Slow down your parenting so you can say “yes”

Lately, I’ve been in conflict with my older daughter quite a lot. That’s a lofty way of saying I’ve been picking fights with an almost three-year-old – as ridiculous as a lot of the stuff we’ve actually been clashing over.

Three things are going on here. One is that Talitha is going through enormous leaps in how she reasons things, views herself and understands the world. I can scarcely get my head around the emotional and neurological changes taking place before my eyes.

She’s in this amazing space between baby and older child. She is exploring more, experimenting more, pushing boundaries and asserting her own will.

She is also trying to adjust to having a baby sister. Though completely in love with Ophelia, always gentle with her and, even now, pretty excited about her, it must be a bit scary and confusing no longer being the baby – and suddenly having to share her mother.

On my side of things, I’m adjusting to looking after her while also meeting the all-encompassing needs of a newborn. I end up saying “no” more often than I know is healthy.

“No” becomes a reflex, a punctuation mark in the pattern of negativity between us. Since she’s growing up, she doesn’t just go with it.

It turns out I’m not raising a robot. She’s a flesh and blood human being who demands that we relate. More relating happens behind “No, Mummy!” than “Yes, Mistress.”

As I’ve learned when she was a new baby, so I’m learning again: the answer is usually to slow down. I really do believe that this is the key to being able to say “no” less and “yes” more.

I forget sometimes because I’m tired or overwhelmed or just feeling a bit lazy. So I’m reminding myself of what it means to slow down your parenting.

How to Slow Down Your Parenting

Be careful what you commit to

Rushing to get out of the door, overtired toddler at the end of an overpacked day, feeling like she is a distraction from things that need to get done – all of these are signs for me that I am overcommitting.

That I need to slow down our days and say “no” to other things so I can say “yes” to her (and myself!) more.

In my situation as a (very part time) work at home mother, I have a lot of freedom to do that. But I still get sidetracked by what we “should” be doing according to our timetable rather than what I can stop and see my children need – which incidentally often goes hand in hand with what I need.

Plan ahead

This one is really challenging for me. Slowing down my parenting requires that I do the grown-up thing of being a little more organised than I’m naturally inclined to be.

It might mean packing the bag the night before so I’m not rushing about like a mad thing in the morning. It might be getting us all dressed as soon as we wake up so there’s lots of time to spare. It might mean leaving a longer time to walk somewhere, toddler pace.

I’ve been struck recently by how much I hate being rushed to leave the house (though I’ll admit I do need gentle encouragement) and yet I can be quick to hurry Talitha up.

Take time to calm down and respond

It’s all very well and good knowing what I should have done in advance but in the midst of a tantrum, what now? Ninety-nine per cent of the time, the best move is to slow down.

Sometimes this means holding her until she’s calm. She can’t hear anything while she’s crying. Sometimes it means holding my tongue until I can think clearly about what I want to do. This is hard for me because I am reactionary by nature.

I do think it’s important to express my feelings and to be honest with her but a lot of damage can be done in the heat of the moment.

Learning to slow down my parenting.jpg

When faced with challenging behaviour or simply unexpected behaviour, slowing down may just mean taking a moment to ask myself whether I really need to say “no” to this. More often than not, when I do this I realise there’s a lot that I can say “yes” to.

A lot of her choices may seem strange to my grown-up mind but they’re not necessarily wrong as a result.

If it does need to be a “no”, there’s usually a more creative way to say it. Talitha’s shoes often make their way to the rack by starting to talk: “Oh no! We need to go home. Help us, help us!” Or getting down to her level, explaining the situation, listening to her side and trying to arrive at a solution together.

“No” is sometimes necessary but it does more harm than good when it becomes a verbal tick, which it does when I don’t take my time.

Reflect on what you’re doing

Being too busy and keeping life hectic can mean that I make no time to figure things out. So I’ll put the girls to bed and think “Ugh. I hate what I did today. Today was so stressful.”

Yet I don’t always stop to think about how it could have been different. And so follows another day with much repetition.

I will get things wrong and there will be things beyond my control. This is not a quest for perfection but an opportunity to keep learning.

Find ways to slow down your parenting.jpg

Take care of yourself

Whenever life feels frantic, it’s usually a time when I’m not getting any time alone to recharge so I have the resources to meet the needs of the people I love.

I used to think that I needed a lot of alone time to refresh and to connect with God. I’m learning now that I can find what I need even in small increments of time, that what I do with the time I have matters more than how much of it there is.

I’m also accepting that taking care of myself includes forgiving myself when it all goes wrong and when I don’t act as I want to.

I may have double the mother guilt now that I have two children but they also give me twice the reasons to let it go.

What about you? Have you been finding ways to slow it down recently?


37 Comments

  1. May 20, 2014 / 11:46 am

    Gosh I can totally relate to this post. My eldest daughter is 9 and I said only recently that all I seem to do is moan at her, hurry her along or berate her. Maybe I should take your advice and just slow everything down …. although that doesn’t help with the school run!
    Donna @ Little Lilypad Co recently posted..The best things to do with your children in Edinburgh

  2. Hannah
    May 20, 2014 / 12:35 pm

    I once had the great advice that most ‘no’s’ can actually be turned into ‘yes’. e.g. “No you can’t have ice-cream because we don’t have any” becomes “Yes, you can have ice-cream tomorrow once we’ve been to the shops”. This clearly doesn’t work for everything but makes things seem less negative!

  3. May 20, 2014 / 1:21 pm

    Your point about having to plan more, be more organised, in order to be more spontaneous seems so counter intuitive. But it is so true! I have only just learned the importance of planning and it is helping me slow down a lot. Fab post.

  4. May 20, 2014 / 3:22 pm

    I love this post and it has really made me think about things, especially following a timetable. We go to so many toddler groups but actually sometimes I just want to play at home or go for a walk in the park with the boys but our routine is to be more social. I think I need to remember a lot of this day to day as we do seem to rush around far too much
    Bex @ The Mummy Adventure recently posted..Recently

  5. May 20, 2014 / 4:31 pm

    I can so relate to this at the moment. Cherry and I are clashing way too much. I’m pretty aware that the worst times are when she is tired or I’m preoccupied / trying to get something done but that’s just how it’s got to be sometimes. I have to say though that even when things are going really well she will still do something to try and test my reaction like leave the gate open for Tiger to escape while I’m in the middle of doing something, it makes me mad and she knows it! I really need to find a way to not react though! x
    Jess @ Along Came Cherry recently posted..Picnics And Castles

  6. May 20, 2014 / 4:37 pm

    fabulous post and great pics, I dont have a timetable with our 7 its never any point in making plans when theres always somethinor someone to ruin them lol x

  7. May 20, 2014 / 5:44 pm

    This struck a chord. My two are the same age gap and life can be difficult shall we say.x

  8. May 20, 2014 / 6:13 pm

    for me, it’s when I’m tired or have a tonne of work. I hate saying no no no all the time. If I find we’ve gotten into that, then I’ll drop everything, play a game or take them to the park to change the mood !
    Polly recently posted..Way back when…

  9. May 20, 2014 / 8:27 pm

    Reading this at the end of a day when I feel it’s all been rushing and negativity and personality clashes was just what I needed – thank you for such a gentle perspective on it!
    Helen recently posted..Liminal

  10. May 20, 2014 / 9:30 pm

    what a fabulous post full of great advice and tips. my two are similar age gap but now 5 and 7 and the same tips ring true. x

  11. May 20, 2014 / 9:32 pm

    Ooh I relate to this, my youngest is 3 in the summer, and I find myself snapping more at him of late. I often start with the crouched to his level explanation of what is going to happen and why, and when that fails seems to go directly to cross. I need to take a deep breath and try some new approaches, and most importantly leave more time so I am not late due to needing to talk him into getting ready!
    Sonya Cisco recently posted..Swings and Roundabouts

  12. May 20, 2014 / 10:03 pm

    This is great advice. Our 6 year old is always talking at us about everything – he is so keen and enthusiastic and we are too busy to listen and we only said yesterday that we need to stop and listen more as one day it will be really important.
    Pinkoddy recently posted..Entertaining the Kids this Summer Dos and Don’ts List

  13. May 20, 2014 / 10:22 pm

    Great post, rang a few bells with me. I think slowing down is really important but it’s very hard to do once they’re at school and you’ve got to get out on time or else they’re late and they hate that. And I love what you say about forgiving yourself. I think we mums are very hard on ourselves.

  14. May 21, 2014 / 12:34 am

    I can completely relate to this, having just had my third I sometimes feel like I’m constantly saying (screaming!) no and it’s driving me mad. I know it doesn’t help the situation and I hate doing it. There are some great tips and ideas you’ve shared and it’s helped me think about what I can do differently – so thank you!
    Mummygadgetgeek recently posted..The Good Baby

  15. May 21, 2014 / 12:40 am

    Ah I totally know what this feels like. I used to be so patient and calm. Always planning ahead with time to spare. Life is way too hectic now and I can totally feel it putting a strain on the kids. I’m irritable. Their frustrated. This is one of the biggest reasons I wish I didn’t have to work so much 🙁 I guess I just need to find a way to leave my work at the door so to speak
    Charlotte recently posted..Back with a facelift

  16. May 21, 2014 / 1:24 am

    I frequently need this reminder, which makes me wonder whether it’s me the person, or external forces that keep putting pressure on me in such a way that I find myself becoming that “no” mum again.

    I’m the worst “try-hard” so for me, I think I’m being influenced by what I perceive I’m being told I need to achieve in order to be a good mum (lots of activities, well kept house, endless supplies of healthy food as snacks) the irony being that is exactly the influence that ends up making me a crappy mama who is stressed out, shouty and miserable.

    Thanks for making me mindful of this again.
    Natasha Batsford recently posted..Raising Musical Children – Please Send Earplugs

  17. May 21, 2014 / 1:29 am

    Such a well written post as always and some really useful tips – I am having similar issues with my son and I am finding three a lot harder than two – really don’t know why they say terrible two’s! I totally agree we all need to slow down a bit as it’s such magical time for them at this age although it’s pretty exhausting as well

    Laura x
    Laura recently posted..Wardrobe inspiration

  18. May 21, 2014 / 6:21 am

    Oh how I needed this today! I’m definitely overcommitting to things at the moment and this post was just the wake up call I needed to do less and ‘be’ more. Like you I have a tendency to react rather than being patient. Thank you for reminding me to slow down.
    Michelle @ Bod for tea recently posted..I’m deep, soft and warm – how about you?

  19. May 21, 2014 / 11:22 am

    I really need to slow down too; things are so hectic with a 4,2 and one on the way year old. I too am reactionary and I need to work on that. But getting time alone? Impossible!

  20. May 21, 2014 / 2:34 pm

    I’ve been trying to say yes more often to my eldest, I reflected on conversations I had with him & I realised he heard the ‘no’ word more then anything. In saying yes, I’m giving him more freedom in life.

  21. May 21, 2014 / 8:21 pm

    It is very difficult with two young children to divide the time so that the baby needs are fulfilled and the older one gets the attention she requires.You are right sometimes you just need to slow down and prioritise and leave unimportant tasks to one side.Your children will grow up so fast you don’t want to miss the best times with them.
    Nayna Kanabar (@SIMPLYF00D) recently posted..Pineapple sorbet~ Secret recipe Club challenge May 19th 2014

  22. May 22, 2014 / 5:31 am

    Some really great points and tips here. I do find that I get on at my three more than I have time to listen. I need to slow down and enjoy them more
    Kizzy recently posted..The Alphabet Project: B is for Brothers

  23. May 22, 2014 / 9:03 am

    I love this post Adele, since a read it when you first posted I’ve been trying to re-think the ways I speak to Wilf. Sometimes it’s working and sometimes not but I feel better than just saying ‘no’ x
    Fritha recently posted..What Mama Wore

  24. May 22, 2014 / 11:52 am

    This is a really nice post. Love the time table. I think this could go on to help us in the future.
    Helen Dickinson recently posted..Takeaway.com Review

  25. May 22, 2014 / 1:56 pm

    Some really great tips – I think it’s the trickiest of ages and it’s hard to stop that clashing. I definitely need to slow down a bit though and listen more, thank you for the inspiration!

  26. May 22, 2014 / 10:33 pm

    I think us Mums struggle with this all the time don’t we? Feeling guilty etc from rushing around and not spending enough time just doing what the kids need. I know I do. Sometimes i know I’m freaking out just because we;re late for something or things are a mess, but really does it actually matter? Lovely post x

  27. May 23, 2014 / 12:56 am

    I am having an AWFUL time negotiating daily with a 3 year old. In recent days it feels like he rules the roost. But what do I do? I dump him in a creche, go shopping and then write a poem, to blog about it. Whereas you write an informative AMAZING post like this, that is much better than I would read in any text book. Wow, just wow. I need to read this again tomorrow.
    Liska xx
    Liska @NewMumOnline recently posted..A Poem about A Day in The Life of a 3 Year Old Boy and his Stressed Mum

  28. May 24, 2014 / 7:04 pm

    GREAT post, and really important. Little people can’t keep up with our fast moving lives and patience is so essential for peaceful days. Also, it’s hard adjusting to a new baby, not being the youngest isn’t it? Someone once said it’s like your husband bringing home a newer, cuter version of you with little warning and you having to accept a younger wife who was now the centre of attention!
    Kate Thompson recently posted..Today in photos – or The One where I recover my Sense of Humour

  29. May 25, 2014 / 10:22 am

    I’ve been trying to say yes more often than no just lately. When the kids came and asked if they could have a water fight in the garden my first reaction was to say no because it was going to be messy and I knew I’d end up cleaning up after them! I stopped before I said no and thought about how much I’d enjoyed water fights with my siblings when I was young and I said yes. Instead of worrying about the mess, I watched them laughing together and knew the mess didn’t matter 🙂
    Shell Louise recently posted..Photo Challenge – May 24th

  30. June 2, 2014 / 9:50 am

    So right and so practical and why does it seem so hard sometimes? The age gaps is closing fast between my two but Angelo was younger than Talitha was when is sister was born. It was like having twins. Thankfully she was patient and I could deal with his meltdowns and then return to her. Now, its not so easy. They both have strong personalities. Sometimes its a case of who shouts the loudiest. Other times its about reasoning what’s really the issue and who needs to be cuddled or helped first.

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