No, I didn’t take a picture of them so let’s get that question out of the way. It is not one of my parenting methods and I will explain why later.
I came home after a particularly long day at work not too long ago. Upon walking through the door, bags hanging from my arms and tired as can be, I was not greeted by my kids. Normally they come running up to me and surround me in delicious hugs. But not this day. On this day I heard giggles…lots and lots of giggles coming from the dining room. Then, my five-year-old son emerged from the kitchen. His face was covered in greek yogurt. “Hi, Mommy!!” Then, as if my life is actually a sitcom, my three-year-old son emerged from the kitchen. His face had an even thicker coating of yogurt on it. “HI, MOMMY!!”
(Did I mention this was the nice, thick, Fage brand of greek yogurt? New tub.)
They were in full-giggle mode at this point. How did I react? Read on to find out:
I Said Nothing. I can’t say that this was particularly intentional because at this point I was in shock. My years of training in handling child behavior problems just kicked in automatically. I’m glad it did because it meant I wasn’t yelling at them. I was not reacting to what they had done and that is key in minimizing problematic behavior in kids. This also allowed me to process my own feelings in the moment to make sure that when I did respond it was appropriate to the situation. Even though Fage is my favorite brand of yogurt by far, it is not worth me getting upset with my kids for ruining the whole tub of it.
And once my husband came downstairs to see what happened, I gave him that one-eyed squint that said, “Don’t you dare laugh at this!!” (Yes, he was home the whole time.)
I Remained Calm. Parenting sometimes means fighting back what wants to come forth in the heat of the moment. It is important to instead stay calm. Or at least stay as calm as possible. This can be a tough one for many parents. Emotions kick in automatically so it can be easy to yell and scream. It can be easy to give in to the anger and let it come exploding out. In that moment I was frustrated and amused at the same time. I didn’t laugh either (even though a small part of me wanted to). I didn’t take a picture. Why? Because kids know that pictures mean something was noteworthy and can encourage them to repeat such behavior in the future. The last thing I wanted was a repeat of them slathering food on their faces. So remaining calm, just like choosing your words wisely is key to minimizing undesired behavior from children.
I Made Them Clean Up. Within reason of course. I told them to clean up their mess. They went upstairs and washed their faces. After letting them clean up most of it (or until they thought they were done) I went over the tough to reach spots. (You have no idea how hard it is to get yogurt out of eyelashes.) Then we went downstairs and they cleaned up yogurt that had fallen on the floor. My sons were quite proud to find the hidden drops of yogurt to clean up!!
And that was the end of that. No yelling, no crying, no frustration. We didn’t talk about it any further. We set the table for dinner and went on with our evening. Not to say that every time kids engage in less than desirable circumstances will turn out like this one did. But if you are careful about how you react, you will minimize the likelihood that your children will repeat such behavior.