The last three months have been a self-challenging period when I had to be mindful of the way I reacted to every single thing happening around me. In order to talk less and, more importantly, to talk in a soft voice and not shout/yell and not show impatience/anger, I had to take things easy. I had to keep doing a self-counselling on a regular basis that it was okay if the child didn’t eat a meal properly or it was okay if the siblings continued to fight and make each other cry or it was okay if we got delayed to school by a few minutes. It meant slowing down, pausing. And that’s when I realized that all I had to do was pause to let my kids be kids!
How many times was I reminding my daughter to swallow her food and not keep it inside her mouth without biting? How many times was I asking her to stop dancing around while I was combing her hair? How many times was I reminding her to walk fast lest she gets delayed to school? How many times was I asking her to stop playing and come back home lest her brother starts feeling hungry and starts becoming restless?
How many times was I asking my son to stop running? How many times was I asking him not to throw things? How many times was I asking him to stop playing in the play area and leave? What tone of my voice was I using when I ask him to not hit/bite his sister?
Before I proceed, let me tell you that I have definitely not reached that ideal stage where I remain calm and cool and not do any reminding/’lecturing’/whining at all. After all, I am human too. On the contrary, during those moments when I feel too tired or when we are really running late for something important, I do occasionally give the constant reminder to my daughter to eat fast or get ready fast. I do panic and call my son’s name in a louder voice when he sprints off in the wrong direction or takes my mobile all ready to throw it. But I make sure that I compensate by lapsing into an almost-complete silence for the next few hours.
So, here is how I go about doing things differently nowadays:
- While coming back from school, be it in the morning or afternoon, I let my son play as long as he wants to, in the play area outside the school, gently reminding him once in a while that it was time to leave.
- I let him run all the way back from school to the bus stop and simply run along instead of asking him to stop.
- I let him walk on all the narrow elevated pavement borders and simply hold his hand without caring the least that I was missing a bus right in front of my eyes.
- I let him jump on all muddy puddles of rainwater and give him a nice long bath after coming home.
- I let my daughter chat with her friends and walk slowly to school.
- I let them swing on every single rod they find on their way and let them climb on all the railings they want to.
- I take them to whichever play area they want to and let them play for as long as they want to. I pack some biscuits for any hunger pangs and go. It doesn’t matter if all we do on some evenings is shuttle from one playground to another without really playing anywhere, because, that is what they want to do.
- If I take them out on weekends, I don’t rush, but leave only when they are fully ready to leave.
- If I decide to put an end to the TV time, I simply turn off the TV, hide the remotes and let my children cry out. I don’t try to reason out with a crying child and simply distract them by doing some craft or Play-Doh sessions with them. Sitting along with them and playing with them is the easiest way to divert their attention from TV. While that works my 2 year old most of the times when he is alone with me, it doesn’t really work always with my 5 year old.
- If either of them want to do some ‘painting’, I happily give them the water colour and water, without launching off on a whining mode about why I don’t think I will have the energy to clean up the mess.
- I let them play with any or all of their toys. I let them scatter their toys all over the house. Most important of all, I don’t expect any help from anyone on picking up the toys and do it all by myself without complaining one bit.
- When my children cry, I don’t try to stop it immediately. I don’t try to reason out with them. I don’t shout at them or at myself for letting this crying spell happen. This change from my side has resulted in a positive change in my daughter, who, though still cries a lot when she starts, has now understood that crying won’t get her the TV remote back or whatever she wants and calms down sooner and gets into a happy mood right away.
- I have let playing or sitting with them take precedence and have let everything else take a backseat. I patiently wait for those few moments when they are completely engrossed in their own world and then, go about doing whatever I what to.
- I laugh and enjoy the naughtiness of a child, give them the freedom to be lazy whenever they want to, let them make all sorts of colourful messes, don’t force them to visit a temple simply because I want to.
In short, I let them be kids. After all, this is the age when they still don’t know that there is a big, bad world out there. If I don’t let them laze around and have fun now, when else will they do it then?