My kids are two and four, such a dangerous age for siblings. It's the age where Legos become weapons, stealing becomes second nature, and screams are louder than a volcanic eruption. I'm starting to wonder if my kids will ever get along?
I am constantly jumping into the heat of things:
“Stop bothering your sister... Stop making your brother cry... Stop stealing his toys!"
It's truly and unforgivingly exhausting. Doing this constant referee thing only makes me irritable and adds to the heat of the moment. Instead of having two melting toddlers, we now have a cranky mom in the mix.
But life got a bit simpler after I adapted a popular French method into my parenting. I'm pretty sure every single mom in the world has used this method, but the French were the first to give it a name and make it doctor recommended.
Pamela Druckerman, author of French Children Don't Throw Food, first introduced me to the Le Pause. Druckerman is an American woman living Paris and raising a family. She shares multiple differences between French and American parents, but it was the Le Pause that got my mommy brain thinking.
Le Pause is generally recommended to new mothers who are having trouble getting their babies to sleep through the night. After all, French babies sleep through the night by two months of age, so there must be something significant to this method.
Don't be fooled, it's very simple.
“When a French baby cries in the night, the parents go in, pause, and observe for a few minutes," Druckerman explains. “They know that babies' sleep patterns include movements, noises, and two-hour sleep cycles, in between which the baby might cry. Left alone it might 'self-soothe' and go back to sleep."
When I read this book, my children were already toddlers and sleeping through the night. But this method could be applied to all ages for everything from sleep to meltdowns and arguments. What if I stop refereeing my toddlers and pause? Maybe they will learn how to self-soothe and problem solve.
And it works!
When my children start arguing, I simply just watch and wait. I have learned that, within three minutes, they are able to work it out themselves. Either they negotiate like the sly little munchkins they are, or one just gives up and walks away. On only a few occasions it turns nasty, and I have to step in.
- Parents have a tendency to heighten otherwise minor infractions with children. When I engage the minute my kids start arguing, I contribute to a major rise in emotions, including mine. This is how situations can get out of control. By “pausing," I give them the tools to handle their emotions appropriately and independently.
This even works with non-life threatening accidents. If they scrape their knee, take a fall or run into the wall, I pause. I let them figure out how to get out of the situation. Very rarely do they run to me for help. I have been impressed with my kids' ability to pop right up, dust the dirt off and move on.
Le Pause does not make you a lazy parent. It makes you a wise parent of children who learn to be resilient, to stand up for themselves in the schoolyard, and to self soothe in a mature way. Essentially, you gift your kids with self-help tools and lessen the stress of each day.
Here's how it works in a nutshell:
When your kids have a non-threatening meltdown for any insignificant reason, just stop. Watch from a safe distance and wait. I've waited up to five minutes before inserting myself into the situation, and the only times I do is if they start hurting themselves or others. But for the most part, five minutes does the trick.
So take a break, take a few deep breaths and let your kids work out their issues. Because everyone needs space to grow and learn.