Tips to get through suicide hour with autonomy & respectful parenting
Reading time: 5 min
Suicide hour… you know that weird time in the late afternoon, early evening when the kids and you are both grumpy. You’re all hungry and tired and there are many transitions to make your way through… bath, making supper, eating supper, before you can get to that little piece of heaven called bedtime.
I know how easily this time of the day can become a battle of wills, believe me. I am one of those people that get extremely grumpy around this time of day. At the same time, it is extremely important that my children feel respected.
Being a gentle, respectful parent who allows their children to have autonomy does not have to mean that all form of routine goes out of the window, or that chaos ensues. I hope this blog post helps to clear that up and give you a few tips to help make your evenings more joy-filled, and less stressful.Being a gentle, respectful parent who allows their children to have autonomy does not have to mean that all form of routine goes out of the window, or that chaos ensues. Click To Tweet
Here are my 4 top tips for getting through suicide hour with children:
1. Kids thrive on routine
It’s no secret that children thrive on routine. This can be a challenge if you are someone like me that instead thrives on winging it. However, I learnt a long time ago that it is possible to have both a set routine and plenty of flex time for winging it. It all boils down to anchor points in the day, and I plan to write another post just on this topic but the crib notes would be thus:
Plan a few anchor points into your day, these for me would be meals, bath and bed. We make sure those anchor points are at the same time everyday with slight adjustments for the seasons, and everyone knows what is expected of them at those times – no surprises. Children love to know what is going to happen next, it allows them a sense of control and security. So if reading a book always happens after bath time, you are going to find that transition a lot easier to move your children through.
A habit that completely changed my life was deciding on what I was cooking for supper by 3pm everyday. In fact, I often know what I am cooking for supper by lunch time. This way, I can pop to the shops quickly if I am missing any ingredients and supper will not run late. It also makes it a lot more likely that I will actually cook and we don’t resort to takeaways.
Because those anchor points are at the same time every day, it makes planning outings and errands a lot easier too. Unless its a very special occasion, I do not mess with our anchor points and their normal times.
If you are working for yourself, plan any meetings, calls or scheduled work around those important transitions. I work with a lot of clients in the US which means their morning is my afternoon, and so often meetings have to be held during my late afternoon. I simply make sure I start supper earlier that night, or the children get to have something super quick that night, like boiled eggs.
3. Check in with yourself
Work a cup of tea and a breather into your routine to release the tension of the day and set the tone for the evening. Another great way to wind down is to pop a few calming essential oils in the diffuser, my favourite current combo is Wild Orange and Copaiba. This will benefit the children’s natural wind down process too making suicide hour less suicide, more bliss.
“I finally figured out that the disproportionate anger I used to feel when my children didn’t ‘listen’ to (obey) me was really just a painful echo of all the times I wasn’t heard as a child.” – Shelly Robinson, @raising_yourself
If you find that you are losing your temper around bath time, teeth brushing or another transition time, then dig a bit deeper in your own experiences with these as a child. As the quote above suggested, this could indicate that there were incidences of aggression around them for you as a child. Take some time to reflect on what is going on for you, and perhaps work through it with a trained professional. It is totally normal for children to test their power and revolt any of these transitions, it is not normal for you to feel rage at their testing.
4. Remain respectful and allow body autonomy
“Autonomy is characterized by a feeling of being free. People are happier and healthier when they feel autonomous. This sense of well-being is maximized when young people behave in a way that’s consistent with their internal values and wishes, as opposed to the values and wishes of others. Support for autonomy also promotes empathy. When our need for autonomy is satisfied we’re more likely to feel positive.” -Teresa Graham Brett, Parenting for Social Change
All children have a right to autonomy. This means they should be in control of their bodies, minds, and time. After all, human rights apply to people of all ages, right? So how do you meld this with those anchor points of routine above?
Well, I serve food at the same time everyday, it doesn’t necessarily mean my children eat it at the same time everyday. But, they usually do, as their bodies have become accustomed to our routine.
I also give my child loads of control and autonomy where I can in life. They choose their own clothes, and there is no forced eating, and, they get to choose when they go to sleep. Our bed time routine is the same every night though.
Our bedtime routine looks like this;
- a bath (my children love water and bath time, but I have a nephew that is vehemently against bathing and so he will wait for his mom to get home from work and jump into the shower with her, or sometimes he goes a couple of days between washes – no big deal in the grand scheme of things.)
- supper – a lot of people have questioned my intelligence on doing supper after bathing but I find the bath does wonders for winding the kids down after their active afternoons, and they are more settled to enjoy their evening meal, which rates higher for me than sparkly clean faces for the night.
- a movie or an audio book
- and then reading a book in bed, or an audio book again if mom is too lazy
- lights off and I lie with them until they are asleep. If my son is still wide awake he continues to listen to the audio book with earphones on, or he gets up and goes and looks at books in the lounge or does something else. But most evenings he is happy to go to sleep with his sister as we get up early in the mornings.
Check in with your child/ren, these transitions can be times where all their feelings of powerlessness become concentrated. You can use play for them to process any lack of powerlessness. Play is a vital way that children address some of the bigger things going on for them.
“Power-reversal games help children release feelings around powerlessness and lack of choice. Even if we are aiming to be conscious parents, and give our children lots of choice, most children do experience feelings around not having choice. In these games, we reverse roles, so that we become the one who is less powerful, smaller, and less able.
So, for example, perhaps our two-year-old is on a swing, and every time she comes forward, we pretend that she has knocked us over, and make a big exaggerated collapsing backwards motion. And then we might say something like, “you’re not going to do that again, are you?” with a fun smile on our face, and act surprised when it happens again. When she laughs delightedly, we know that she is not only feeling connected and having fun, she is also feeling powerful and releasing feelings around not being powerful in the past.” – Marion Rose
Suicide hour does not have to be a struggle. It also does not need to be a time where you exert maximum power over your children in order to get them to obey. Remember, we are trying to raise children to be free thinking, confident individuals to create a peaceful and respectful world. However it is also important for you to practice self love and make sure that your alone time and sanity is protected. I hope that this post has highlighted that with a bit of effort (and planning), this is definitely possible.
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