Surviving 3.5 and 5.5: a cheat sheet

Illustration for Cheating Français : Illustrat...

In the spirit of the Orange Rhino “No Yelling” Challenge:

If you’ve been reading me for a while—and if you know me in real life—then you know I’m usually this “pee in the driveway if you want” kind of parent. Just a leetle on this side of permissive, you could say. But I hope you’ve also noticed that Saint Jane also, ya’ know, loses it with her children—yells, gets irritated, frustrated, wants to run away…

And, to date, never more so than at three-and-a-half and five-and-a-half. Cinder and Flora, at both of those ages, drove me to the very edge of sanity and made me mine for immense reservoirs of patience within myself I didn’t know I had. And despite those, I still yelled and snapped. But without them, I would have snapped ever so much more…

As Ender, who has been simultaneously my easiest baby and my most frustrating child (paradoxes are what makes life interesting, right?), starts the path towards three-and-a-half, I thought I should remind myself of a few strategies that saw me through it the first two times. The cheat sheet strategy was an absolute lifesaver with Cinder—and as I dug it up out of old journals, I wish I had put it into action when Flora was struggling through Sensitive Seven… I think I might still, because I suspect Sensitive Seven might become Extra-Sensitive Eight—and I hope it sees me through Ender’s crazy 3.5 with some sanity intact. Without further ado, here it is.

The premise is this: a certain level of crazy on the kids’ part is normal at this stage. I can’t control it. What I can control is my own behaviour and my own reactions. To that end:

I made a three column cheat sheet that looked like this:

1. When Cinder says/does…[thing that drives me crazy]

2. DO NOT SAY [in small print my knee-jerk, channeling the worst of my angry-inner-voice response]

3. SAY or DO THIS [desired response in big letters]

and taped it to the fridge, because somehow, most of the unstellar performance on my part occurred in the kitchen. Upon reflection, I should have had another copy by the front door, because that would be conflict spot number two.

With Ender, I might put this sheet up in the bathroom as well. And maybe have another one in the car…


1. When Ender yanks Flora’s hair / tries to destroy her art work

2. DO NOT SAY Stop it you little monster!

3. DO SAY: Ow, that hurts! AND Take Ender away and redirect him to something.

Because most of the time we all know WHAT we WANT to say or do, right? The problem is remembering that ideal in the frustration of the moment.

Related life hack: It also helps me at times like this to remind myself of my long-term parenting and living goals are and how most daily irritants don’t really impact them. Writing them down somewhere on the cheat sheet might be helpful—I might try that this time ‘round. You know, something like, “What’s really important to me is a peaceful, respectful house. Not a clean house.” Or “I want my children to be confident, strong willed-adults. That means I do not get instant obedience now.”

And… persevere, with a smile when possible.

Unrelated life hack: It’s not even that I’m an introvert; some days, I’m an outright misantrope. Here’s a an interesting post on Finding Balance as an Introverted Parent, by Vanessa Pruitt, from Natural Family Today. Now, I’m not a great fan of looking for balance myself (I prefer to seek harmony), but although Pruitt uses the “B” word, she writes about useful strategies.



8 thoughts on “Surviving 3.5 and 5.5: a cheat sheet

  1. Hi you! So you do yell? I did suspect as much but I bet I yell more! I love your ideas but I noticed you said might………..”I might try that this time” and that made me think. That’s the problem, so many great ideas and grand intentions and so very little time to implement them. Everything that was a good idea that I could put into place when I only had one or two became everything I can never find the time to do that I should do that would help so much in teh short and long run. But we do our best and we keep trying harder. I love the Orange Rhino and am starting on the challenge. Today so far so good – though I came close. We need free access to posters and banners with all of those reminders.

  2. I’ve never seen you yell either. And pretty sure I yell more 🙂
    I also think it is ok to yell once and a while. Sometimes with my permissive ways, a constructive yell just gets priorities straight again if you know what I mean.

    • I don’t yell a lot… but I “snark” which I think is worse. And I always feel like such utter shit when I do yell. Unless it’s the “Stop! That car will hit you!” kind of yell. That’s different. 🙂 I really think the path of “gentle” or “non-coercive” or whatever you want to call it parenting is as much about what you want for yourself and the person you want to be as it is about what you want for your children…

  3. This post was just the “meat and potatoes” kind of post I needed to read. Loaded with substance. Cheat sheet? What a practical way to remind ourselves of who we are and who we would like to become as mothers. Love the line “the problem is remembering that ideal in the frustration of the moment.” Oh boy, can I relate to this issue. I may have the BEST intentions, and yet, what spews out of my mouth is something different altogether.

    Wish I could reel the words of frustration back in. But it’s too late. That’s when I realize I need to give my children some grace and me some space. Great post!

  4. Pingback: What do you mean I don’t have to reinvent the wheel? | Undogmatic Unschoolers

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