By Anne Peters, LMFT
Let’s face it – staying calm in the midst of negative behaviors from your children is hard. Let’s see if this sounds familiar:
Child A pushes Child B because he was wanting her toy. Child B screams and pushes Child A back. The dog starts barking, children are screaming, objects are breaking, and you feel like you might lose your cool. You then start yelling and punishing, and each member of the family is now escalated.
We’ve all been there, or at least somewhere similar. Is it effective? Does it feel good? Are our children (or ourselves) learning from these experiences? Not usually. So how can we, as the adults, set the scene to redirect the negative behaviors but also keep the peace (and your own sanity)? First, let’s briefly talk about why your interactions as the parent are key.
Here’s a great visual to help us really understand the importance of our role to be calm in moments of chaos. Here’s our happy family, all feeling pretty good. When we think about our scenario described above, what happens when the family members escalate on their own, but also collectively?
The stress is now spread, and everyone is agitated. Calm interactions are nowhere in sight. This is the point that feels pretty awful for all involved. Here are three tips to redirect those negative behaviors, but also keep the peace.
1. Stay at eye level (or lower) – I have heard several stories from parents who have tried this one simple technique, and have seen meltdowns stop in their tracks. Think about it this way: if you were feeling upset and someone much bigger than you stood over you, would it help you calm down? It’s innately threatening, even if that is not your intention. If the child is standing, sit on the floor, crouch down, or even lay on the floor. It automatically lowers the gate of the child feeling threatened or defensive. You may be surprised how this one simple change can greatly decrease the intensity of the meltdowns.
2. Create a calming space – Have your child work with you like a team to create a calming space in your home. Put a bean bag, a favorite blanket, some squishies or stress balls, books, crayons and coloring books, or a glitter jar (see instructions on how to create this at the end of the blog!) into an identified space. Make sure this place does not feel punitive, but instead, peaceful. Encourage your child to take ownership over this space and praise, praise, praise when they use the space to calm down.
3. Stay calm yourself and take a break when needed – As identified earlier, you as the parent staying calm is absolutely key. If you escalate, they will escalate. It’s really as simple as that. Do your best to stay calm in the moment, and know that it is OK to tell your child “I’m starting to feel frustrated right now, so I know that I need to calm down in my own space.” It teaches your child that everyone has feelings but also that even adults sometimes need a calming break. Do some self-care and return when you feel able.
LSI is always here and ready to help you with managing behaviors! We have therapists and BHIS providers ready to support you and your family.
Make Your Own Glitter Jar
This set of directions comes from Fireflies and Mud Pies blog.
Glass or plastic jars with lids, 16-ounce
1/2 cup glitter glue or clear glue
High-temperature hot glue gun, optional
1–2 teaspoons glitter
1. Pour 1/2 cup of distilled water into the jar.
2. Pour 1/2 cup of glitter glue or clear glue into the jar.
3. Add 1–2 teaspoons of extra glitter to the jar.
4. Fill up the remainder of the jar with distilled water.
5. If desired, use a hot glue gun to squeeze a ring of glue around the lid of the jar. Press the lid onto the jar and secure with the metal ring.
6. Shake the jar well to distribute the glitter.
Your DIY glitter jar is complete!