07 March 2013

Practical Tips for Keeping Your Cool

 
Most parents never intend to lose their cool when dealing with children.  You’d like to stay connected, be empathic and nurturing.  You’d like to set firm limits but still be loving.  Maybe you’ve even read about taking a ‘self time out’ during stressful interactions and want to give that a try.  But then something happens.  Your three year old starts begging for treats at the grocery store, or your picky eater throws a bowl of spaghetti at the wall, and all those good intentions just fly right out the window. Adrenaline pumps, emotions rise (anger, frustration, embarrassment, fear, stress or feelings of powerlessness) and they kick your rational brain to the curb, triggering the fight or flight response.  
Fight or flight is a primitive, innate response that prepares your body to fight or flee from a perceived attack, harm or threat to survival.
 
Tantrums, homework refusal or sibling arguments may not be life threatening, but for parents, these issues can sometimes feel like a saber toothed tiger about to pounce.  When the fight or flight response is triggered by modern day childhood behavior, we have four options.
 
 
Fight = verbally or physically punish the child (yelling, spanking, name calling, etc.).  This teaches the child that the way to get what he wants in life is to be aggressive.
 
Flight = give in to child’s demands.  This teaches the child that the way to get what she wants in life is to be skillful at manipulating people.
 
Do neither while still high on adrenaline = attempt to control the fight or flight response, wrestle your emotions, negotiate with child, beg and plead, repeat yourself until you end up yelling or giving in anyway.
 
Do nothing until you get your rational brain working again so that you can make a CHOICE about how you want to respond.
 
 
Okay, that last option sounds pretty good, right?  But how does one reclaim reason in a moment of absolute frustration? 
 
 

To the left is a table of suggestions on how to
 
Redirect the brain
Reduce adrenaline
Reclaim Reason
 
There are a few categories of things to try: meditative techniques, distraction techniques and expressive techniques (because not everyone feels better after counting to 10 or taking a few deep breaths).  Some of these will work for you and some won’t.  Some will require practice.  The more you practice, the better you’ll get and the quicker these techniques will work.  So experiment, practice and come up with your own techniques until you find the ones that are right for you.
 
TIP:  Don’t be afraid to practice these in front of your children.  You’ll be modeling good skills!  Tell them what you’re doing.  For example:  “I’m angry right now so I’m going to scream into this pillow until I feel better!”
 
 
 
Click on the image for a printable version with detailed descriptions of techniques
 

Comments (3)

  • thefightbetting

    thefightbetting

    12 May 2013 at 10:16 |
    Hello , you are good writer, i love your site
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  • Christie

    Christie

    09 March 2013 at 00:31 |
    I love how you are so real-life about things - "because not everyone feels better after counting to 10 or taking a few deep breaths" - advice is always better when it really makes sense. Great info!
  • Phyllis

    Phyllis

    08 March 2013 at 18:39 |
    I love your breakdown of the fight or flight response, especially what happens when you give in to your child's demands. And also the tip to let your children see you dealing with anger in a healthy way. Sounds like a no-brainer, but it sure wasn't anything I thought would be okay when I was raising my kids. I hid away in my room when I was punching my pillow!

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