of encouraging words and phrases and practice them everyday!

Posted in Keeping your sanity, Parenting

The Magic of Do-Overs: Coaching Kids to Model Positive Play and Interaction

You know the drill — one minute your children are playing perfectly well together and having a great time, then as soon as you turn around (it seems), they are arguing and shouting. You sigh, exasperated, “when will they ever learn?!”

I have three children, so I get it. That has been me, too. Countless times! It does seem like any pair of them can play well, but enter the third, and it’s all over. “When will they ever learn?!” Here’s the secret: if you don’t teach them, how can they learn? An enormous part of parenting is teaching your children, right? You teach them to color, read, write, how to do puzzles, you name it! So, we also need to teach them how to play together. It seems kind of odd, even as I’m typing this “how to play together”, but it’s true. I like to think of myself as their play coach or even life coach. I coach them, lovingly and respectfully. They learn. And one of my best and now favorite coaching tools is using do-overs. Let me give you an example:

After a while of playing nicely, I hear some angry voices. “You just took that from me!” “It was my turn!” “Don’t take toys!” — Uh-oh. I know where this is headed. I walk over (try to remember to breathe deeply first) and repeat what I hear. “It sounds like you took a toy from her. Is that what happened?” Let them say their version of events and listen to them and repeat them, so they know they are being heard and understood. Then, without judgement, offer them a do-over. If they are very young and need to be reminded of a rule, you should insert this as well and then explain what you mean by a do-over. Even with a young child, you can always ask the event was very polite or respectful of each other. I say, “Let’s have a do-over. Back up, and let’s try this again, using the rules of the house and being polite.” I will say that the first few times I tried this they just looked at me incredulously or if I had just lost my mind. Haha! We got used to it after a while. It has been an absolutely fantastic teaching tool that allows everyone to stay calm and avoids punishment. Our goal here is to simply teach, remember.

You can also use do-overs to teach negotiation skills. If you have just broken up an argument because they each want their own way, for example, you can have them come up with solutions to their problem, after repeating to them what you hear them say, then have them do the scenario over using the newly offered and agreed-upon solution. It can take weeks or even months, but after a while of good, calm, and consistent coaching, you’ll be amazed at how well they can start to work through their problems themselves, especially for children over 5 years of age. For example, yesterday I was letting my children play in some water. Their laughter started to sound like it was turning into some arguing. I just looked up from the bushes I was trimming right next to them and said calmly and politely, “let’s not forget our negotiation tactics if you will find those helpful.” “Ok!” they said, and resumed their fun having worked out their dispute in a friendly way. I felt confident that all of our coaching sessions had worked, and it turned out in this case I was right. If they needed help problem-solving, they definitely would have let me know about it!

Do-overs are a fantastic tool. It might take some trial and error for each of you to figure out how best to accomplish your goals and get the do-overs to work, but you won’t regret the extra effort. I love that I can now just ask them to try their conversation or scenario again, and they usually will, knowing exactly what went wrong. (Of course, with really young children, they will require more of your help.) After some time of being more consistent with the do-over and problem-solving coaching, I am finding that they are able and more willing to work through their issues and come up with solutions much more amicably. Do-overs allow them to practice those skills. Much more often than not now they can all three play together well, having fun and truly enjoying each other. And what’s best? I did it mostly through teaching them: avoiding scolding, punishment, and argument. When I put my proverbial “coach’s cap” on, I more effectively remember that I am their life coach, as well as their mother, and can coach them to work through their sibling quarrels capably, thereby building their relationship with each other and learning to work effectually with peers as an adult.

Posted in Health and Fitness, Keeping your sanity, Parenting

Sanitize Everything!

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all aspects of life globally. Everything. It has affected us in different ways, perhaps, but one thing we all have in common is that we have felt the change, to be sure. I try to look for little silver linings in everything that affects me. It helps me to stay positive and focused on the good, not the bad. One positive aspect of this new way of life in my own pandemic experience is cleanliness. I am a bit of a clean freak, I’ll admit, especially before having children. I have three children now, so things aren’t always going to stay perfectly clean all the time — that’s impossible, and I’ve made peace with that. But, the novel virus, and the fact that two members of my beloved household suffer from asthma and are therefore high-risk, have allowed my inner clean freak to break forth and shine! While it does raise my anxiety a bit to have to be so extra cautious not to allow the virus enter my house, it is extremely important. My answer to this? Sanitize everything that comes in. Yes, everything.

I watched a video by Dr. Jeffery VanWingen on how to unpack groceries. In it, he has you imagine that everything you bring in has glitter on it, and you need to avoid spreading that glitter around your house at all costs. We all know how glitter gets on everything, right?! The thought of this virus being like glitter is a little alarming. So, here is what I do to help keep that “glitter” out of my house.

1. Groceries. When one of us comes back from the store, we take a disinfecting wipe or disinfecting spray and wipe down all of the items that come in before we put them away. (My fridge smells like Lysol, by the way.) I spray fresh produce with vinegar and let it sit then rinse it before I put it away. I know there is the worry about produce going bad more quickly by doing that, but if you can get them dry before they go back into the fridge they ought to be ok. We’ve not had a problem. Also, we put the paper bags in our recycling and then sanitize the floor they were sitting on. **Don’t have disinfecting spray? You can put bleach water in a heavy-duty spray bottle and use it (remember: it’s still bleach, so be careful and wear cleaning gloves!) or use vinegar in a spray bottle and let it sit about 10 minutes.

2. Bottoms of our shoes. When I come in from having gone to the store, I spray the bottoms of my shoes with disinfecting spray and then take them off. There are all kinds of nasty things you can carry into your house from the bottoms of your shoes. We live around geese, too, so it gets a little gross when you think about it! Sanitize those shoe bottoms.

3. Wash hands. I know you’ve heard this a million times, but wash your hands obsessively, especially when coming in from being out. Try not to touch your face.

4. Inside of car. Because my husband doesn’t wear gloves when going out, I disinfect the inside of the car when he gets home. I know that he is constantly disinfecting his hands when he must go out, but it never hurts just to make sure everything that gets touched in the car is sanitized as well.

5. Deliveries and mail. All deliveries and mail get sanitized when coming in. I spray down the box or envelope, get out the item I’ve ordered or that came in, sanitize the item, recycle the packaging, sanitize the floor, then sanitize the scissors. It’s definitely a lot more work, and yep, it’s a bit obnoxious, but I do it to ensure we are not spreading anything around the house unknowingly. Mail no longer gets put on a table. It goes on the floor or in a box.

6. Everything you can touch in the house. Ok, yes I know this is a catch-all, but it’s equally important. I will do random trips around the house sanitizing controls, light switches, door knobs, banisters, handles, everything. When I bleach bathrooms, I also wipe down the walls with bleach. (Check a small area first before you do this!!! I’ve had great luck with Behr eggshell finishes doing well against being wiped by bleach water.)

I know that I sound a bit obsessive, but it’s more than just about protecting my high-risk loved ones at home, it’s about protecting my neighbors and those I’m around as well. We will get through this. We will get to fully enjoy life again. In the meantime, let’s protect as many people as we possibly can, so we all can see each other on the other side of this pandemic. Sanitize everything. Wash your hands. And know that you are being someone’s guardian angel.

Posted in Keeping your sanity

A Fun Way to Relieve Stress

Things have been pretty crazy for everyone lately, to be sure. There are a world of unknowns, uncertainties, and every news report seems to be worse than the last, if that could even be possible. I was pretty down in my last blog post. I had considered taking it down — I like to be uplifting no matter what — but I also like honesty and openness, so I left it. Anyway, fast forward almost 2 weeks later, and I find myself in a much better place! I have definitely come out of my “funk” and am looking at the world through my optimistic eyes again. A few things have helped to get me here, I think — arrival of Spring, warmer weather, outside exercise, flowers opening, birds singing — but one additional activity has helped immensely: gardening!

Because of our stay-home order I shouldn’t go get all of the necessary gardening supplies I need. Usually I would be running out for organic soil, organic fertilizers, and the like, but there is still a lot I can do with what is around my yard right now. I’ve already moved my very young climbing rose. I transplanted some ornamental grass that started getting out-of-hand last year. And I think I am going to move some tulips that aren’t getting enough sun where they are anymore. All of that great digging, working the soil, planning, sunshine, and fresh air has done so much for my soul! There’s always that great anticipation that comes with every Spring season, and working outside in my flower beds just builds it even more and gets me excited for the next job. My new fig tree arrived, and I’ve just ordered roses, so I can’t wait until my first chance to plant them and watch them grow! I love just how much gardening has kept me encouraged and happy.

Yes, the world has been turned upside down, but there are little things we can do to help keep our spirits up. I definitely encourage you to go out and spend some time digging in your flower beds, or even create a new one! If you are in an apartment, the next time you go grocery shopping try bringing home a plant (or three) to take care of. Many grocery stores stock potted fresh herbs, so take some home, decorate a plain terra cotta pot and re-pot them. Try anything that gets you digging. You’ll be amazed at just how good you feel!

Posted in Health and Fitness, Keeping your sanity, Parenting, Working Parent

Picking My Life Back Up One Step at a Time

Unknowns. Leaving without Goodbyes. Cancelled Work. Isolation. Empty Shelves. Rationing. Depression. Parenting. Practicing. Moving Forward.

Corona virus (COVID-19) has left its mark on my house, as it has for millions of households around the world. I attended my last live performance right before our state was to go in a quasi-isolation, schools and universities closed. Life upended. I didn’t get to say goodbye to my students, one of whom this semester was our last together. We picked up and left, Skype our only means of seeing each other and teaching. I was devastated. I love my job, and I love my students. This was a tough transition for me, not only for its abruptness, but also for the lack of live human interaction, of laughing, playing together, just being. And when all my performance work was cancelled and my lost income mounting, I only too easily slipped into a world of dark cloudy days, wondering when (if?) the fog and dreariness would lift. Was I facing depression?

Parenting during this time of strain and uncertainty has also taken its toll. The strain of seeing empty grocery shelves and wondering how long food will be this scarce and having to ration food in the house is real and unnerving. The realization of lost income is scary. And when parents are stressed, kids can feel it. They get stressed too. During times like these, “cabin fever” also takes on a whole new meaning. They are even advised not to go on playgrounds! Kids act out when they are stressed. I felt like my neat little world was unraveling!

I had to take action. I had to pick up the pieces of what work was left to me, my teaching, and I had to get control over my own emotions, so I can still be the teacher and the parent that I want to be. If for no other reason, than to model how to be for my children in times of global stress. I made myself keep practicing. Knowing the positive effects of endorphins and sunshine, I forced myself to keep exercising and to get outside in my yard as much as possible. I have my kids go outside as much as possible. When they ask to play in the rain, I let them play in rain. Why not? Outside time is crucial for mental and physical well-being, and they need to get that extra energy out. The forced isolation has also given us plenty of opportunities (more than plenty!) to teach my children how to communicate effectively and politely to each other — how to best solve differences with each other. And you know what? It’s working. We have far fewer arguments as they are learning to compromise and solve problems together. The next thing we are working on pitching in a bit more around the house, since we are all always home and all contributing to the mess. We’re getting there… baby steps. As we have been through a few successful days of online teaching and gaining some control of our schedules back, I feel less uneasy and unsure, and the children are more themselves again.

I feel like I went through a kind of grief cycle. I was paying attention to the news, of course, and naturally I knew it would eventually effect us in the U.S. at some point, but the magnitude and the scope of the pandemic was overwhelming. I wanted to fight against having to leave the university, but there was no choice. I wanted to fight against home-schooling while schools are closed, but there was no choice. I wanted to believe that there would still be food on the shelves when I went to the store to pick up some regular groceries, but there was none. (Well, there was still some frozen okra.) I wanted to cry, but what would it help? By putting one foot in front other the other, so to speak, I slowly walked myself out of my slump and got on with life: keeping up with my practicing, keeping up with my exercising, keeping up with teaching to my best ability, keeping up with good parenting. Just as we all do. Just as we all have to. Baby steps.

Posted in Keeping your sanity, Parenting, Working Parent

How I Turned Dinnertime into a Fun World of Imagination

Big admission here: dinners at home were getting pretty dull or even frustrating. Some days we would just eat and leave. Other days the kids would talk or even begin to play, but then they would forget to eat! Mostly, it became an exasperating affair of start-and-stop chit-chat and interruptions to settle arguments, or just trying to get the kids to even stay at the table. Forget any real conversation and family time! We do have a no-phone, no-books-at-the-table rule at our house, but I kept catching my husband grabbing for his phone, and consequently because, “well, Daddy’s on his phone so I can read my book”, my daughter would immediately grab whatever reading material was nearest to her and start reading, completely ignoring everyone. Ugh! Dinner is supposed to be a respite from the day; a time to enjoy a meal together and each other’s company. But, it just wasn’t, and honestly, I was getting pretty sad and disappointed over it.

So, my daughter and I brainstormed some ways of having a more interesting and engaging dinnertime routine. Our answer? Conversation starters! Here’s what I mean. Most evenings, I would have my daughter sit down for a few minutes before dinner and write out on little bits of paper things that would be fun to talk about: What would be your favorite/ultimate dessert? What would be your perfect day? What mythological creature is your favorite and why? Favorite roller coaster? What do you like the most about [insert anything]? You get the idea. We fold the papers in half, then set them in the middle of the table. Once everyone is ready to eat, one-by-one we each take a paper, read what it says, answer it, then pass that question around for everyone else to answer.

This has proved to be a game-changer! Suddenly, we were laughing together about our ideas, or reminiscing on a perfect day. We would discuss our made-up events or just smile at the prospect of whatever crazy invention or scheme someone just laid out. We were enjoying each other! We were engaged in conversation. We were getting to know each other even better each evening. It was incredible! It has really become something that I look forward to. So, despite how challenging raising my kids can be at times, watching them open up their creativity and explore their imagination has been one of the most rewarding aspects of the day. We turned an often irksome time into some really fun memories that I can look back on and smile for years to come!

Posted in Parenting, Working Parent

Turning Life into Teaching Moments

It happens to every parent. You work hard to raise your children with a certain set of values, to choose right over wrong and good over, well, not-so-good. So, when I found out that my child, in an attempt to seem “cool” and “tough,” had made the not-so-good choice, I was disappointed and sad. I frankly questioned everything, forcing my brain to race back in time and try to sort out what I did “wrong.” How, after all of these years of coaching and training and explaining, how did he chose the wrong way to go in this situation? He knew the right thing to do, yet he stubbornly went for the puffed-chest, tough-guy route. Ugh.

On the drive home — yes, the principal called while I was teaching and in-between lessons (perfect.) — I had time to think, which was probably a really good thing. I wanted him to understand the seriousness of his decision and to go through, AGAIN, what would have been a better response to that situation and why what he did was so wrong. My other two children found out what had happened. While I was trying to keep it just between us, it did lend me an opportunity to discuss similar situations with them and how they should handle themselves in those moments. Because it had hit so close to home, I think they took it more seriously than maybe they would have otherwise. It was just the very next week when my youngest found himself in just a situation as I had described to them. When his teacher came out at pick-up time to tell me about it, she praised him on doing the right thing, making the right decision! So, what had started out as a pretty ugly circumstance, ended up as a powerful teaching tool with predicted success.

Really, every moment can be a teaching moment. Good times can be a teaching moment: “Isn’t this fun when we compromise and work together?!” Frustrating times can be a teaching moment: “You were really frustrated by this project, but you persevered and look at this great result!” (Two nights ago’s conversation.) Sad times can be a teaching moment: “I’m sorry your toy broke. What can we do differently when you want something your friend has?” (Last night’s conversation.) Proud times can be a teaching moment: “You worked so hard during your basketball season and really improved!” I think the more we can use these kinds of motivating words and teach from all angles of life, the good times and bad, we do so much for our children.

Posted in Keeping your sanity, Parenting, Practicing, Working Parent

The 4 Ways I Keep Myself Balanced

Between teaching at a university, playing in an orchestra, taking on freelance work, blogging, and being the mother of three active children, life gets a little hectic. And by “a little” I mean a lot. (Did I mention I am trying to continue building my French fluency, as well??) I love everything that I do, so I certainly don’t want to give anything up, but that means that I have to be on top of my time and organization. So, how DO I juggle it make it work? Here are the 4 ways I keep myself balanced and focused.

1. Prioritize. I set morning, afternoon, and evening goals for myself. My mornings that I don’t teach are almost always exclusively set aside for working out and practicing. It’s all that I do. I avoid setting appointments for this time block. It is sacred space and jealously guarded for that particular purpose. My afternoons are slated for grocery shopping (if needed), laundry, blogging, and/or cleaning. If I can arrange it the night before, I do try to use the grocery store’s pick-up service, where they will do the shopping for you. I definitely recommend this! It’s such a time-saver. If I don’t have rehearsals or a concert, my evenings are devoted to family: either taxiing kids around, making dinner, having special time, you name it. Prioritize your blocks of time, and stick to it!

2. Do your work in small chunks of time. Occasionally, life will throw you some wrenches in your plan. Your kids are home sick, or school has been cancelled due to weather, or you are called away unavoidably. Whatever the issue, stay calm and stay flexible. When I find I’m suddenly home with kids during the school day, I try to work in small chunks of time, grabbing 30-minute practice sessions here and there as I am able. It does interfere with my “block scheduling” as described above, but I find that it is much more efficacious to stay flexible and do work as I can manage it, while still being available to my children at home. Children are much more agreeable to their parents working in small batches of time, as opposed to all day, if they know their needs are going to be met sooner rather than much later. It works well for everyone.

3. Manage your time well. This seems an obvious one, right? Let me explain. On the days I am home (not teaching at the university) I decide what I am better able to accomplish while the children are at school, and what items are still manageable when they are home. For example, if I need to run errands, be on the computer for a while, practice, — work that needs my attention to be absolutely on the task at-hand — I work hard to finish those while the children are at school. Other tasks like laundry, dishes, a quick check at email, and the like, where I can have my attention diverted for a bit to help with the children if needed, those I save for after the children return home from school. I want to make sure they know that I am always available, and they can have my attention immediately if necessary, but I am realistic enough to know that they don’t want me hovering over them constantly and can continue with whatever I was doing previously.

4. Meditate. I can’t stress this one enough. Find time to meditate. Lately I have switched to meditating at night, which has greatly helped my sleep (I have blogged about it earlier), but there are definitely merits to meditating during the day. Meditating greatly reduces stress and anxiety, as it helps to put space between your mind and your day-to-day worries. It helps you to focus on the here-and-now and puts your body at ease. This is great for helping you to stay balanced and focused during your day. The more you practice mediation, the easier it gets to calm your mind and ease your body, so you can continue on with your day in a more relaxed and focused way.

This is just a small snapshot of how I stay balanced and focused as a busy working mom. Yes, my house may not always be perfectly tidy. Quite the contrary at times!! There is no hiding the fact that I have three busy and active kids running around. But, to me, an overly tidy house is not what is always important. Maintaining my professional level of playing, raising good kids in a loving and nurturing way, and keeping my relationship with my family and work healthy are important to me. I hope I have given you, my lovely readers, some good ideas to help you find that balance that works for you. What are some things you do to stay balanced? I want to hear about it!

Posted in Parenting

Laughter is The Best Medicine

My little guy has been getting a bit bored lately. We live in a cold-winter climate, so going outdoors isn’t always an option, and it’s cloudy and wet more days than not. Also, he’s not as involved as my other two children are in after-school activities, and his favorite spring sport hasn’t started back up yet. He does entertain himself well with Minecraft and Geometry Dash online, but as soon as his allotted screen time is up, well, you know the drill: Mom! There’s nothing to do!! Of course, I give the usual list-making of all the games we can play and toys he can build with, but as I am saying this, I can see that he is crossing his arms and plopping himself moodily on the couch (read: gearing up for a “power struggle”). Uh oh. Here we go.

That day, I decided to try something different than my usual tactics to avoid or work around these kinds of power struggles — that dogged, “I’m going to say no to everything you suggest” attitude. I had just read earlier that laughing helps increase oxytocin (bonding hormone) and reduce anxiety and stress (Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings by Dr. Laura Markham). I wanted to put some of what I had read into practice and see if it actually worked — to see if laughter could make a child go from being grumpy about his screen time ending to his normal happy, relatively compliant self. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous that he would just tell me to stop and then his mood would be worse. I do love our special time, which I have blogged about before, but when these kinds of moods strike — and we all know what I’m talking about! — it just feels rather forced. Still, I wanted to give it a try.

He looked up at me while sitting on the couch with his sweet but pouty face, and his arms crossed and eyes narrowed, and I looked back at him. But then I smiled, and I said, “look at this new bump on the couch [meaning him]! I’m going to sit on it and see if it’s soft!” As I turned to “sit” on him (gently, of course), he immediately started laughing and pushing me away, during which I said, “Oh wow! This couch grew legs and arms!” And we started laughing hysterically from then on! He immediately started suggesting other things we could do, like riding horses (I was the horse), and flying, with him on my feet in the air. We had so much fun. I hadn’t laughed that hard in a long time! It was one of our best special times together, and all of his previous grumpiness and defiance melted away.

I am looking forward to using this trick a lot more often. It does come with a caveat: if the child isn’t having it, if he isn’t playing along or the situation starts to deteriorate, then you’ll obviously need to turn to another tool in your parenting toolbox. But, I am going to use this as much as I can. What a fun way to turn a mood around! Next time you see that little rain cloud start to follow your little ones around, try some silliness and laughter to chase away the clouds. Laughter really is the best medicine.