When your child or teen is exploding around your ears the last thing they need is a parent who joins in. It’s like pouring petrol on a fire. Parents are well aware of this already but isn’t it just SO HARD to be the flexible, understanding adult some times? Keeping calm when our buttons are pushed is the holy grail of parenting.
So what does work … in the moment?
ACT (don’t react)
Acting can mean making a positive choice to do nothing. Wait in your child or teen’s space, patiently, with a nice expression on your face, until the tantrum subsides. Yes, I do mean tantrum. You don’t need to be a toddler to have them. Andrew Fuller describes how teen behaviour is a combination of neurochemicals and habits. Teens are toddlers with hormones
We’re acting when we’re firmly and positively in charge. We don’t have to punish or put children down to do this. One parent I know recently encountered siblings fighting in the car. Instead of shouting (a favourite, yet ineffective strategy) she decided to do it differently. After pulling the car over to the side of the road, sitting in silence and waiting for the children to wonder why they had stopped, the rest of the journey home went much better.
What if it’s kicking off indoors? There are variations on this theme:
- Separate the combatants
- Calming down time (including us)
For more ideas on sibling conflict resolution see The Parent Practice
Think of it as a marathon not a sprint
Be a citizen scientist. Observe your child to understand the causes of their behaviour. This is a significant part of making progress and was a lightbulb moment for me when I was searching for strategies to stop my 2 year old from biting.
Obvious causes driving children’s behaviour include temperament, mood, sleep, stress levels, blood sugar levels and hormones. Fireworks are a temporary situation. How long it takes to return to calm depends on how we respond.
Resist the temptation to keep arguments going once they start to wind up. Disputes often involve bedtimes, screentime, pocket money and other privileges. Discussing these things in the heat of the moment never works. Wait for a calm moment to work through issues, like at a family meeting.
Manage expectations of what our child should be doing
Sometimes it’s the “shoulds” that get in the way and can spur us on to keep the fight alive.
Ask yourself “...am I being realistic about my expectations for this child, with his temperament, in these circumstances?…”
Go easy on yourself.
When you lose it … and we all do … offer to do something nice to make amends. It’s not being weak – it’s good modelling.
Written by Justine Lamont, parenting coach and Mum who lives with her 2 boys, one husband, 2 cats in a sometimes messy house and manages to keep her calm most of the time using every single one of the skills she teaches.