Thank you Dr. Laura Markham of Aha! Parenting for this very useful post.
“When our child acts out, or lashes out, it’s natural for us to panic. We move into “fight, flight or freeze” and our child looks like the enemy. We all know whatever we do next won’t serve our child’s growth and healing, but we’re in the grip of strong emotions, and we can’t help ourselves. Or can we? What if there were three steps that would help you shift back into calm, AND keep your child from getting upset as often? There are.
“STEP 1: Get Your Own Emotions Regulated
1. STOP, DROP whatever else you’re doing and BREATHE deeply.
2. Reduce the pressure: Remind yourself that there is no emergency. No one is dying.
3. Change Your Thoughts: Say a little mantra in your mind: “She’s acting like a child because she IS a child. I’m the grown-up here.”
4. Physically release your tension: Notice where you’re holding tension in your body and shake it out. Take a deep breath and blow it out. Make a loud (but nonthreatening) sound. Get a drink of water.
5. Be Here Now.
If you can bring yourself into the present moment, your upset will drop away. Give yourself permission not to worry about the future or the past. In this moment, what action would be healing? Anything else can wait.
“Step 2: Shift the Energy
1. Make things emotionally safe. Say “We’re having a hard time, Sweetie. Let’s try a Do-Over.”
2. Empathize. Acknowledge your child’s perspective. “Seems like you want ______. ”
3. Find the common ground. “…and I need _______. What can we do?”
4. Help your child get emotionally regulated. Kids usually do this best by crying or raging in the safety of our arms/presence. Breathe your way through this, reminding yourself that afterwards, he will feel safe, connected to you, and cooperative.
“Step 3: Learn the Lesson
1. Learn. When you’re calm, reflect on what you can learn from what happened. How can you support yourself to stay more emotionally regulated? (Allow more time, get more sleep, better organization, fewer commitments, see things from your child’s perspective more?)
2. Teach. Later, when you and your child feel calm and connected, say “We had a hard moment today, didn’t we? I’m sorry I got upset. I guess I was worried. When you _____, I feel ______. What can both of us do differently next time?”
3. Change. If this is a recurring situation, make a list of possible solutions and start trying them. Life is too short to endure the same lessons over and over again. “You won’t remember these steps in the heat of the moment. Why not print out a little cheat sheet and carry it around with you? A few months of practice, and you won’t even remember the last time you lost your temper.”
Dr. Laura Markham has since removed this original post I copied and pasted above, but here’s link to an updated version: http://www.ahaparenting.com/_blog/Parenting_Blog/post/How_to_Stay_Calm_When_You’re_Losing_It/ Even though this is the advice I’d give, I still printed a copy of this to put on my fridge because no matter how well I know this, I still get stressed and forget it in the heat of moment. No human is immune to emotional hijacking. We all can benefit from deep breaths so oxygen can reach all our cells and open more channels to process the information. I’d check out more blog entries http://ahaparenting.com/_blog/parenting_blog and you can sign up for the newsletter and daily inspirations from Dr. Laura Markham. I am a huge fan of the books she recommends too.
If you’d like further support in applying more coping skills like these in your home as well as learn about normal human development and improving co-parenting relationship Email me Debra@postivereframe.org or check out my profile at wecounsel.com
Make it a Calm and Connecting Day<3
Debra Wallace MS
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist