How This Viral Hair Tie Trick Helps Parents Practice More Patience & Empathy

Toddlers are designed to try the patience of even the most serene, unflappable parents, but one parenting blogger is offering help from an unexpected place: hair ties. This hair tie parenting trick reminds moms and dads to stay calm and positive around their little ones — even when they have very, very good reasons to lose their cool. Parenting is such a tough job that anything that can make it just a little easier is worth a try — especially when the "trick" is as simple as this one.

This idea comes from Kelly Holmes at The (Reformed) Idealist Mom. Reader Shauna Harvey wrote about it in a Facebook post a couple weeks ago that has since gone viral. “Today, I tried something new,” Harvey wrote. Following Kelly’s advice about how to stop being an “angry mother,” Harvey wore five hair ties on her wrist, with the goal of ending the day with those ties still on that wrist. Every time she said something sharp or angry toward her four-year-old, she moved a tie to the opposite arm. To get the tie back on the first wrist, she had to follow up her angry remark with five loving interactions with her kid.

According to Kelly Holmes at The (Reformed) Idealist Mom, “Research shows that to have a healthy relationship, for every one negative interaction you need 5 positive interactions to balance that out. It’s called the Magic 5:1 Ratio.” So the idea is that for every negative interaction with a child (which is bound to occur, because parenting is hard and no one is perfect), a parent should follow with five positive ones. Positive interactions include hugs, “I love yous,” dance parties, and many other small, simple gestures of love.

Harvey was optimistic after her first day of trying out the hair tie trick. “I have finished the day with all 5 bands on the original wrist,” she wrote. “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.”

In her original blog post, Holmes recounted why she decided to make a change in how she interacts with her daughter. “Unfortunately for me, I’d developed a bad habit of talking sharply to my preschooler,” she wrote. “My brain was on autopilot headed in the wrong direction towards being an angry mother.” Implementing the hair tie trick had an immediate, positive impact on how she reacts to her child. “Months later, the hair tie hack is still working wonders,” she wrote. “I talk to my preschooler with love and kindness in my voice instead of annoyance and frustration.”

Holmes talked to Parents.com about why her idea has gone viral. She said,

Holmes even has printables available on her website with ideas for positive interactions that parents can use to counteract negative moments.