Sometimes our kids know exactly how to push our buttons. We tell them not to touch that thing. They look at us. They touch that thing. They wait to see our reaction. Moments like this can bring out our worst selves. We often react by yelling, swatting their hand away, criticizing (“why can’t you just do what I tell you to do?!?!”) or groaning in frustration. If we take a step back and look at our child in the aftermath of those events, what do we see? How do we feel after having one of those moments? I know I feel like The Bad Mom when I react this way. And I see my little child who has no idea why I’m angry, who is feeling bad about herself because I’ve just told her she doesn’t live up to my standard. Ouch, right?
But guess what? It doesn’t have to be this way. I can hear you already: “What’s the secret? What’s the magical formula to getting my child to do what I want?” We’ll talk about those another day. Spoiler alert - there’s no secret. Kids are not always going to do what we want. Those button-pushing moments are definitely going to happen.
Well, crap. Now what? Here’s what to do: STOP (I’d love to take credit for coming up with this acronym, but I have no idea who made it up. Whomever did it has my unending admiration.).
Take a Breath
Let’s break it down.
Stop. Don’t react, not just yet. Bite your tongue, refrain from intervening (unless someone’s immediate safety is at risk, of course).
Take a breath. Give yourself a moment to get some oxygen to your brain. In a moment of panic, our bodies go into that lovely fight/flight/freeze mode. You can halt that in it’s tracks just by breathing.
Observe. What is really going on here? What is motivating my child’s behaviour? Is this situation really as serious as I initially believed it to be? How can I respond in a way that teaches my child something positive while still reinforcing the boundaries.
Proceed. Now that you’ve assessed the situation, go ahead and respond to your child. You’ll be in a better frame of mind to connect with your child in the moment, and you’ll likely avoid saying or doing something you’ll feel bad about later.
Now. What about those times when you don’t STOP, and you lose your cool? It will happen. I promise. The most important thing after moments like these is to do the repair work with your child. After you’re calm, sit down with your child and apologize. Explain that how you reacted was not the right thing to do, and that you’ll try to do better next time. Reinforce your love for your child. This models to your child how to mend relationships, and that it’s okay to make mistakes. We can make mistakes and still love and care for each other. That’s what family is about.
If you feel like you need more guidance in managing your responses to your children, contact me today to find out more about parent coaching packages available.