My parenting must-have tool is The Whole-Brain Child by Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson.
Understanding your child and how to connect their upstairs and downstairs or their left and right parts of their brain isn't about taking charge and winning.
It's about understanding where your child's abilities and capacities are. About communicating with them in a way that makes them feel heard and understood while being modelled a calm and considerate way to approach an intense situation.
A favourite quote of mine, and a real reality check if/when I ever need it is the simple thought "would I speak to my partner, my best friend or the friendly mom at the park in this way?"
If you find yourself talking to your child, unlike you would another adult, it's time to peddle back!
Connecting to what your child is feeling and saying by getting down to their level, making eye contact and leaving your reasons and safety lessons out of it let's your child know you hear them. It lets them know you see their pain and sadness and for a second that will be all that matters to you.
Some parents think well, I tried to say "it's not ok for you to (blank)", "it's not safe when you (blank)" or "I won't let you (blank)".
Trust me when I say that I've tried that too. Kindly and calmly explaining myself (with the eye contact!) why I have to make the decision that is crushing my daughter in a hope to have her go "oh ok mom, I get it".
Our intentions come from a loving and genuine place! We mean to do right, I know we all do!
While there is a time and place for those loving explanations, it is not when they're experiencing utter disappointment, stress or pain.
The difference between adults and children is they don't have the capacity yet to see the brighter other side to their problems. Their current problem and desire is ALL there is in life. That makes it equivalent to the most mad or the most sad you or I as an adult have ever felt. Each and every time they feel it.
Having a constant level of understanding and empathy toward that is a critical stepping stone in diffusing a situation and reconnecting with your irate child.
So, in summation, when your child experiences a BIG feeling:
2. Get down to their level.
3. Look into their eyes.
4. Talk to them like you would all the respected adults in your life.
5. Repeat back the words you hear. "I know you really want to (blank) right?" Or "I can see that you are really (mad/sad/upset) with me right now".
When we meet chaos with this type of empathetic connection we build bridges not only in our relationship with our children, but within their brains as well. When we hold space for the chaos of the downstairs or right side of their developing brain, we allow their upstairs and left sides a chance to get involved and grow.
Connect first. Talk and reason later. Hug their feelings and don't let go until they know you've heard them and they know their feelings matter to you.
If you'd like to know more strategies like this one, read the book! It is, as I mentioned, my number one, must have for every parent and if you don't like reading, try listening to it! It's beyond worth your time.
If you ever want to talk it out, parent to parent and go through specific situations and hash out step by step what you can do to integrate this approach into your home, I would love to help!
First time sessions (via skype) with me are free! Take advantage!
Nothing feels better than being supported and understood by a fellow parent.