Using ‘bad ‘days and moments as lessons is something that I find uncomfortable, in terms of sitting with the discomfort of the emotions that come up after something not-nice happens. It is that when we mess up and fall short, or run into other things like spells of boredom, or find we don’t have enough time to do the things we want to do, we endeavour to make small changes.
Changes Around Screen Time
Changing things up after a ‘bad’ spell or episode comes to me quicker or slower based on my fear factor around the ensuing change. For example, a while back, I had been trying to shorten the amount of screen time the children had and I started with that change later than I wanted to. I was scared that more sibling squabbles would ensue (!) and I would become triggered and that I would wish I didn’t.
Alhamdulillah, that didn’t happen (generally!). There was one day where we went back to the screen as getting one of my kids out of the bath took me to all kinds of mental ‘cut it out!’ places though I was trying to change my thoughts and attend to my child’s experience whilst setting limits. But generally, it went well. And what new change isn’t without its blips and obstacles? It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t begin anyway – and then, troubleshoot en route to the change, should the need arise.
Changing Things Up At Home When They Don’t Work
Sometimes, when my children were even younger, we used to run into spells of boredom, and we were going out less often back then. Going out with the kids more was one of my remedies when these spells would occur. We’d usually make sure we go out after staying at home for a day. For me, staying at home with the kids a few days in a row felt (and for reals, still feels!)…risky (we’re a home educating family). Risky in the sense that I know we can get into what feels like too much limit setting (coupled with my getting worked up, and perhaps not enough connection and/or loving interaction to balance it out). Too much limit setting especially around sibling interactions, and it would make things feel a little…sour, at times. Or depleting.
So if we stayed at home one day, we’d endeavour to go out the next day (especially as fresh air makes us all feel so much better). The kids could then play in parks, playgrounds and open natural spaces, without too much limit setting from me, and they’d have space to play separately or together as well. And I would enjoy the outdoors, too.
So for us, a testing or a humdrum day at home, means that we will very likely be using that day as a prescription to go out the next day (or more rarely, that afternoon). Before we went out often, I also used to use activities as a way of changing things up when things got samey-samey.
Changes After Not-Nice Interactions With Our Littles
Using ‘bad’ moments to inform our future decisions also means in the realms of our interactions with our children. Quite a while ago now, one day when we were going out, I had some stuff on my mind. The boys got into a squabble and before I could halt my emotional brakes, I snapped at one of them. It didn’t feel great. For either of us. My son seemed to be making attempts to reconnect after that; to re-enter the safe feeling of connection. I felt bad. I didn’t wanna wallow there, but I also didn’t wanna rush past it or apologise until I thought consciously about what I could do better next time.
So alhamdulillah, that day the solution came quickly (doesn’t always). When I knew what I should’ve done from this ‘bad’ moment, I apologised and then proceeded to tell him what I plan to do next time insha’Allah; should a similar situation reoccur. And that was that.
Potty-Ville: Sour Starts To The Day And Then Changing It Up
Another thing that I had let go of after months is asking my son to use the bathroom when he woke up (this is about two years ago). He’d be super resistant to it. And I’d often find myself falling into threat mode after a while – not cool. But at that time, I really felt like I had no other choice, subhan’Allah. I felt like he needs to use it as I didn’t fancy cleaning up so whilst I was happy to let anything that he didn’t need to do go, I felt like ‘but he will have an accident and it’s not fair’ type of thing. ‘Why should I I have to clean that up when he hasn’t bothered to help himself [and me!] in the first place?’ Just wasn’t a pleasant way to start the morning.
So after doing that for ages, I actively noticed that this battle with my son was contributing to our sour starts to the day, and kind of gnawing at our relationship as well. I decided to let it go. To perhaps prompt but to let it go. So that day he didn’t go to the bathroom as soon as he woke up. And eventually, he was like ‘oh, I need to use the potty’ and made a dash for it. I decided to practise acceptance regardless of what had happened. And he made it. And then we continued with that. And it felt so much better, subhan’Allah.
Choosing What To Change and What To Not
With regards to changing things up that aren’t working, it’s okay if making change takes a while at times; as much as I value proactivity, it can take effort and energy to just roll with it and change things up, so I think it’s okay to do things one at a time; especially with littles at home… As our energy is being used up in other ways, or perhaps in another area that we’re making changes in, we may choose to intentionally overlook or let go of a not-so-great thing, whilst we work on another; or preserve energy for something else that is more important.
So how can we use our ‘bad’ moments or things we don’t like as springboards for change, and as a means of informing our future decisions, insha’Allah?
Actionable Steps to Implement the Tip:
1) After ‘sour’/’bad’ interactions with our loved little people, we could try to stop and think of one thing we would do differently next time, should the situation arise again.
2) If there is a reoccurring incident or thing in our homes, such as, say, the morning-potty-use-ville in our home, we could think about what we can do to change it. Is it us? Do we need to let it go? Or try again if it’s something to do with capability? If we can’t let it go, can we change our approach? (make it fun, get creative, do it post connection time and play, kindly and firmly uphold it and follow through that it needs to happen?).
3) We could learn about areas that we feel incompetent in, or feel like we’re falling short in. For me, at the moment, it’s taking a breather and reacting calmly when there are sibling squabbles and then facilitating problem solving for them. It just doesn’t happen these days. So I’ve just gone back to listening to the chapter in a siblings audiobook I have by Dr. Laura Markham, entitled ‘Teaching Peace’ – which goes through this. So it helps to be reminded if we forget, or learn in order to progress. Same with marriage and home education: we can learn about these areas and progress imperfectly (hey, change can be hard, and is often uncomfortable). Sometimes, it takes pain for me to step up and learn; I don’t look for a reminder as soon as would be wise.
4) Experiment: play with what works and what doesn’t when you change things up. Sometimes, I can create a real heavy feeling around a change, like it’s a ‘big’/daunting thing, and it doesn’t help in getting the change ball rolling. Sure, there are nerves and fears around changing things up (‘what if I lose it at them?’, ‘what if I feel shattered and triggered? Hmm, let’s leave it!’ or is that just me?! :-D). But approach is as play, as fun, as ‘ooh, let’s see where this takes us’. Let’s use self-compassion if it doesn’t work or requires tweaking, rather than writing it off as a complete flop. Remember, it is only a complete flop if we don’t learn from it. Otherwise, it is a useable and useful experience to inform future decisions, insha’Allah. So Bismillah!
I hope some of these tips help, insha’Allah.
And I wish you wonderful days with your littles 🙂