The following is a guest post by Debbie Pincus, MS LMHC.
Are you a parent who feels at a loss when your angry child screams or throws a tantrum? Do you try to “fix” your child’s behavior only to feel frustrated yourself? As a mom of three, I’ve gone through it myself—it’s not easy! The entire family seems to get turned upside-down during the chaos.
While we can’t control how our children feel, we can control how we feel. In turn, our children will learn how to better manage their own emotions. Getting calm is hard when children are reactive, and staying calm is a whole other story. But it is possible to be a “calm parent.” How? Here are three tips:
1. Don’t take it personally. Your child is not you, and you can’t control their reaction. So many parents think their children are extensions of themselves, and that’s not true. Don’t fall into the trap of taking on their emotions or blaming yourself. By not taking their screaming or anger personally, you will stay objective. This allows you to think clearly and make better parenting decisions.
2. Find the space between their action and your reaction. This means if your child is blowing up, take a deep breath, pause, and give yourself a minute (or ten!) to calm down. Leave the room if you have to. The whole purpose is to stop those knee-jerk reactions that where we get caught up in the heat of the moment and yelled back, then felt guilty. Finding some space helps to avoid that by getting grounded and calm. When you are ready, you can respond to your child without raising your voice. You’ll be surprised how this will defuse your child’s anger, because calm is contagious.
3. Wait for your child to ask for help. So often as parents we want to rush in and manage the situation, but that often leaves children feeling powerless and even more angry. Kids don’t like being forced to change, so don’t add fuel to the fire. Instead, wait until they calm down and find a moment when they seem open to talking. Help them discover their triggers—the things that make them upset. Make a game plan for how to cope in the future.
A good method for older children is the STOP acronym: Slow down, Think, Options, Proceed. A conversation could go something like this: “I know you’re upset you couldn’t go to the sleepover, so you hit your sister. Next time you get upset, slow down and take a breath. Think about how you want to respond. Review your options, and then proceed to action. How can you react in a healthier way next time instead of getting into trouble?”
By controlling your reaction, remaining objective, and listening to your child, you’ll set the stage for a less stressful home. Children love feeling accepted instead of judged or criticized and will often strive to change on their own when they feel safe. Commit to being a calm parent and help your home be a calmer place for both you and your children.
**Image credit-Empowering Parents.com
Debbie Pincus, MS LMHC, has been a therapist and coach in the Greater New York area for more than 25 years. She is a renowned expert in the art and science of parenting calmly, not anxiously and works with children, individuals, couples, and families. She is the author of numerous books for young people on interpersonal relations, as well as the creator of The Calm Parent: AM & PM, and is a contributing expert on the popular parenting site Empowering Parents.
© 2012, Tough Cookie Mommy. All rights reserved.