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“I’ll Talk To You After I Help You Calm Down”

Last week, I shared a story about the day I found myself yelling at my sobbing, tantruming child and told her to “use her words.”

Not my finest parenting moment, I’ll admit, but we all screw up sometimes.  Some of us (me) on a pretty regular basis.

Since that time I’ve learned a thing or two, and as I discussed last week, I now know that my daughter’s immature and undeveloped brain was not ready for those instructions.

She simply couldn’t access the thinking part of her brain that moment.

And to make matters worse, I was doing the equivalent of yelling “calm down” at her—something that, if said to me when upset, doesn’t work and frankly just pisses me off. (Anyone else been there?)

But even if we understand why not to do something, the question of what to do instead remains.

Here’s what I’ve learned to do:

  1. I remember that my connection with my daughter is always more important than whatever it is either one of us is upset about and melting down about.  By keeping that connection—both the current state of it and my long-term goals for it—at the forefront of my mind, I am able to parent from a more loving place than I would otherwise be.

  2. I remind myself that a misbehaving (sobbing, tantruming, etc.) child is a frustrated one.  When I embrace the fact that my child isn’t crying to manipulate me or intentionally make my life miserable, and by seeing her emotion and behavior instead as a message about what’s going on inside, it’s easier to lean with a hug rather than a harsh word.

  3. I ask myself, “If I dismiss her feelings and emotions now, when the issue is seemingly minor, will she trust me with the big stuff when she’s older?”  And every time, the answer to that is an unequivocal “no.”

By starting with those three reminders, I’ve found that it allows us as parents to stay calmer through the interaction, as we are now connected to a bigger purpose.  And when we can stay calm, and let our children not just have their emotions, but then teach them how to process and recover from them, we build connection, as they feel reassured that we can help them manage their big, big feelings until they learn to. We build trust, as we teach our children that we have their back and won’t walk away when they’re down.

And in my home, it’s built lots of love.  And that is what’s all about after all, isn’t it?

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Christy Keating fun headshot

Christy Keating is a certified parent coach,  positive discipline educator, and motivational speaker. She is the founder and CEO of The Heartful Parent Collective, which includes Heartful Parent Coaching, Savvy Parents Safe Kids, and Heartful Parent Academy.

The mother of two amazing daughters, Christy strives to build a happier, healthier world - one child, one parent, and one family at a time.