Are you kidding me? Why is your room still such a mess? Stop whining I can’t stand it. I don’t care if you don’t like bok choy. You need to stop this and be a good boy/girl. Why can’t you just…
These are some of the phrases I’ve heard coming from loving, well meaning parents. Some of them I’ve heard come out of my own mouth.
We think we’re helping our children. Showing them that their misbehavior is inappropriate. We think that by nipping it in the bud and dealing with it right away we are solving the problem.
One hundred percent of the time our unkind words are coming from our own fear centers.
We fear embarrassment. Do the other people at Wal-Mart think my kid is an asshole?
We fear losing control of our children and having them control us.
We fear the suffering that comes from misbehaving kiddos.
Fear doesn’t come out as fear. It comes out as anger (the fight response) or shutting down and ignoring (the flight response).
When we shovel our fear onto our kids their mirror neurons activate and the are also driven into fight or flight mode.
Instead of taking in what we say they are reacting to how they feel. Scared, sad, hurt, angry.
There is no problem solving in this viscous cycle.
I know that as loving parents who want the very best for their children you are now asking “What the hell am I supposed to do?”
Remember that a misbehaving child is a discouraged child. They are trying to make you see that they need your help, but they don’t know how.
Won’t it be too late to deal with the situation later?
Probably not. And it will be a much more effective problem solving discussion when your’re both calm.
What does cooling off look like?
I have a friend who tells her kids that she has to go switch the laundry when she feels herself getting worked up. This is brilliant. It removes any blaming words she might have said to her children and gives her a quick out to get herself put back together before continuing the conversation.
Some of the cool off strategies I’ve used are:
- Asking for a hug. It may seem counter productive, but a 20 second hug produces enough oxytocin (the love hormone) to give us all sorts of warm fuzziness and promote trust. When humans feel better the are more apt to respond in better, kinder ways.
- Go to my room. Yup I send myself for a positive time out. I take a little time to breathe perhaps meditate (you can access my free, calming, guided meditation here.)
- Practice some self kindness. This is my go to for public cooling off. Take a deep breath. Hold your own hand if possible. Then tell yourself kind things. Things like “Sarah (or your name if your not one of the 1 billion Sarahs in the world) I am here to help you.” “This situation sucks but it will be over soon.” “You’ve got this and it’s going to be O.K.”
Predetermine what phrases you think will be most helpful so you can access them easily when the fear section of your brain wants to take over.
Having calm, connected chats with your kids instead of wounding them with your words creates an environment of finding solutions, instead of finding blame.
It’s my goal to have solution oriented, kind kids. I believe that our kids can be world changing amazing human beings. And this can be accomplished through small shifts in how we treat them.
I would love to hear about the ways you cool down. Leave me a comment.