So, one morning when Chloe was 6 I wrestled her out of her zebra onesie because she flatly refused to get dressed. I had to wrestle her INTO her school uniform, she fought me all the way, and she got in a few strategically placed jabs and kicks in the process, all the while screaming at the top of her voice like a crazy banshee.
The next 60 mins are a blur but somehow I dragged her to the car, strapped her in and only when we set off did she calm down. No breakfast, no reading done, no hair brushed. I had to make her eat some of her snack as we walked in after having done a pretty dodgy job of putting her hair up in the carpark.
I was exhausted. Chloe, on the other hand, snapped out of it in a flash and started chatting to me about going on the monkey bars at break time.
I’m not saying this because I want parenting advice so please don’t bother!
That was pretty normal in our house at the time and I suspect it was about going into a new class at school, my hubby being away a lot with his new job and us having to move house in a few weeks. Oh and generally being a pretty typical 6 year old girl who thinks she knows it all and only does SHE wants (and sod the consequences). There’s a lot of change going on and she’s only little.
And all the while I’m running my business.
Around the tantrums. Around the challenges. Around making extra time for tons more cuddles when she needs them.
But that day, enough was enough.
I felt like I’d done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson.
I felt emotionally and physically battered and I decided that the way I was handling it wasn’t working.
I called my mum, a lovely wise lady who always has great suggestions.
“Mum, I can’t alter the situation at this end – we have to move, Mitch has to be away a lot and Chloe has to get used to her new class. I’m sick of shouting. What can I do?”
Mum said ‘you can’t change the situation, so change how you handle it.
Try giving Chloe a timetable on a morning and give her some responsibility to get ready on her own, she’s 6 now (oh and by the way she knows exactly how to wind you up so stop rising to it….)’
So I did.
Change How You Handle It…
The next morning before I collected her from school I put together a little timetable on a Powerpoint slide, with two clock faces and a list of things she has to do by a certain time.
By quarter to eight she had to have got up, had breakfast and got dressed. By eight o’clock she needed to have brushed her teeth, done her reading for school and had her hair done. Then she was free to watch TV till it’s time for school and if she finished earlier, she got more TV time.
When I collected her from school we chatted about it and we made a special detour to the supermarket to get a new pack of felt tips because she wanted to put the hands on the clock pictures.
She spent an hour after school colouring in her clocks and drawing all the things she had to do.
And so the next morning I shouted her to get up and waited with baited breath.
Within seconds, she was up and walking downstairs, rubbing her sleepy eyes. She went straight to the kitchen, got her cereal and milk and sat and ate it, while chattering away to me ‘no, I don’t need any help mummy, I’m a big girl’. She got dressed without a murmur and carried on with everything on her list.
Getting her to read was usually a challenge but she climbed on my knee and got on with it without me saying a word.
And then off she went to school, happy as Larry.
I was in shock!
“Great, Claire”, you’re thinking…”but why did you share this with me?”
Well partly, it’s great to vent! Secondly, I’m guessing that you’ve probably had a similar situation in your house and I want you to know that you’re not alone – we’re all just doing the best we can! And thirdly I wanted to share some of my mum’s wisdom because we can apply it in any situation that feels insurmountable.
She told me ‘you can’t change the situation, you can only change how you handle it’. And that is SO true.
There will always be situations we can’t change. From upsetting world affairs on TV to issues at work and situations with family or friends – sometimes there are things that you simply can’t change or fix.
But you always have a choice. You can choose how you handle them. You can choose to deal with them a different way. Whether it’s trying a new approach (as I did) or choosing not to let it get to you, you always have a choice about how you react.
So next time you’re faced with your equivalent of wrestling a screaming 6 year old out of a zebra onesie, try to remember to take a deep breath, take a step back and try to handle it a different way (from a mum who’s only just finding her own feet on this one!)
Love, Claire xx
Claire Mitchell is a best-selling author of the Awesome Marketing Planner and founder of The Girls Mean Business, a mum and business owner. She has been featured in Marie-Claire, The Guardian, Closer Magazine, Essentials, The Huffington Post and on the BBC.