Using the behavior log posted in our previous BLOG and using my common sense … I noticed a pattern in my boys behaviors… For instance, every time I got on the phone my kids went crazy! Every time! They needed my attention, were suddenly starving or fighting! Sound familiar to anyone else? Well, I’m sorry to say I haven’t solved the mystery of why this is – but I have found that having a “busy bag” accessible for when someone calls seems to help…
My kids know where this bag is and can grab it any time I’m on the phone, but that’s the only time (to keep it intriguing). Contents may include water bottles , a small snack, books, paper, markers… If I know I’m going to make a call I set them up with an activity from the bag (like playdoh, which seems to be calming at our house – as opposed to saying “go play” which doesn’t seem to be directional enough). If the phone rings and an emergency happens they can get me, otherwise if they have a problem they can search the bag for an answer or wait quietly til’ I can help them.
If they decide to continue to whine, fight or have a problem I walk them (quickly, but not roughly) to their room and whisper “I’ll be back soon” and shut the door. Yes – sometimes they throw a tantrum in there – but I know they are safe while I finish the call. When I am off the phone and they are calm I thank them for calming down, and ask what was wrong before returning to whatever I was doing before the call. NO discussion of their behavior otherwise– they know why they were taken to their room.
If they decided to not throw a fit and use the bag or wait patiently they get huge praise when I’m off the phone and I spend a few moments giving them my undivided attention (since that’s what they were craving) before getting back on task.
I have found that the response I give them is often the “chaos to calm” key. Yes, it is important to question the who-what-when-where-why of the behavior… but also question HOW I reacted (EX: If I freak out, they continue to freak out). I plan out how I’ll respond whenever possible and this often helps break the cycle. I plan out transitions knowing that my boys hate changing activities without warning and that often helps stop a meltdown before it starts. I plan out options for them to pick their own veggies and that often helps picky eaters…
It seems like over analyzing when you start planning for and tracking everything – but for my family and families I’ve worked with – it helps! I encourage you to organize your chaos. Keep notes of such things as behaviors in a binder. Keep out chore charts and daily routines, post schedules and upcoming events. List expected behaviors (not just rules) out in the open. Display pictures of family activities and your children’s work proudly. Let your family hear you brag about them. Focus on what areas are NOT chaotic and you may see more calm.
WARNING, even with more calm no house is without chaos. Especially on those Michigan snow-days when you can’t leave the house… So what do you do when you’re stuck inside and all the plans and schedules don’t work? Make sure there is enough space in your place. This doesn’t mean you need a mansion, it means create a calm down corner, a work station and an active area… Read next week’s article for the how-to’s on our chaos-to-calm plan!