The 5-second trick that promises to make you a happier, calmer parent
Sometimes, the morning rush in our house, between getting myself ready for work, my seven-year-old ready for school and three-year-old ready for creche, is just that; a big rush.
And despite my best efforts to be prepared and on the ball, getting outfits ready the night before (there are no uniforms in my daughter's school, something which can cause a debate with my fashion-forward seven-year-old unless we have agreed on an attire before bedtime), having lunch boxes and water bottles out on the counter ready to be filled and getting up half an hour before them, there are mornings when I lose my temper and snap at them.
Anyone who has a seven-year-old and a three-year-old will know what I mean; how they test your patience in ways you never knew possible. Cheerios that have to be eaten in individual servings (loop-after-loop-after-loop until you feel yourself mentally pulling your hair out), favourite hair bands that disappear overnight and that you cannot go to school without, fights over who broke something, somebody having to poop the second you have everyone ready and are heading for the car.
And then I snap and shout at them. Hopped up on stress hormones and just general tiredness; sometimes it will get to you and you will lose you temper. And then I regret it – immediately. As I watch their little faces drop I feel that knot in my stomach, that shameful feeling that I am not always the mum I want to be.
According to Kelly Holmes, mama-of-three and author of Happy You, Happy Family, all you need are five hair ties to calm yourself down if you're having a stressful day.
Yup, that's right. Hair ties – the ones you use in your hair. Except for this time, you are supposed to wear them on your wrist.
The idea here is that the hair ties will act as visual cues, stopping you in your tracks before you lose your temper.
Curious? Here is what you do:
1. Find five hair ties that will be comfortable to wear around your wrist.
2. When your kids wake up in the morning, put the hair ties around one of your wrists. It’s important to wait until they wake up because visual cues won’t work very well if they blend into the background and you stop noticing them. In other words, once you get used to seeing the cue in your environment, the cue is no longer effective.
3. This means you should take the hair ties if when you’ll be away from your kids for a while, like if you leave the house for work or an appointment or if the kids go down for a nap or leave for school. Then, when you’re with the kids again, put your hair ties back on.
4. If you catch yourself snapping at your children, move one hair tie to the other wrist. But your goal is actually to make it to the end of the day with all 5 hair ties on the original wrist. So what do you do if you slip up…?
5. You can “earn back” one hair tie by doing 5 simple things to reconnect with your kid. Research shows that to have a healthy relationship, for every one negative interaction you need 5 positive interactions to balance that out. It’s called the Magic 5:1 Ratio.
So does it work?
Having only road-tested this method for a week, and most of that time having been on holidays and therefore away from our usual hectic routine, I can still see how this trick makes all sorts of sense. And is so beautifully simple to do.
The hair ties (I picked really brightly coloured ones for maximum visibility) with their gentle, constant pressure on my wrist, serve as a constant reminder to not lose my temper, but instead, take a deep breath and talk to them calmly, no matter how much I am mentally tearing my hair out.
I'm not saying it will work forever, or that I will never snap at my children again because I sure there will be situations where that might happen. But what I do know, is that this trick will no doubt make me a kinder mama – a more patient one, even when the mornings are manic. And that is more than enough for me.