With 7 children, losing my cool is easy. What isn’t easy in this large family is staying calm.
My house is crazy. These kids are crazy. I know, I created them. This most certainly is my circus and these are my monkeys. That doesn’t make it easier. If anything, knowing that I did this to myself brings on even more anxiety. There are a lot of times when I am just about to lose it and I have to remind myself that there are better ways. By no means am I perfect, I absolutely lose it, but I try not to completely lose it on the kids. I try to stay calm when the entire house is losing it. Calm is hard, but possible.
How I keep my Cool with Crazy Kids
- Take care of you first.
I know, I know. How on earth am I supposed to take of care of me when I have 7 kids screaming for me to take care of them. Sometimes they have to wait. Sometimes they have to scream. If I have to go to the restroom but I have 3 one year old’s screaming for me they have to wait. I am not going to be able to care for them if all I can think about it how bad I have to pee.
If I haven’t slept well if 3 days I am not going to be very attentive. I NEED my sleep. Sleep is something that is rare when you have so many little ones, but without it you cannot be productive. Staying up all night watching Netflix is great. I can watch whatever I want, there are no little ones screaming for cartoons. As great as it is I always regret it in the morning.
I am not a morning person at all. So all the super moms telling to wake up before the kids and get things done are not for me. I find it hard enough to wake up when my early risers do, there is no way I am getting up before them. To make sure I get enough sleep I limit myself. I know I need to be in bed by 11. If I am not in bed by 11 the mornings are hard for me. I fail at this often, but I try.
If you are a morning person, awesome! Do it, get up early and make sure you have time without kids then. If you are like me and hate mornings, try to move bedtime up a bit to make sure you have kid free time. The babies all go to bed at 7:30 and the big kids are in bed around 8:30. This gives me time to work or just relax without someone needing me.
- Sometimes you just have to laugh
These kids are insane. Some of the things they do make me want to scream! When my 10 year old gets caught upside down on the gate, that she knows she isn’t supposed to climb, I want to yell. Instead I laugh, help her down, ask how on earth she got like that, then remind her that I make rules for a reason.
When I am trying to clean up the kitchen and my 7 year old drops an entire gallon on milk on the kitchen floor, that then busts and spills EVERYWHERE I want to yell so bad. That is food wasted, money wasted, and now we have a huge mess to clean up. Instead we grab all the bath towels we can find and get cleaning. As we cleaned, I couldn’t help but laugh. I never would have thought it would bust. We laughed about the fact that it took 7 towels to clean up a gallon of milk.
We got a second laugh at that one as well. I told him to put all the towels in the washer and he put them on the floor in front of it. The cats were trying to eat the towels and in our warm house it only took about 6 hours for them to start to smell. That sucked, but we laughed because It was such a short amount of time and they smelled so bad.
Remember, it takes just a few minutes to clean up a mess, but it takes years to fix the hurt caused from screaming and yelling over spilled milk
- Send them to bed
When things get really bad I just have to send them to bed and we can try again tomorrow. Obviously I can’t do this in the mornings, but I can send them upstairs (for the big kids) to breathe and gather their thoughts. Just like I sometimes need to step away, so do kids. Most of the time, they come down after half an hour or so and apologize.
When I send them to their rooms, I don’t yell at them for yelling. They are allowed to be angry. They are allowed to yell to get out frustrations. What they are not allowed to do is yell at other people, hurt other people, or break anyone else’s items. I am not a fan of them breaking their own things, but it is their stuff. I am not replacing it. That usually only happens once. They get mad and throw their favorite RC car? Guess who doesn’t have a RC car anymore. I get mad about it, it is wasteful and ridiculous, but in the end it is theirs to do with as they please (within reason). You break your stuff, don’t you dare ask me to replace it. That is on you now buddy.
I do not do this with this little kids as they are too small to understand. Also, I make sure the kids are not with siblings during this angry time in their room. I do not want them to end up hurting each other when they are acting like this.
- Pick your battles
I know, you have heard this time and time again. It seems silly, but it is true. Somethings are just not worth the fight. Not putting their shoes where they go? Not worth the fight. Worth constantly reminding them, but not worth fighting over. Bullying their siblings or class mates? That is worth the fight, that is worth a long hard talk and some serious consequences.
Kids having a messy room is not worth it to me. Having a nasty room is worth it. I expect dirty clothing, trash, dishes, and broken items to be cleaned up. Having their toys a mess or not making their bed is not a big deal to me. I am not perfect, so I do not expect them to be either.
Keep in mind, when I remind them over and over again to do something and they keep “forgetting”, I still make them do it. I do not do it for them, but I am not going to yell and scream over forgetting a library book or not putting something where it goes. Normally there are natural consequences for their actions, so I don’t have to worry about punishing them. Want to go play in the snow but your snow shoes aren’t were they belong? Well guess what, they have to find them before they can go out. Wanting to paint a picture but you forgot to put the paint away and now it is dried out? No painting for you.
Look at this yard. it is a hot mess. They play and bring everything possible outside and leave it there. I see a diaper box that was used for a fort, a folding chair, bikes everywhere, a milk crate, and I think I see a scarf. They will clean it up before we mow. But it honestly isn’t worth a fight to me.
- Bite your tongue
Remember when you were little and people said “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”? Well it still applies as parents. You might not think something you say could be hurtful, but you aren’t them. You don’t have their feelings. Saying “Olivia, you are getting some pimples” seems like no big deal to me. It is a fact, she is getting pimples. To her I am saying “Wow Liv, those growths on you face are huge. Can’t you do anything about it?” I did not say that. I said nothing like that, but she interpreted it that way.
It isn’t my fault that she took it that way, but there were other things I could have said. Like “Since you are turning into a young woman, I thought it might be time to start washing your face with this cleaner I have.” Or maybe I shouldn’t have said anything at all. If I don’t have a way to help with it, I probably shouldn’t point it out.
- Think about why
Most of the times kids are not mean or hurtful just because they want to. There is a reason for their actions. Are they hungry? How well did they sleep last night? Are they bored? Have they been feeling under the weather lately? I am guessing there is a reason for it. When they are super grumpy I go through the list. When did they eat last, do they look tired, have they pooped? Do they need something to do? Normally I can fix it with those questions.
When I am hungry, I get grumpy; when I don’t sleep well, I am in a bad mood. If I feel sick or am constipated I am not my normal self. It is the same with kids. You can’t fault them for having the same feelings we have.
Our oldest son has sensory issues and was in occupational therapy for several years. One of the very best tips I received during this time was deep pressure when they are having a meltdown. In our family deep pressure means tight hugs. Big tight hugs when my kids are losing their minds helps them so much.
Sometimes the world is just too much and you need to be brought back down. You need to be reminded that you are here and things will be okay. A hug, even when the littles don’t want one at first, can work wonders. I think it brings them back to a solid world. Brings them down from the rollercoaster, the highs and lows, grounds them. Physical touch, in the midst of high emotion, is beneficial to both the child and the parent. Sometimes I think it is a reminder that we do love each other, even during the hard times.
- Walk it out
Things get crazy, we all feel cooped up in the house sometimes. I know this past year has been rough on my family. We all get grumpy and feel trapped. At one point my 7 year old told me “This house feels like a prison!” Let me tell you, it has been hard. When we get antsy I load everyone up and go for a walk. This is easier said than done for parents like me (4 kids under 2) but we do. We have our Wonderfold Wagon. That beast makes days like this a lot easier. I know it is pricy. Prior to getting it I would have one of the 10 year old twins push one of the triplets, while I pushed the double stroller with the other two and wore the baby. We made it work.
I know the weather doesn’t always make it easy either. We try to just bundle up, but when it is freezing and rainy I am not going out. On those days I either bundle the big kids up and send them to the back yard or put on a workout video from YouTube. They may seem a little silly, but most of the times we all do a bit of it. It can really work out some frustrations. Putting Pandora on the TV also helps. We all dance around and act goofy. Before we know it we have forgotten that we were mad.
In the name of love. No really, stop for a minute. Leave the room for a moment. Breath deep. As we said when I taught preschool “smell the flower, blow out the candle”. Walk away for a minute to remind yourself that you love them. I know, it is silly, but in the heat of the moment, you need to remember that you love them. I catch myself pacing and saying “I love them, I love them, I love them.,” when they have pushed me past my limits.
In all reality, I know I love them. I never doubted that I love them. I would die for these monsters. However, when they just broke your tv because they were angry, or just decided to scream and yell and your anxiety is sky high, you need to remind that angry part of you. Just stop, step away, breath, and remind yourself of just how much you love them.
- Try to see things from their point of view
Things aren’t fair. We know this. As adults we know that there are rules and boundaries for a reason. Creating a beautiful drawing on your rented apartment wall is bad. You can’t draw on walls that you don’t own. Someone has to pay for that to be covered now, and that someone is you. But to a 4 year old, they had a huge, perfect canvas just waiting to be covered. They worked their very best to make a beautiful drawing just for you. Or in my case, they worked so very hard on writing their name they just couldn’t help using a permanent marker to write it on every surface possible. They worked hard on it. They don’t understand why it is wrong. As far as they are concerned you should be proud of the amazing work they did.
They are smiling waiting for us to say how wonderful it looks and we yell. We get angry, that must mean we hate it right? Look at it their way; they did a wonderful job and now need help knowing why we aren’t happy about it.
- Work together
Kids are a mess, well mine are anyways. They are a mess emotionally, physically, you get the idea. When there is a mess, either an emotional mess or physical mess it can seem overwhelming. Working together to solve the problem always makes it easier on everyone involved. I am not saying always clean up your child’s mess, rather work together. Life is hard. It is hard for me at 34, I can only imagine how hard it is for a 7 year old.
Yeah, I didn’t dump the gallon of milk on the floor. It was a huge mess and honestly, I was overwhelmed. I am sure my child was as well. I could have yelled and made him clean it up. It would have taken about 3 years to do so, and he would have screamed the entire time, but I could have made him. Instead, I grabbed towels, sent him to one end of the mess while I started at the other. Together, we cleaned up the milk. We were able to keep it from getting worse and work our way to the middle knowing the problem was getting better.
- Be the Calm
Kids yell. Mine seem to yell a lot. They get angry and have no control, so they yell. My trick, I let them yell. I sit down on the couch in front of them and let them yell, not be disrespectful mind you. When they have gotten over the hump of that huge emotion and seem to have taken a breath, I ask if they are ready to listen now. I do not yell back, there is no need and only makes them yell more. They don’t need “spanked,” they need to get it out.
Have you every had a really bad day and you just want to scream? Everything seems to be falling apart and you can’t hold it in anymore? That is your child. The only difference is you can handle more than they can. They have big emotions just like you do, but you have years and years of experience dealing with them. I find that not yelling back and waiting for them to get over the emotional hump, then speaking calmly to them gets to the root of the problem. Yelling gets everyone worked up, and I don’t know about you, but once everyone is yelling, it never ends well. Someone has to be the adult and calm down. When I start yelling back it is hard for me to be the adult.
- Remember, they are having a hard time too
This is hard. Hard for you, but even harder for them. They don’t always understand why things happen like they do. Your kids are not trying to give you a hard time, they are having a hard time and don’t know how to express it. Things that seem like common sense to us is like a foreign language to them. We know that the pizza takes 15 minutes to cook, they don’t. They are hungry now, they see the pizza. They don’t understand why they can’t eat it. I don’t think they mean to make things harder for you, they are just trying to figure out why it is so hard for them.
- Let it go for a day
Some days suck. I am sorry, but I can’t think of any better way to put it. They just suck. Either I don’t feel good, someone didn’t sleep well, I forgot to get the milk, or maybe all of the above. Just let it be. When things are too hard I turn on Disney+ and just let it go. Some days just aren’t worth the fight. Yeah the dishes need washed and the kids didn’t make their beds. Well they are just going to be getting right back in the beds anyways and the dishes will still be there tomorrow.
- Know both your and their triggers
One of my sons can’t handle loud noises. I can’t handle too many people at once. One child can’t take sitting for long periods at a time. Knowing these I would never dream of taking them to the race track, or a monster truck rally. I know what sets us off, what will send us spiraling down, so I avoid them. It took me a while to learn what all sets everyone off, but now that I know I can avoid them. That is the key for us to enjoy a day together, avoid the triggers. Avoid making anyone’s anxiety rise.
- Treat them how you would want an adult to treat you
This one is hard for a lot of people, but please hear me out. As an adult, how do you want your spouse to treat you, or your coworkers? If you mess up on the job, do you want someone screaming at you about how bad you messed things up? When you are having a really hard day and just can’t control your emotions do you want your spouse to scream and yell at you for “acting like a baby”? No, I am assuming you wouldn’t stay in either a job or a marriage if you were treated like that. Your children are humans too. They have all the same emotions you do. They feel the same way you do when you get yelled at.
When you are getting in the fridge and knock out the jars of jelly and they bust all over the floor, what do you want your spouse to do? It was an accident, you didn’t mean to knock them out. You can clean them up and no harm was done. There is just a few less jars of jelly in the fridge, it’s okay. I don’t think you would want to be yelled at about it, hit over it, punished. In my house it is a fact, if I made a mess and my husband yelled at me or hit me I would be pissed. I am sure you would too. Now put your child in your shoes.
- Adjust your expectations
Remember they are children. While they may act like they know everything, they don’t. My 10 year old daughter is amazing. She helps me so much with the triplets, I don’t know what I would do without her. But in the end she is still just a child. If I were to ask her to fill the boys sippy cups and she spilled some, that’s okay. She is 10, 10 year old’s are still working on the motor skills to properly pour a gallon of milk with out spilling it. I can’t expect her to do it the same way I would.
If I have a 10 year old sweep the floor I need to expect that it is going to look like a 10 year old did it. When a 7 year old puts away laundry it is a hot mess, I should expect it to be. I shouldn’t be angry, instead I should know it will not be how I want it and either help them do it or just let it be a mess. You can’t expect them to be better than their age allows. That isn’t fair to them or to you.
- Don’t forget to say you are sorry
I mess up, I yell. I know I shouldn’t, but I lose my cool. Being a parent is hard, but so is being a kid. When I mess up I try my best to always say I am sorry. If I yell at them I tell them I am sorry for yelling, that there is no excuse for it and I will try to be better next time. I expect that from my children, they deserve at least that from me.
- Emergency Snacks
In my van I have a bag of snacks. I have granola bars, cheese crackers, Goldfish, water bottles, etc. When the kids get crazy I “throw” snacks at them. Remember, hunger can turn anyone into a grumpy jerk. Be prepared.
- Praise them often and well
This is one I need to work on. When my kids do something I try to praise them. Cameron picked up in the kitchen today and I made a point to stop and tell him how thankful I am that he was willing to help me. That he really did a great job and I am proud of the young man he is becoming. I need to do that more often. The second it took to thank him and tell him he did a great job made all the difference in the world to him. After that he worked even harder for me. He knew I was proud of him and he wanted to make me even more proud. It is simple, but it matters
- Don’t be afraid to know when you are in over your head
Parenting is hard. I have said it a million times, but it needs to be said. It is hard and sometimes you struggle. I have, I suffer from depression and anxiety. That is okay. I knew I needed help and I got it. It is completely normal and nothing to be ashamed of.
My 7 year old also has depression. I did all the right things and couldn’t help him. So I talked to his doctor and got him into therapy. Again, there is nothing wrong with this. Sometimes you need a professional. I pride myself on being able to handle it all, there is nothing these kids could throw at me that I couldn’t handle. But in the end I couldn’t. I needed to someone else to step in and help us. My pride isn’t hurt, I am doing what is best for my child and there is nothing to be more proud of.
Please, don’t be afraid to ask either your, or your child’s, doctor for help if you think you might need it. That is what they are there for.