We all hear about the terrible twos and threenager stage, but I once had a friend explain to me that four is where the real chaos starts, and as we creep up on D’s birthday I’ll just say this— the struggle is real.

“Why” and “No, I’m not going to” have taken reign over my son’s vocabulary like an alien in a host body.

I never would have thought that someone would question me so extensively and upsettingly about mundane things like stopping at the gas station or putting on the socks with two grey stripes instead of three, but alas, it appears that mother does not know best and that my almost four year old is positive he’s got this world figured out. And hey, maybe he’s right.

After months of losing my cool and then promptly hating myself for it, I finally decided to step back and get some perspective.

Kids do what they want to do. They are instinctive to a fault. They rarely question something’s safety or social acceptability. They just live.  They simply love life. That is, until we convince them to question, fear, and conform to it.

And no, I’m not saying that we should all live in anarchy and just do whatever the hell we please without any thought to the consequences. I’m not saying we should wake up the whole house at 3:30 am because we really want to play with our drums and we don’t care about what stage of the REM cycle anyone else is in. Or that we should stick to a strict diet of ice cream and Oreos without considering the very real possibility of Diebetes.

As adults, our knowledge is what allows us to succeed. But it is also blinds us to the beauty of this world. To the simplicity. We have gotten so damn complicated that we tend to forget about our most basic human wants and needs.

Have you seen the movie Trolls, yet? If not, go grab it. It just came out on DVD and no, I’m not partnered with them. I just love that movie and think everyone should see it.

Anyway, in the movie, the main character Poppy (Anna Kendrick) goes on an adventure to save her friends from a Bergen that has captured them and wants to eat them. Although she has never done anything even remotely like that before, she is confident and optimistic and ready to take on the world with her glass half full mentality.

Branch (Justin Timberlake) who joins her, is the polar opposite of Poppy. He is pessimistic and sarcastic and sees everything through a “worst case scenario” lense.

While on this wild adventure to save their friends, Branch finds that true happiness has been inside of him all along and that he just needed someone (Poppy) to show it to him.

Friends, our children are the Poppy’s of this world, and they are trying to remind our grumpy Branch hearts what true happiness is.

When I realized this, my life started to change.

I started to care less about what was socially acceptable and more about what would bring joy to the people around me. I started singing in grocery stores and having dance parties at the park and talking to more strangers. I let my children’s light shine through me, to serve as inspiration for the kind of person I should be, instead of getting frustrated with them for simply being who they are at times that felt inappropriate or annoying.

And the biggest thing I’ve done is implement hourly hug time. 

In the movie, all of the Trolls wear these little watches that go off once an hour letting them know it’s time to hug.

So, to combat the tantrums that both my kids and myself seem to throw on any given day, I decided to take a page out of the Troll handbook and hug my children every single hour, on the hour.

I set alarms in my phone with a whimsical tone, and they go off from 6 am- 6 pm.

No matter what we are doing— arguing, grocery shopping, etc. — we stop and hug. I hug them while I’m in the middle of teaching a fitness class, with my hands covered in cooking ingredients, and we even “hand hug” if we are driving.

Did you know that hugs produce the love hormone oxytocin which helps to improve your physical and mental health?

I’ve been hugging my kids every hour on the hour for over a week and a half and I can honestly say it has had such a positive impact on our lives.

In fact, Declan can be mid-tantrum but when he hears that tone, he swings his arms open, grins from ear to ear, and yells, “HUG TIME!” while running to each of us for a nice big embrace.

Declan loves on his brother more now as well. The rule is, everyone gets a hug. And even my 18 month old opens his arms and lets us in for an hourly cuddle.

Outside of our hugging moments, I’ve noticed that we are all in better moods thoroughout the day. There has been less yelling, less tantrums, and less stress.

Needless to say, hug time is here to stay in my house! If you’ve been struggling with tantrums, or stress, or really anything— give it a try. Set some alarms on your phone, choose a fun tone with it that is upbeat and will excite everyone, and get your hug on. And then let me know how it goes. I hope this method works as wonderfully for you as it has for us!