Staying Calm in the Storm
You look down and see a small fire. In one hand you have a bottle of gasoline and in the other a bottle of water. One of three things can happen:
1) You douse the fire with the bottle you think is water. It turns out you were exactly right, and the fire is extinguished.
2) You douse the fire with the bottle you think is water. It turns out it was really fuel and the fire becomes even more intense.
3) You well know the difference between the two bottles. Two voices compete for action. One encourages you to do the right thing and use the water, but your own frustration urges you to sprinkle a little gas on the fire. Gas or water, gas or water? Gas wins and the immediate satisfaction is short lived as you realize you have a bigger fire to deal with now.
Strategy number 2 in our series is: “When you or your child are already angry, work to administer consequences in a calm, quiet voice. This will help the situation from continuing to escalate.” We all have sprinkled a little gas on a volatile situation and have regretted doing so almost immediately. The key to helping a child through a challenge when they are angry and frustrated is remaining calm yourself. One of the most significant challenges that face us as parents is keeping our own frustration in check. I find that I am most effective when I am thoughtful and strategic as a parent verses emotional and reactive.
In fact, I can’t recall a single quality piece of parenting I have accomplished while in a reactive state. Therefore, I try to resolve my own emotions before trying to help my son or daughter resolve theirs. Think of this process as putting on your fire fighter’s jacket and helmet. And as you go into the situation, remember that staying calm and using a quiet voice as you facilitate a consequence helps get both of you through this challenging time. The alternative is a fire that burns intensely hot and leaves a wake of destruction.
– John Willson M.S. LRT/CTRS