When it comes to developing great relationships and great kids we know our children need us to be cool, calm and collected. Yet the biggest challenge in parenting is being cool, calm and collected. Why is it so hard? and What can we do about it?
We recently held an important class, expertly facilitated by Debbie Pincus, psychotherapist and coach, during which Debbie discussed ways to increase your own maturity and how to decrease your knee-jerk reactions when your kids push your buttons.
In case you missed it, you’ll find the class re-play here.
Let’s face it – our buttons are getting pushed all the time because our kids are masterful at finding them. Whether it is fighting us when putting them in a car seat, refusing to do their homework, not getting out of bed on time or not getting home by curfew, they can get our blood boiling. How we act when our blood boils is what we have in our control and the key to great parenting.
Debbie would like to share her blog, Calm Parenting: How to Get Control When Your Child is Making You Angry:
Why is it so easy to go from “zero to 60” when our kids make us angry? There are many reasons, but I think it’s mainly because we allow ourselves to go to 60. And in a sense, when we get up to 60—when we react emotionally—we’re allowing the behavior of our kids to determine how we’ll behave rather than the other way around.
We do so many things automatically without even thinking about it. This is often because we believe that we need to get our kids under control, rather than taking a moment to stop and think and say, “Wait, let me get myself under control first before I respond.” The best way to prevent yourself from getting up to 60 is to recognize that you are going there—and what makes you go there. In fact, in my opinion, that is probably one of the most important things you can do as a parent.
Here’s a secret: when you get yourself under control, your kids will also usually calm down. Remember, calm is contagious—and so is anxiety. When we as parents are nervous or anxious, it’s been proven that it creates anxiety in our kids. I would even go so far as to say that being emotionally reactive is probably your greatest concern as a parent. Think of it this way: if you can’t get calm—if you can’t get to zero—then what you’re really doing is inadvertently creating the exact atmosphere you’re trying to avoid.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re teaching your child how to ride a bike. Your child is not getting it and is being whiny and cranky and talks back to you. You’re frustrated, annoyed, angry and disappointed, because inside you somehow feel responsible to teach him to learn how to ride this bike, and he just won’t listen. Now you’re starting to get agitated about it. You yell at your child because you’re up to 60. The end result is that your child will probably fall off the bike. Here’s why: he’s so filled with the anxiety that’s surrounding him that he can’t concentrate. He’s feeling pushed to do something and he reacts to it by failing. What can you do? Instead of snapping and reacting because you feel like you have to get your child to learn how to ride the bike, try turning it around and ask yourself, “How do I get myself to really be calm and how will that be helpful for my child to get to where he needs to be?” Remind yourself that you’re not responsible to get him to ride the bike, you’re responsible to get yourself to zero. From there, you can think about the most effective way to help him learn.
This is why I say that if we can’t calm down we’ll probably create exactly what we’re trying to avoid—failure. Think about someone you know who is calm and serene; their presence helps center everybody in the room. When you’re calm, that’s the effect it has on your child and your family. It will help your child de-escalate, learn how to soothe himself when he’s nervous or agitated, and will make him better able to do what he has to do in tense moments. And in that moment, he won’t have to fight against you, because you’ve effectively taken that push-pull—the power struggle—away by being calm when he pushes your buttons.
By the way, I understand that nobody wants to go to 60—no one likes to be upset. I think most parents’ goal is to get to zero, but often they just don’t know how to do it. The truth is, everybody has to find the best way to do that for themselves. (I have some ideas about how to do that that I will explain in a moment.) But ultimately, it’s about understanding how important it is not to lose it—and not giving yourself permission to do so. And there’s a good reason for this. When we hit the roof in front of our kids, what we’re really communicating is “There are no grown-ups at home.” We’re saying that we can’t manage our anxiety. And when you try to manage your child’s behavior instead of your own anxiety, what you’re saying is, “I’m out of control. I need you to change so that I can feel better.” So the goal is to acknowledge what’s going on, and to understand how important it is to get control—and to ultimately gain control of ourselves. The question you’re probably asking is, “Easy for you to say. How am I going to get there?”
To read more about some things Debbie has found to be helpful for parents when she works with them, click HERE.
Debbie Pincus is a psychotherapist and coach. She has been practicing privately for over 25 years and has offices in Manhattan, Larchmont, NY and Greenwich, CT. She leads parent groups through Greenwich Hospital and The Relationship Center. Ms. Pincus is the founder and Executive Director of The Relationship Center. She writes weekly online articles for Empowering Parents and has a CD series and book entitled CALM PARENT AM & PM, published by Legacy Publishing Company. She facilitates workshops, seminars and parent groups throughout the area and Hong Kong. Ms Pincus appeared on Good Morning America recently to discuss parenting adult children.
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