Tantrums! Big emotions! Sticking with saying ‘No’! In the thick of a difficult interaction, it’s hard to stick with the original decision. Every parent has had the thought “Why did I start this?” going through their heads when they are faced with a much bigger emotional response to a request than anticipated.
Maybe the next thought after why could be, “Because this is a learning opportunity and I’m looking at helping my child, the screaming heap in front of me, build their ability to manage their feelings and learn to manage these big emotions over time and with consistent practice.”
We all know we should stay calm in ‘those’ moments that occur very regularly. Sometimes we can and sometimes it just tips us over the edge. The aim in the tricky moments, when your child is in the flight, fright freeze mode, is to continue to be connected. This is not the time to launch into ‘the lesson’ and consequences. Sometimes being a parent is just plain hard!
I do, however, think that if we can do a bit of quick re-framing, we have a greater chance of remaining calm and stick to the decision when we remind ourselves it’s an opportunity for my child to practice learning how to manage their big feelings. This will build their ability to self-regulate and it will probably only take another 20 years!
Practice re-framing so it becomes automatic when you’re not in the headspace to manage the ‘screaming machine’ on the ground. Examples include:
|Why are you making my life so difficult?||RE-FRAME TO||This has nothing to do with me. It’s all about my child’s big feelings. I’m helping him/her practise moving through them and building resilience.|
|Why can’t you learn some self-control?||RE-FRAME TO||I need to co-regulate (help by being available, calm and consistent) with my child.|
|Why the big melt-down now?||RE-FRAME TO||Maybe this melt-down is the result of many frustrations over the day? Let me look for patterns and triggers.|
|Why can’t you just CALM – DOWN!||RE-FRAME TO||How can I help you calm down? A hug? Time on your own?|
When your child calms, this is an opportunity to celebrate/talk together about their great calming down. Once calm, limited words such as First (e.g. brush your teeth); Then (e.g. play outside) can remind your child they still need to undertake the task that triggered the outburst.
I love the Circle of Security Infographic and particularly take comfort in the words:
Always be: bigger, stronger, wiser and kind
Whenever possible: follow my child’s need
Whenever necessary: TAKE CHARGE.
Karen Young, is a psychologist who works with families, young children and teens and is the author of two books we have in the Parent Library, Hey Warrior and Hey Awesome, which creatively assist children to understand and manage anxiety. She is a regular blogger and one that is relevant here can be accessed at https://www.heysigmund.com/how-to-self-regulate/.