One of my favorite parenting quotes is from Sarah Boyd, founder of Resilient Little Hearts. It goes, “Never try to rationalize with a child that is emotional. They don’t want advice. They want love.”
It’s the kind of quote that makes you stop and think. But it also makes many parents say, “Okay, I get that my child needs love. But why shouldn’t I rationalize with my child when they’ve done something wrong or seem to be making a big deal out of nothing?”
Good question. Let me ask you this instead. Have you ever noticed when your child is upset or melting down, and you respond quickly with irritation and anger or try to reason with them, it just gets worse?
There’s a reason for that. Your child is no longer in their logical, thinking “upstairs” part of their brain. They have escaped to their downstairs brain in fight/flight/freeze mode and locked the door to the upstairs brain, as Dr. Dan Siegel explains in his book, The Whole-Brain Child.
Your child is communicating they have an unmet need. And as Boyd suggests, your child isn’t looking for advice. They’re looking for us to see them in their time of need. It’s our job to figure out what that need is with calm and understanding, not judgment and anger.
I know it’s hard. You don’t want to deal with the noise or another meltdown. You don’t want to feel as if you’re a failure or out of control. Or maybe you’re afraid that if you’re not “harsh enough,” your child is getting by with undesirable behavior or manipulating you.
The thing is, the more you focus on what you don’t want, the more you attract it to you. Learn to shift your thoughts when the next meltdown, outburst, or disrespectful behavior occurs. Ask yourself what you do want—peaceful, loving connection, right? When you do this, you will begin the process of attracting that desired outcome to you.
Recall how you feel when you’re at your worst. Or those times when you feel misunderstood. You want someone to get you. But when they don’t, you feel unheard and frustrated. Or what about when your spouse, boss, coworker, or friend yells back at you? It doesn’t feel so great, and you probably become immediately defensive.
Your kids want the same thing as you—to be heard and understood. We all want our needs met, no matter our age. Yes, it is hard, really hard at times. There will never be a perfect parenting moment, I promise.
But the first step to creating the peaceful, happy home life you want is to meet their chaos with calm. As author L.R. Knost says, “When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not join their chaos.” Honestly, this goes for kids of all ages, not just the little ones.
If you’re calm enough to see past the surface to the needs below, then you can tap into compassion, understanding, and empathy instead of anger, frustration, and judgment.
But, if you are struggling to calm down or stay calm, then walk away, take deep breaths, step outside to gather yourself, pray, or whatever helps you find your calm.
Then work on accepting and loving your child, especially when they’re at their most challenging. That’s when they need us the most. Even one step in the right direction is better than no step at all. It’s better than repeating the same choices each time, expecting different results, but getting the same frustrating behaviors from your children.
When you make an effort to meet their chaos with your calm, you will gradually begin to experience less conflict. Before you know it, you’re looking around a (mostly) peaceful, happy, calm home. But how do you start? Good question! There are a few strategies that can work.
You can create a cheat sheet to keep nearby. Write the words, “What Does a Calm Parent Do?” then list out the following steps: 1. Stop, 2. Breath, 3. Connect.
This simple reminder helps in several ways. It reminds you to stop before you react in anger and frustration, breathe to regulate your nervous system and calm your mind, and connect within yourself first before connecting with your child.
Another great strategy to use is visualization. We tend to focus on the negative more than the positive. For example, how often we yelled that day, how often our child did something to make us mad, or how we’re failing as parents. What we focus on is what we bring to us remember?
Flip the thought process around and focus on at least one positive trait about your child or a good experience you had with them that day. Remember how good it felt when that situation went right instead of what went wrong. Then journal about that moment. It can be as long or as short as you need it to be.
Then, the next time you have a stressful, challenging moment with your child (and you know it’s coming because that’s parenting life), glance at your cheat sheet or journal. Remember to stop, breathe, connect, and focus on the good that happened that day.
These simple strategies will help you meet your child’s chaos with calm and become easier with time, but only when you put them into practice. I invite you to sit down right now and either make your cheat sheet or visualize a good outcome for the next meltdown so you can meet your child’s chaos with calm.
Dawn-Renée Rice is a Conscious Connection Parenting Coach, writer, and speaker. She and her husband have been married for 23 years, share three children, six grandchildren, and one furbaby. To follow Dawn-Renée and receive email updates, visit her online at www.dawnreneerice.com.