I’m often asked how it is I manage to take my girls along to events with me and how I get them to behave. Now I would suggest that “behave” is a subjective world – I strive for not knocking over people and using inside voices about 75% of the time. But over the past five years I’ve developed a set of guidelines for myself:
Don’t panic. Children are like dogs — they sense your fear. So anytime I feel myself getting panicked that they should be in cuter outfits or that we are running late or that they are stopping to look at too many sidewalk cracks I take a few deep breaths because if I panic they will sense it and it will go down hill.
Set expectations. On the ride over, we always talk about what will happen — will there be other kids, can they run around, will mommy have to give a speech, and then we go through what activities I brought for them.
Don’t apologize. Okay, apologize when your child spills their drink on someone but don’t apologize for the existence of your child. Life comes with choices. I choose to bring my child to this event because they could learn something, because I thought the event was worthwhile and childcare was unavailable, because it was on the way to her dance class …. whatever the reason, own it.
Engage first and use technology as a last resort. Upon entering an event, we try to point out something or someone they will find interesting — a water fountain, a favorite playmate (child or adult) or cookies. When that doesn’t work, we look for a quiet corner for coloring or Barbies. If all else fails, technology may come out. I know we will have years of techno-loving tweens. My goal is just hold it off, not ban it.
Make sure you’re on the same page with your partner. I’m so lucky that my husband will roll up his sleeves and spend a few minutes (or hours) with a coloring book or playing Barbies. But more than that, we agree that by bringing the girls, they learn valuable lessons and that, at events, we will aim for participation but settle for quiet distraction.
Praise them when they do well and offer sympathy when they don’t. Sen. Cory Booker once commiserated with a three year old Abigail that he too got cranky when he had too many events in a day without stopping for lunch. She remained a crank but it reminded me that we’re all human, kids just show it more often.
Realize they are kids and something will go wrong. They are kids and if you expect perfection you will be disappointed but if you shoot for no meltdowns in the middle of the event while on stage, you will usually walk away pretty happy.
It’s not a perfect formula but it’s gotten us through this far!