By Jailan Heidar
The good news is that there is definitely something that can be done to help you stay calm and be more responsive rather than reactive.
This simple yet extremely effective visualization technique is a tool I share with almost all my clients and in my online classes. Follow the steps and you will find yourself responding calmly, firmly and with kindness to your child in the most frustrating situations.
First, do a quick assessment if your child is in danger or harming others. If yes, respond quickly by removing your child from the situation then continue the steps. If your child is not harming himself or others and is in a safe environment, you CAN afford to leave the situation for a few seconds to calm down. Either remove yourself physically, the bathroom is usually a good location to be alone, or close your eyes to separate yourself from the environment and everything happening.
Take 5 deep breathes, inhaling through your nose and exhaling out of your mouth
Next, close your eyes and visualize how you impulsively want to react. Do you want to yell, threaten or call a timeout? From past experiences, ask yourself, how is this going to end? How is my child going to react to my impulsive reaction? What lesson is my child learning at that moment? If you realize this situation isn’t going to end the way you’d like it to, with you dragging your crying child out of the supermarket, then it’s time to look for alternatives on how this solution could be better and give you the outcome YOU WANT.
Now to find a positive outcome to this frustrating situation. You’ve still got your eyes closed. Go through these problem-solving steps inspired by Dr. Dan Siegel’s No Drama Discipline Workbook.
1. Why did my child behave this way? You may impulsively think he’s acting out because he’s a spoilt brat or because he’s being stubborn. That’s the anger and frustration in us as adults, but then look deeper. Was he trying to communicate and was ignored? Is he seeking attention? Is he tired or hungry? When we understand what our child is trying to express, we can respond more effectively and compassionately.
2. What lesson do I want to teach at this moment? I talk with parents a lot about their long-term goal of parenting. The goal of raising a future adult with positive skills and characteristics. Remember those BIG goals shouldn’t be to give consequences or deal out punishment. We want to send a message and teach a lesson. It could be in self-control, the importance of sharing or maybe even learning to wait.
3. How can I best teach this lesson? This is what Positive Parenting is all about. Depending on your child’s age and abilities, what is the best way to send your message across to your child? Do you need to involve him in your task? Give him limited choices? Communicate your expectations? Maybe model sharing and monitor taking turns.
This is where you get to decide which tool to use now that will connect with your child and align with your family values while still be effective in discipline.
Finally, now that you’ve decided what to do, visualize what the new outcome will be to this situation when you choose the more positive, responsive method.
By asking yourself these questions, you give yourself time to calm down and also set a more effective plan. Instead of reacting impulsively, handing out a consequence, a threat or giving in, you are responding calmly, positively, firmly, appropriately and effectively. You are also using everyday moments to teach your child valuable life skills and building positive characteristics.
Of course, it is understandable that not every difficult or challenging moment is going to be a teachable moment. There will be moments when you lose it, that’s normal. It’s Okay, give yourself a break and don’t feel guilty. You can always stop yourself, take deep breaths and start your visualization technique at any point.
Practice, practice, practice until it becomes a habit.
“Positivity is like a muscle: keep exercising it, and it becomes a habit.”
– Natalie Massenet