This quick win will see you keeping your cool with your kids in no time

“Children do not do what we say; they do what we do”

‘Children do not do what we say; they do what we do’ is a cliche we can use to our advantage. I like to make life as easy as possible, as quickly as possible so let’s start with this ‘quick win’. Try this any time you feel frustration or rage taking hold, the simple premise is to model the behaviour you’d like to instil in your kids.

Step #1 Acknowledge what you’re feeling

Being triggered by our child’s behaviour takes us into fight or flight mode, heart and mind racing. Those physical sensations are your cue to STOP. JUST STOP. No great parenting can happen in that state. To help you stop, acknowledge how you are feeling: ‘Right now I’m feeling furious!’ ‘Wow this feels frustrating to me!’ and say it out loud to your child followed with ‘I need to take a minute to think about this’.

Key point: you own and name your feeling and do not blame. You create awareness for yourself by saying it out loud and you make space to bring your rational brain back online.

Step #2 Breathe

Seriously, breathe. Count in for three seconds and out for five seconds. If it helps, visualise the tension leaving your body through your out-breath. Why does breathing work? Because we are telling our body that it is safe and that there is no need to be in fight or flight mode. Breathing mindfully like this is like pressing a reset button. Do it for as long as is needed. After just two minutes of this breath you will feel a difference. Rational brain is back. We need rational brain.

Step #3 Change your perspective – activate curiosity
Get curious. Your child’s behaviour is communicating something. The behaviour you are reacting to is surface behaviour, think of it like a flag indicating something else under the surface. Your child is having a problem, not being a problem (tip: use this as a mantra ‘Having a problem not being a problem’). Taking this perspective will give you empathy and stop you from taking their behaviour personally. This is important.
Behaviour is the combination of internal factors (e.g. feelings, physical sensations) and external factors (e.g. noise, other people). You will be able to connect with what is really going on for your child if you are not taking their behaviour personally.

Changing your thoughts to ‘Having a problem, not being a problem’ allows space for you to get curious. When you understand why they are acting a certain way, you can work with that.

This might look like: ‘You really hate me telling you to put your coat on, is it because you haven’t finished your game?’ They’ll soon tell you if you’re off the mark and may offer something else ‘No, it because that’s my scratchy coat!’ – this is great, you are connecting not disconnecting and from here you can problem solve.

The benefit of using this simple strategy is that you become calmer and more able to deal with situations objectively. The action of talking out loud is like being your own coach. Your behaviour models to your child how to cope with strong emotions (and that its ok to have them), how to create space and come back to a situation calmer and with greater clarity. With practise this will become second nature. You’ll have a calmer household with richer relationships because your kids will follow your lead.

More help here: If certain behaviours seem to tip you over the edge, know that there are ways to deal with that. On the ‘When your kids push your buttons’ course we take you through a process to identify and defuse your buttons so that they no longer hijack your best intentions.
Find out more here: Online course

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