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This Rubber Band Hack Can Actually Help Turn a Bad Parenting Day into a Good One

I will admit that even after 10 years of parenting, I still don’t know exactly what I’m doing, especially when it comes to disciplining my kids, and well … and not losing my mind in the process. Just yesterday, my 4-year-old broke his brother’s 3DS, caused a mini-flood in the bathroom, snuck a lollipop without permission, and spilled his water and cereal too many times to count.

I knew that he’d been up with a stuffy nose and was sleep deprived, so I couldn’t totally blame him for all of his misbehaviors. But damnit, he’d kept me up half the night too, and there was just no way I could make it through a day with that many kid catastrophes without totally blowing up. So yes, there was yelling, there were toys banished to the cabinet where he couldn’t reach them, and there was some more yelling after that. And crying (from both of us).

By the end of the day, we both cuddled in bed and showered each other in apologies, hugs, and kisses — because parenting is that crazy mix of every emotion you’ve ever felt, coupled with an enormous amount of guilt anytime you feel like you’ve failed your kids (which is pretty much daily).

When I opened my computer this morning, still feeling rattled by my difficult day yesterday, I came across a post that gave me a shred of hope. It was posted by an ordinary mom like me, Shauna Harvey. In her post, which she shared on Facebook last week, Harvey recounts some brutally honest struggles she’d been having with her 4-year-old (what’s up with 4-year-olds?!), and describes a “rubber band” parenting hack that has been truly helping her deal with her son, her own anger, and has created a more positive, loving environment for everyone involved.

The post has already gone mega-viral (with 4.8K likes, and over 11K shares), and with good reason. The “rubber band” hack, which Harvey credits to a blog post from Kelly at The Idealist Mom, is absolutely brilliant. And because I’m sure you’re itching to know what it is and what all the fuss is about it, here’s the deal, as Harvey describes it:

“I wore 5 rubber bands on my wrist from the time I got up, to the time I tucked him in just now. The 5 rubber bands represent every time you lose your cool or say something unkind to your child. Every time that happens, you move one band to the other wrist. To ‘gain the band back,’ you must do 5 kind/positive things with your child (dance party, singing a song together, reading together, etc).”

Awesome idea, huh? I love it especially because it’s so simple and easy. I mean, I almost always have a few hairbands on my wrist anyway. Why not make them useful? And I also love that it takes into consideration that, yes, there will be at least five times you lose it with your kids. It normalizes it as being as a part of parenting almost all of us experience, at least to some extent.

Not only that, but it also holds us responsible for making sure that we are committed to keeping things positive for our kids, and to making every effort to create a warm and loving environment, despite whatever else is going on.

Harvey believes that making an effort to create a positive atmosphere is vital for her kids, and I couldn’t agree more. “I read that science shows for every bad reaction, it takes 5 POSITIVE reactions to regain a positive relationship,” writes Harvey. “I’m going to be using this method until it becomes a habit and basically turns into an auto pilot ritual.”

Now, that’s one committed mom. And I totally hear her about the importance of making something like this become a much-needed ritual. I think so many of us function on autopilot in terms of getting ticked off at our kids, and just being in a place of exhaustion and annoyance with the day-to-day troubles of raising young kids.

So, sometimes we absolutely need things like this — simple ways to reframe our days and our lives toward wholesomeness and positivity. Little reminders of what matters, and why we had our beautiful kids in the first place.

As I said before, one of the most striking things about Harvey’s post is how honest she is about her real struggles, and how all this “positive parenting” stuff doesn’t minimize the sometimes intense difficulties of raising kids. So after Harvey describes the “rubber band” hack, she describes why she felt drawn to it in the first place.

“I’ve found myself so incredibly stressed out,” Harvey writes, describing her last few days of parenting, “I beat my head against the wall daily because I don’t understand why my 4 year old insists on being disrespectful and a non listener. I was to the point of crying at least every other day.”

Harvey finishes the post with the “results” of her little experiment, and how the “rubber band” hack is truly helping her by giving her hope that she will not only survive this parenting thing with her sanity intact, but with a little extra love and patience than she had before.

“I have finished the day with all 5 bands on the original wrist,” writes Harvey, “I’m very proud of myself for exercising patience with him. I know it’s only day 1 but I’m hopeful this will help our communication skills and our relationship.”

I see in the photo that Harvey posted, she’s got a sweet little newborn in her home too. And let me tell you, life with a newborn and a 4-year-old can be sort of a living hell for a few months (or years). I’ve been there, and I think it’s fabulous that Harvey is looking for ways to infuse a bit of extra joy into her life with her little ones.

And however long she uses this hack, Harvey (and anyone else deep “in the trenches” of motherhood), should know that she is a great mom, and like everything else, this too shall pass.

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