This week I received an email from a parent that made me say “wow”.
“There are no more meltdowns.”
This is not a statement to be rushed past. This is a family in which people have strong feelings. They are not “YES” men or women. I am certain everyone is still this way inclined. Even though the meltdowns have subsided – no one has had their emotions removed. I am guessing that meltdowns that would have happened are being preempted. There were lots of steps in the right direction and mistakes made along the way to get to this destination. The change to a calmer home wasn’t just a tweak of a routine but a massive transformation. There was a very specific, individual process of finding a way through, to be more calm, more of the time.
Now things are calmer everyone feels the difference.
It is easier to keep calm and for everyone to manage strong feelings. This mum took on board the skills that she needed and made them her own. She didn’t do it the way you or I would. She found her own way with dedication and commitment. Any change we make, especially a big one like this requires guts, perseverance and a lot of love.
What exactly did she do?
Understanding what is going on for ourselves and our children when we feel out of control are powerful ways to learn how to be calm.
When we understand their struggle we find it easier to have sympathy for our children. Being aware of what is going on “in the moment” is the idea of mindfulness which we hear a lot about these days. It’s not a new concept. When you think about how hard it can be for a flexible and understanding adult to stay calm, it’s a giant step forward when our kids can do it too. Anything we can do to learn about the causes of behaviour will help move towards calm.
Working out what our expectations are also helps parents to be calmer. When we focus on the expectations we put on ourselves (many of them unrealistic) we can be more compassionate towards ourselves. Having a realistic expectation of what can be achieved is so important. The skills that this mum has practiced are still fairly new to her and she will have had to pace herself. Apart from learning some skills we need to allow ourselves the time to practice them. Usually, this involves slowing down. As Steve Biddulph says:
“Hurry is the enemy of love”.
I imagine how it is now in the house where meltdowns used to happen. Now when things start to spiral out of control it’s different. I have an image of this mum standing there, in the moment when things are about to kick off. I can see her thinking about how to use her ways of staying calm, taking deep breaths and finding a way through as she pauses. Even though the adrenalin is beginning to pump she is calm, alert and focused. She is in charge of her reactions. She allows herself as much time as she needs to recover from the emotion building inside her. When she is ready there’s time to go back to what she needs to do. That’s once calm has returned for everyone.
Some days she goes through this process many times. She pauses and regroups and keeps on keeping on. When things are not going so smoothly she is kind to herself and says “It’s ok.” Every time she models how to stay calm her children will see it and remember. She tells herself:
“I am a work in progress I get there a little at a time, not all at once.”
The change to a calmer home was gradual. Learning to be calm is a process and not an event. There were times when it looked like it wasn’t working, it definitely felt that way. She didn’t give up. When parents begin this journey they tend to focus on the behaviour of the children. Somewhere along the way there is a change of focus. Parents switch the way they speak and start talking about themselves and their own reactions and less about the kids and what they are doing. From the point of view of a coach it’s exciting to watch this change happen.
When there is a bit of success a spark takes hold and everyone starts to feel optimistic. It’s encouraging. It seems easier to focus on the good things going on rather than the tough times. There are still tough times, it’s just that they are less frequent. As confidence grows there is less need to resort to harsh punishment and so there is less need for rebellion or defiance. Trust and relationship thrive. It’s possible to distance ourselves from what’s happening “in the moment”.
Reading about how this mum has found her own way to a calmer home is so inspiring. It’s why I do what I do. I hope you read this and feel encouraged that we can all learn to be a bit more calm a bit more often. Here are her words (published with her permission):
“I think that putting a routine in place despite my daughter (12) thinking that she doesn’t need one anymore, was a great thing. I’m sure the maturity helped as well, there are a few negotiations or attempts at negotiations going on but no meltdowns.
Breathing helps. Saying that, my temper comes back easily so I have to pause and deep breaths and start again. Apologizing is one thing that I use as well.
The one thing that I try to use regularly is the positive praise but I don’t do on a daily basis as it’s still not natural for me. I do it naturally when the girls do something nice, like taking the initiative. I think I expect a few things to be done or a certain behaviour without having to praise them.”