“Seeing your child in distress, and particularly if that distress is directed at you, is the most dysregulating experience there is. Wild, out of control thoughts of epic disaster come unbidden. Rage, self doubt and other destructive feelings quickly cloud your thinking. What if you could work to push those thoughts aside, and in a way analogous to meditation, concentrated on being in the moment, concentrated on remembering to breathe? It would help you focus on your child, and on the immediate task before you rather than its global implications.” – Claudia Gold
When our child acts out, lashes out, or is simply in distress, it’s natural for us to panic. We’re plunged into “fight, flight or freeze” because it feels like an emergency. And if our child’s distress is directed at us, then he looks like the enemy.
But it’s natural for children to have big feelings, and to act them out. If we “lose it” when our child gets upset, we give her the message that her feelings aren’t permitted, which doesn’t help her learn to regulate her emotions. Worse, we’re saying that we can’t control ourselves until she controls herself! Whether she’s 5 or 15, that’s not what we want to model.
Of course, we know that we can handle any parenting situation better from a state of calm. But when we’re in the grip of strong emotions, we aren’t thinking. 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
Step 2: Shift the Energy
Step 3: Learn the Lesson
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 is the author of the must-read parenting book Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How To Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. You can visit her at AhaParenting.com
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