“Today, I look forward to yelling at my child, taking away their favourite blankie, and putting them in time-out” — said no parent ever.
Discipline isn’t fun, regardless of how you chose to do it.
In fact, when we find ourselves yelling, making threats, taking toys away, or forcing them into time-out, we’re usually at our wit’s-end and desperate for something (anything) to work.
When we’ve reached this point, chances are we’re quite upset and so is our child. We aren’t in any state to calmly sit there all kumbaya-like to discuss the behaviour, nor is our child in a state to listen to our helpful advice (or anything we’re saying for that matter).
Our brain isn’t functioning properly and neither is our child’s. In this state, the brain simply isn’t capable of listening or learning. All rational thinking and emotional control is lost. Instead, we’re operating off of our fight, flight or freeze response and our deeply rooted insecurities.
Not the best time to be making parenting decisions.
So why do we do it? Why do we try to parent from this desperate and frantic state while our child has no capacity to listen?
Our reasons might be:
We can’t let them “get away with it.”
We need to do something to stop it now.
If we don’t do it immediately, our child won’t be able to make the connection if we bring it up later.
What will other people think? This one’s especially true if it’s happening at the park, grocery store or grandma’s house.
But the truth is, in the moment is probably one of the worst times to correct behaviour if it’s escalated to a state of anger and desperation for both parent and child.
Instead, it’s totally OK to hit pause on the conversation and to hit pause on the discipline or consequence. Put yourself in time-out and focus on spending a few minutes to calm down and get your head on straight.
There’s no shame in this.
A level-headed mom 5 minutes later is going to be a far better mom to that struggling child than an out-of-control mom in the moment. You’ll be able to calm your child easier. You won’t yell or do something you’ll regret. You will be able to sit there all kumbaya-like if need be.
A child’s brain doesn’t fully develop it’s rational thinking and emotional regulation for 25 years, which means they’ll rely on you to help calm them down. And you won’t be able to do this from your angry state.
So prioritize getting into your calm, happy place.
Once you’re calm, a lot more options open up to you in terms of discipline. In this state, you’re clear-headed and have a bit more perspective.
You’ll be able to see clearly that your child is indeed struggling because he really wants that toy his sister has, or she is so upset she needs to hit you because the emotions she’s feeling are so painful inside that she doesn’t know what else to do.
There are many reasons children misbehave, act up, hit each other and get angry. And from your calm state, you’ll be able to look past the behaviour, which is a symptom of a big emotion, and help your child deal with their struggles and get back to their calm and happy state.
Perhaps validating his feelings by saying, “Wow, you must really want that toy!” will be enough to calm him down before finding another toy to play with.
Perhaps a hug will calm her down, followed by showing her what she can hit instead of you.
Next time your child and you are losing it (or about to lose it), remember that your great thinking and emotional regulation isn’t functioning properly, so hit pause on the discipline, and prioritize calming yourself down before dealing with your child.
You’ll get a lot further with your child and remain your great parenting self.