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The Key to a Happier Home and Fewer Meltdowns
With 4 girls 5 and under, it’s safe to say that our house gets pretty chaotic–regularly. Goodness gracious, a lot of emotions fit into those tiny little bodies! We’ve had epic meltdowns–sometimes all four of them at the same time. Parenting small kids can be maddening, but simple changes truly can have massive results. In the last several months, I have actively tried to constantly shower my children with affection and it has drastically reduced those meltdowns and created a much happier home.
Children crave affection.
They need affection more than they need food. To get it, sometimes they act out and misbehave because that is pretty dang effective at getting our attention.
But how do we respond? Do we hold them and love them? Or do we snap at them, send them away to time out, and deny them the snuggles they so desperately need?
Body language is our mother tongue.
I was listening to a podcast on a run when I literally stopped in my tracks. I had to write down what the speaker said. Esther Perrel, a psychotherapist, was talking about communicating without words–something we do without even thinking about it.
“We spoke with the body for the first 18 months before uttering a word. It is our mother tongue.”
Whoa. While she was specifically talking about a couple communicating with each other, I could not help but think about how we use our bodies to communicate with our children. Children crave affection and attention. Are we giving them enough? What are we communicating throughout the day?
We all know that yelling is bad and we feel terrible when we do it. But what about our body language? Our actions can be just as loud and damaging as yelling. What are we saying when our child is trying to talk to us while we are rushing around the house trying to get stuff done and we dismiss them saying you’ll talk later and then we continue rushing around? Sure, we are all busy and somethings absolutely need to get done. But can we stop, bend down and put a hand on your child’s arm and calmly ask if it can wait just a few minutes while mom is finishing something up? How different the mood will be in the home!
Are we making eye contact? The affection we show with our body–snuggles, stroking the face or an upset child–all these things are communicating in our children’s native language. We need to watch what we are saying.
Touch helps an upset child reason and relax.
When a child is having a meltdown, the child is in their brain stem. They’re in fight or flight mode and are not rational or capable of reason. Touch helps build the connection that helps the child get out of their brain stem and into their frontal lobe. We have to help the child use the frontal lobe to be able to have effective communication.
I’m not saying a child does not need discipline. Discipline is essential, but so is tremendous affection.
Here are several ways that you can connect with your child and show more affection. Try what works for you and see the amazing changes that happen.
6 Ways to Show More Affection to Your Children & Create a Happier Home
1) Use touch to help calm a meltdown
Reducing meltdowns will automatically help create a happier home. When a child is having a meltdown (and it’s safe to enter) use affection to calm your child and bring them from their brainstem (fight or flight) back to the frontal lobe where they can reason. I have found that holding my child tightly, stroking their face and singing (singing is amazing at calming) almost always can calm a meltdown. It’s magic sauce. There are very few meltdowns that I have encountered that have not been calmed by those 3 things.
If the child needs to get some emotions out, let them get it out before trying this. But once they release their emotions, help them come back to themselves and start reasoning through touch and building connections.
2) Start the day with physical affection
How you start the day sets the tone for the entire day. How often does a bad morning bleed into a bad day? Avoid bad mornings (and morning meltdowns) by building connecting first thing in the mornings. I like to start the day with a giant hug and exclaim “I am so glad to see your sweet face this morning!”
I have a child that often wakes up crabby and I find that this helps her to avoid a meltdown. Showing love and giving her my focus right off the bat helps create a calm and happy tone.
3) Use touch as much as possible when giving instructions
Ever give instructions to a child and they just look at you like you are speaking Greek? Try putting a hand on their shoulder or arm, making eye contact and then giving instructions. It will help your child actually listen to you and process what you are saying. Point, snuggle, and use your body when you give instructions. This makes it more likely that your kid is engaged in what you are saying and able to follow through with the task
4) Hold hands
This is especially effective with young kids. My girls love to hold my hand. Even if it’s just walking around the house, making this connection creates a calmer, happier home. Holding hands while walking on a sidewalk, in a store, or crossing a street has the added benefit of keeping your child safe!
5) After any absence, physical affection should be your first response to child
After any absence–whether school or an outing– make sure physical affection is the first things they get be it a hug, affectionate pat, or a high five. Couple it with a warm smile and your are communicating with your child that you missed them, you love them, and want to hear about how their day has gone.
After a long day of school, my kids are exhausted and emotional. If I am rushed and forget to show affection, a meltdown is 100% right around the corner. Snuggles help my kids make the transition from school to home.
6) Give your child 100% attention when talking
When you are talking to you, what are you communicating through their body language? Are you communicating that they are the most important thing right now? Or are you looking away and busy doing something else?
Make eye contact and whatever physical connection that seems appropriate–whether snuggling on the couch, hand on their shoulder or arm, etc–when they tell you about school or about anything they may be feeling. It completely changes the dynamic of the conversation as it communicates.
If any of this resonates with you, I HIGHLY recommend anything by Dr. Becky Bailey. I’ve completed one of her Conscious Discipline parenting workshops and it has 100% changed my parenting and my life. Her youtube channel is filled with incredible gems and insights and her book, Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline is downright amazing and will change how you parent. Just be prepared to take lots of notes!
Touch truly has the power to transform your home
As parents, we ALL fall short. But we can all make small changes that will help to create calmer and more happy homes. We can change the way we communicate. Implementing these strategies have created a happier home for my family. We’re far from perfect, but I have found that if there is a problem or conflict, snuggles are usually the answer