Staying Calm When Your Buttons are Pushed
- Tuesday, 07 April 2009
Did you ever have a day when it seemed that your kids were being purposeful in not cooperating?
Did you ever have a moment when your anger turned to rage and you felt soooo guilty about it afterward?
One of the biggest challenges facing parents is keeping calm when their children push their buttons.
Kids can be annoying, infuriating, and stubborn. They can ignore a command, hit a sibling, have a tantrum, or not listen. You could respond with anger, a need to control, get defensive, or worse. Depending on the day or circumstances, many parents tell me they have no difficulty getting derailed when things do not go according to plan.
The problem is when you react with anger, rage or vindictiveness, you lose your authority and credibility. You also risk damaging your relationship with your child. When parents’ reactions are over the top, both parent and child feel awful, and you do not teach anything of value to help your child change his behavior. While you might frighten him to change in the moment, it does not help in the long run.
Rather than trying to force your child to behave appropriately, learn to change how you respond. Your goal is to remain calm so you can guide and teach your child. Only then will he learn to adjust his behavior. This is the essence of good discipline.
Seven Ways You Can Help Change Your Response to Misbehaviors
Pull away. As soon as you begin to feel your blood pressure rise, get out of the room and walk away. If this is too difficult in the moment, practice talking to yourself in front of the mirror when you are not angry. Say something like, ‘I’m so mad right now I need to go somewhere to calm down. I’ll be back when I am calm.” Repeat this exercise again and again, so you’ll have the language ready to use when you are upset or angry.
Listen to your tone of voice: Sometimes we say the right thing, but it comes out too harsh. Or, the way we say it tells the child we do not really mean it. Listen to how your voice sounds. If you need to, take a deep breath, then speak calmly and respectfully.
Watch your body language: This is another way to check yourself. Are you leaning too close to your child? Does your body feel tense? Again, take a deep breath and relax your body.
Do the unexpected: When you do the unexpected (the opposite of what the child thinks you’ll do), your child doesn’t get the payoff he or she wants.
Distract yourself: When your feelings are strong, think about something else. You might think back to a good time you had with your child, or plan a shopping list. If you need to, leave the room and take on another activity. Fold laundry. Walk around the block. Look at a magazine.
Use your sense of humour: A sense of humour can help both you and your child. You might say, “Yes, I do lie awake at night plotting ways to torture you!” or “No, I never was a kid. Can’t you tell?” (A word of caution: Use this type of humor carefully, so that your child does not think you are being sarcastic). You can also laugh at your own mistakes. This helps your child to see that you know you are not perfect, and it can help you change your own self-talk.
Don’t feel guilty: Guilty feelings will not help you. Deciding to change will. If you yelled and now feel bad about it, tell yourself and/or your child, “I’m sorry I yelled. Next time I won’t do that.” Then, let that go. No one is perfect – we all make mistakes. A parent who goofs is not a bad parent.
It is counterproductive to shout or yell at your child when attempting to change her behavior. The sooner you learn to change your own response, the sooner your child will learn to change her response. There is a domino effect in play here, but it always begins with the parent.