3 Key Strategies to Turn a Bad Day Around
As a parent, sometimes you have one of those days. You know the kind. The baby’s teething and grumpy, your toddler is determined to make a mess of everything in the house, the kids are fighting with each other, everybody needs you at the same time, and nobody’s listening. You’ve got a to-do list a mile long, and you’ve already reheated your coffee three times. You can feel your tension level rising, and you’re very quickly running out of patience.
These negative spiral days are a HUGE challenge for me as a parent, particularly when I’m home alone with my kids. The irrational side of me wants to yell and make myself heard over the chaos. However – as we all know – yelling will only make the situation worse. No matter how frustrated I am, when I’m the only grown-up in the house, I’m the one who’s going to have to turn the bad day around. Here are some strategies I use to turn around these negative spiral days.
The very first thing I try to do is remove myself from the situation, to calm myself down and get some perspective. Whether it’s a quick phone call to my husband, a text to a girlfriend or my Mom, or just locking myself in the bathroom and taking a few deep breaths, I need a little bit of space, and, if possible, commiseration from a rational adult. Once I’ve had a minute to regroup, I’m able to muster up some energy and positivity to re-engage with my kids.
Related article: The Importance of Self-Care: A Wake-Up Call
Before doing anything to address the behaviour that caused the day to go off the rails, it’s crucial to turn the mood in the house around. I use the fake-it-till-you-make-it approach, and jump back in with an extremely positive attitude. I either suggest an activity I know they love, or I just start doing it, and make it very obvious that I’m having a great time. Inevitably they’ll get curious and join in. Some of my go-to ideas are:
- Get a change of scenery. Go outside (fresh air helps everyone!). Go for a walk. Go for a drive. Visit the local coffee shop (we’ve got a great one nearby with an incredible children’s play area that my kids love). Even something as simple as moving from the playroom to the family room seems to help us reset.
- Have a snack. I’m no fun to be around when I’m hungry, and neither are they.
- Get down and play. Build a fort. Wrestle or roughhouse with them. Turn off the lights and play with flashlights. Jump into their imaginative world with them. I’ll say something like, “Uh oh, there’s a bear over there…“, and their faces just light up.
- Be silly. My kids love when Mom acts silly with them. Throw them off guard by making up a silly song, or turning on one of their favourite songs and starting to dance.
The key is to go all in, and don’t choose an activity that’s going to cause more frustration. In my house, this is not the time for baking (I always start with the best of intentions, but before long they’re trying to lick the spoon I’m stirring with and I’m regretting ever trying!).
Once I’ve got everyone back to a more positive frame of mind, we’ll address the issues that caused the day to deteriorate in the first place. My kids, like all of us, are much more receptive to actually hearing what I have to say when we’ve all calmed down.
We’ll talk about what caused us to get frustrated or angry, and other ways that we could have handled the situation. I’ll give them a chance to be heard, and I’ll also make sure they understand why Mommy was frustrated. We’ll apologize, if appropriate, and clean up any messes.
Obviously, some situations and behaviours call for immediate consequences. I’m not talking about those incidents that you need to address right away. Rather, this is an approach that I use for those times that we’re falling into bad behaviour patterns and a cycle of negativity, where there’s value in regrouping and resetting before you address the underlying issues.
Related: Some Days are Hard
Turning around bad days is not easy, but using this approach has helped make it more manageable for me.
How do you turn a bad day around? Do you have any go-to reset activities that are guaranteed to get your kids smiling?