Family & Parenting

What Parenting Experts Have To Say About This Hair Tie Trick That’s Going Viral

How to unlearn the habit of losing your cool with your preschooler.

In a recent blog post, a mom shared her tip for being consciously kinder to her kids, and it has gone viral. All it takes is a handful of those hair elastics virtually every mother has lying around the house.

Kelly Holmes first shared the tip on her blog, The (Reformed) Idealist Mom. After losing her cool with her preschooler during a particularly stressful moment (what parent hasn’t been there?), Holmes decided to unlearn the habit of speaking sharply to her child.

Changing Parenting Habits

She decided that visual cues would help remind her to avoid this unpleasant practice. Every morning, she places five hair ties on one of her wrists. Any time she snaps at one of her children, she moves a hair tie to the opposite wrist. The goal is to have all five bands on the original wrist at the end of the day.

Of course, no parent is perfect. Holmes’ approach lets her earn back moved hair ties with positive interactions. According to her research, it takes five positive interactions to negate each negative one.

According to Holmes, this method works wonders. Others seem to agree. Another mom by the name of Shauna Harvey shared her experience with this paren3ting hack.

“I have finished the day with all 5 bands on the original wrist. I’m very proud of myself for exercising patience with him [her 4-year-old son],” Harvey wrote in a Facebook post about her first day wearing the hair bands.

We decided to take it a step further and ask some experts for their insights and opinions on this parenting practice.

This Method Has Its Merits

“There are several things I like a lot about this technique,” says psychologist and author Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D. “It’s easy to use. It recognizes that anger and irritation with our children can be a habit. It encourages peaceful communication. It acknowledges that if we want our children to behave better, we have to put our calmest and kindest foot forward. It allows for imperfection and gives simple ways to get back on track rather than staying stuck feeling like a bad mom.”

Dr. Michelle Cutler, Associate Professor in the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology agrees.

“The best part of this approach is that it helps us as parents to be mindful about how we are responding to our children—both in the moment when we are frustrated, and intentionally, when we make efforts to reconnect and reassure them,” Cutler says.

“I think the author is right in recognizing the day-to-day stressors of parenting,” she continues. “And how some kids are more able to ‘push our buttons’ so that we lose our cool than others. On the basic level, this is a good way to change a behavior that has become a habit, just like a sticky note, mantra that we repeat to ourselves or any other visual reminder. The most important thing is recognizing when we lose our temper, and making an effort to change it.”

Dr. Eleazar Eusebio, Psy.D., NCSP, Chair of the School Psychology Department at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology in Washington, D.C. wasn’t sure the approach was useful at first blush.

“Upon first reading The Idealist Mom’s article, I thought the hair tie strategy seemed a bit unusual,” he admits. “However, considering it adopts noted psychologist John Gottman’s exploration of positive-to-negative ratios in marriages and his ‘magic ratio’ of 5:1 positive to negative interactions, there appears to be some benefits that could generalize over to parent-child relationships.”

“According to Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, we experience approximately 20,000 moments each day and the quality of our lives is determined by how our brains recognize and categorize our moments as either positive, negative or neutral,” Eusebio says. “The hair tie strategy can help a busy parent to monitor their positive and negative interactions with their children.”

“As a parent of two young boys,” Eusebio adds, “I know how difficult it can be to manage and track your behaviors, particularly while in the moment. However, a concrete strategy may serve to help a parent consciously engage and be present in their interactions.”

Flickr | Scott Howse

Improving Upon The Approach

The experts seem to agree that while the method is definitely a step in the right direction, parents may want to dig a little deeper.

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“What I think is missing from the strategy is the larger context,” notes Kennedy-Moore. “For example, if there are situations that are routinely difficult, it’s worth stepping back to think about how to make them easier. Kids often have good ideas about how to do this, and engaging them in problem-solving discussions is a great learning opportunity.”