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Stress-busting tips for a ‘Calmer, Easier, Happier’ 2022
Photo by Sarah Medina on Unsplash

None of us has a magic wand that will make all the usual family problems simply disappear. But you can reduce your parenting stresses and be calmer and happier in 2022 by making small changes in your everyday activities.

In this article I give an overview of five of the strategies I guide parents to use that will significantly reduce stressful family situations. These five strategies are:

  • Descriptive Praise
  • Special Time
  • Couple care
  • Month-long experiments
  • Preparing for success to achieve calmer, easier, happier school-day mornings

1. Descriptive Praise

Every day, frustrated, exasperated parents tell me that the most stressful aspect of being a parent is feeling that they have to remind, repeat, nag, persuade, threaten, bribe, negotiate, or shout just to get their children and teens to do what they’re told. But there is another way!

One of the most effective techniques for improving cooperation is Descriptive Praise.

When we want to show our children that we appreciate something they’ve done, or when we’re trying to motivate them to keep behaving well, most parents are in the habit of saying things like ‘Well done’ or ‘Super’ or ‘That was amazing’ or ‘Good job’. One problem with these superlatives is that children have heard those words and phrases so often that they become like verbal wallpaper; the children hardly notice them any more. Also, the words are too vague; often children don’t really know what they did that was so great.

Descriptive Praise is very different from how we usually show our appreciation or approval. With Descriptive Praise you’re giving your children and teens praise that is very specific and informative. All children (and even teens!) want to please their parents. And Descriptive Praise shows them exactly what they can do more of to get more of our appreciation and positive attention.

Initially you may feel that Descriptive Praise seems forced and awkward. And it’s even possible that your children or teens might complain at first and say it sounds ‘weird’, but that’s only because they’re not used to it. Do it anyway, and you’ll soon see more and more cooperation and self-reliance.

Here are some examples of Descriptive Praise:

  • ‘I asked you to close the door, and you did it straightaway. You didn’t say “In a minute’’.
  • ‘I could see that you didn’t enjoy writing that History essay at all, but you kept going until you finished it. And then you checked it. That took determination.’
  • ‘You hung your coat on the hook properly. I didn’t even have to ask. That shows you’re becoming more aware of the right way to treat your belongings.’
  • ‘Even though you two are arguing, there’s no pushing or hitting.’
  • ‘I really appreciate that you kept sending me text messages to let me know where you were while you were out with your friends. I know that was probably annoying for you, but it helped me to stop worrying about you. I love that you showed me that kind of respect.’
  • ‘You didn’t say “Yuck” about the asparagus. You just left it on the side of your plate.
    You remembered the new rule.’
  • ‘When your sister was crying and whingeing because she was hungry and tired, you didn’t make it worse by shouting at her. You stayed calm and tried to help.’

Even on the days when your children’s behaviour isn’t great, you can still find lots of little bits of OK behaviour that you can Descriptively Praise, such as:

  • cooperating the first time you ask
  • sharing (even if it’s for only a few minutes)
  • being gentle with the baby
  • saying ‘please’ or ‘thank you’
  • writing a slightly longer essay than last week
  • turning off the computer with less of a fuss

We can also use Descriptive Praise to highlight the absence of misbehaviour. Even in difficult situations, when there may be only fleeting moments in which your children are not doing something wrong, you can jump in quickly with a Descriptive Praise for:

  • not grabbing
  • not laughing when a sibling makes a mistake
  • not interrupting
  • not leaving their school bag on the floor (even if they didn’t put it where it belongs)
  • not hitting when they’re angry

So I invite you to make a commitment today to start Descriptively Praising each of your children at least ten times every day. You’ll soon see that ten Descriptive Praises a day per child is actually a low bar; you’ll find that there are many more than ten times every day when you can notice and mention something small that they did right or something small that they didn’t do wrong. Your children will soon come to know that you’re really paying attention to them and that you appreciate their tiny steps in the right direction.

As you get used to this new, very genuine, and very loving way of appreciating your children, you’ll soon discover how quickly it improves cooperation. This qualifies Descriptive Praise as a true stress-buster.

If you’re new to this technique and aren’t sure how to Descriptively Praise, follow this link and submit your email address to get instant access to your free copy of our ‘Descriptive Praise’ ebook.

2. Special Time

Another powerful de-stressor is spending time with each of your children separately. Even siblings who usually get on well together will appreciate spending time alone with you because they won’t be having to share (or compete for) your attention. I call this one-on-one activity ‘Special Time’ because it results in lovely times together.

If you’ve been working from home and home-schooling over this past year or more because of COVID, you may have spent lots of time with your children, far more than you would normally. However, Special Time is specifically about giving each of your children and teens uninterrupted time that is just for them.

It may seem that having to manage off-again-on-again lockdowns and home-schooling, as well as irregular work schedules, leaves you with little time to spare for giving unhurried, undivided attention to each of your children separately. But with a bit of planning, you’ll find that almost every day you’ll be able to squeeze in some Special Time, even if it’s only 15 minutes with each child.

During each Special Time, do something with one child that you both enjoy that:

  • isn’t in front of a screen
  • doesn’t cost money
  • isn’t about a food treat

Here are some ideas for activities that you and your child could do together during this Special Time:

  • start a new hobby
  • play a game
  • cook a favourite dish
  • do a puzzle together
  • read to each other
  • tackle chores such as weeding the garden or clearing out unwanted toys
  • go for a walk

The time you spend with each child separately will help them to want to become more cooperative, confident, motivated, self-reliant, and considerate - all of which helps to reduce your parenting stress.

As you put into practice this habit of daily Special Time with each child, you’ll discover that without that familiar, annoying undercurrent of sibling rivalry and without screen distractions, you’ll be seeing your child at his or her best. And when you’re not rushed or preoccupied, each of your children will be seeing you at your best. Special Time not only helps you to reduce your parenting stresses; it also helps you to create lasting happy memories for yourself and for your children.

If you’d like to learn more about this delightful strategy, please read the article on Special Time in the Blog section of our website.

3. Couple care

If you have a partner, one of the best ways to be a happier, less stressed parent in 2022 is to devote more time and attention to your couple relationship.

Every evening that you and your partner are both at home, as soon as the children are in bed, leave the dinner dishes in the sink and ignore that urgent email until later, and spend the next half-hour (or longer if you like) on what I call a ‘nightly half-hour date’. Reconnecting with your partner is the priority. Spend this precious half-hour enjoying yourselves and each other as a couple.

These are the rules:

  • no screens
  • no talking about problems
  • no discussing the logistics of daily life
  • no talking about the children

What can you do instead? Here are some favourite activities that my clients have told me about:

  • listening to music together
  • playing cards or board games or doing a crossword puzzle together
  • looking at family photos and reminiscing
  • reading aloud to each other
  • telling each other jokes
  • planning the next family holiday
  • exercising together
  • and of course cuddling

If you’re a single parent, you can use your nightly half-hour ‘date’ to take care of yourself. The rules remain the same, as do the results. What can you do to replenish yourself? How about:

  • phone a friend
  • listen to or read a good book
  • enjoy the silence
  • start a hobby
  • write in a journal
  • pick up a pencil and draw something you can see or something from your imagination
  • meditate or do breathing exercises

If you’re part of a couple, this habit of a nightly half-hour date will help you both to focus on each other’s good qualities. If you’re single, you may find that this half-hour ‘date’ with yourself becomes a sacred time for nurturing yourself, and that you look forward to it all day.

This time devoted to replenishing yourselves relieves a lot of stress. The half-hour dates will also help to build up your emotional stamina, enabling you to stay more positive, more firm, and more consistent when dealing with the inevitable stresses of family life - and one result of this is that you (and your children) will feel calmer and happier.

4. Month-long experiments

You might already know what you could tweak in order to improve things at home, but maybe you just haven’t got round to implementing any consistent changes. Or maybe you and your partner aren’t in agreement about what should be done. (If that’s the reason, please read the article in our Blog section on Becoming a 'Calmer, Easier, Happier' United Front.) Or maybe you’re not sure which changes would make a real difference. Whatever the reason, experimenting with new ways of doing things can help.

Think about which flashpoints are causing you a lot of stress. The typical family flashpoints are:

  • school-day mornings
  • mealtimes
  • homework, revision, and home learning
  • sibling interactions
  • hygiene
  • tidying belongings
  • contributing to the household
  • screen time
  • free time
  • bedtimes

Choose one problematic flashpoint to tackle first. Together with your partner if you have one, or with a friend if you’re a single parent, decide on a few adjustments that you think would probably reduce the problems and make that flashpoint go more smoothly.

Make these adjustments. Stick with your new plan for a minimum of one month before you judge how well it’s working. Your children may be resistant at first. But as the month rolls on, you’re likely to see improvements.

And if, during the month, you see that this problematic flashpoint needs further tweaks, keep making changes until you can see that what you’re doing is having a significant positive impact.

At that point, when the flashpoint you’ve chosen to address no longer feels like a stressful issue for you, pick the next flashpoint you want to improve. Again, decide on which strategies and changes you will experiment with to improve things.

In my books I recommend a number of practical changes you can make and strategies you can use that will improve all the usual family flashpoints. These include:

  • United Front
  • Planning your day realistically
  • Reflective Listening
  • Think-throughs
  • Action replays
  • Establishing consistent rules and routines
  • Special Time
  • Independent Play
  • More sleep
  • Less time in front of a screen
  • More exercise or movement
  • Optimal nutrition
  • Solution talks
  • as well as the strategies I’ve highlighted earlier in this article: Descriptive Praise, Couple care, and Special Time.

By focusing on resolving problems, you’ll be reducing your stress levels, and as a result you’ll enjoy family life a lot more.

5. Preparing for success to achieve calmer school-day mornings

School-day mornings are an example of a flashpoint that is often stressful, both for parents and for children. Research has shown that when mornings are less fraught, parents and children feel happier and more relaxed all day long, even though they often don’t realise why.

To help everyone in the family experience ‘calmer, easier, happier’ school-day mornings, you’ll probably need to do some things differently. I recommend that you get yourself up and completely ready for the day before the time your children need to be getting up. To do this you’re probably going to have to wake up earlier than you currently do. But it will be worth it because once the children are up, you’ll be able to focus your full attention on guiding them into sensible habits. You won’t be rushing them, nagging them, or scowling at them.

You may also need to get your children up earlier. Give your children plenty of time to do everything they have to do at a pace that’s realistic for them at their current stage of maturity (or immaturity). This will go a long way to keeping school-day mornings less stressful.

Paediatricians tell us that most children and teens aren’t getting enough sleep. This mild, but chronic, sleep deprivation often results in them being distractible or irritable in the mornings, and not interested in a healthy breakfast. To achieve smoother mornings where everyone has enough time to get ready for the day ahead, you will probably need to put your children to bed earlier as well. Another benefit of earlier bedtimes is that you will have more time to unwind in the evenings, more time to focus on taking care of yourself and your adult relationships.

The above recommendations are just some examples of how parents can improve a flashpoint that is currently problematic. Commit to experimenting with making adjustments to whichever routines are not yet how you want them to be.

Want more helpful recommendations and strategies? In my audiobook Preparing For Success I explain the key foundation strategies that'll help you radically transform your family's flashpoints. Find out how to create calmer, easier, happier school-day mornings, and much else besides, here.


The above suggestions are just a few of the strategies that I teach all parents. To discover some of the other strategies that I recommend, explore the Blog section of the website for videos and podcasts, as well as these articles:

And remember, if you want to learn more about Descriptive Praise, submit your email address here to get instant access to our free ebook, which explains this foundational strategy in more detail, and which includes lots of examples of Descriptive Praise sentences to help you put this important strategy into practice.

The more consistently you practise the above strategies, the more likely you are to reduce your stress levels. And as a result, no matter what challenges 2022 may hold for us, you’ll create a year that is ‘calmer, easier and happier’ for your whole family.

Let us know how you get on. We love to hear from our 'calmer, easier, happier' families!

Descriptive Praise free ebook

If you don’t yet have your copy of my free ebook that explains this foundation strategy in detail, and that gives you lots of helpful examples, you can get instant access by adding your details here.

You may like these ideas but be unsure how to put them into practice. Would you like some advice about how to make all this happen? To find out how the ‘Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting and Teaching’ resources and services can help you and your family, please browse our website or email us:

In addition to our books, audiobooks and ebooks, we also provide free support materials in the blog section of our website (videos, podcasts and articles), on our YouTube channel and on our Facebook page.

If you would like personalised advice that is specific to your family’s needs, we offer a parenting programme that consists of online private consultations plus in-person home visits.

For schools we offer parenting talks and teacher-training.

Please get in touch for more information. Noël and her team welcome enquiries from parents and educators.

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