As promised in my last post, here is how I shift from a raging-nagging-mommy to a *mostly* responsive and rational one.
In order to rage less, we need to learn how to make and use an anger plan. In order to nag less, we need to learn how to speak to our children in a way that reduces "counterwill." For the counterwill piece, I invite you to visit my facebook or goodreads pages where I post great resources.
For the anger plan, make the shift from the freaking-out to the checking-in parts of our mind. As outlined by Kathryn Tonges in Research Paper: Shifting from Anger to Calm-Assertive Parenting Using Visual Coaching Tools, the two key areas of focus to making this shift are having a visual cue and spending time becoming "anger aware."
These are the steps I created and my own anger plan:
1. Choose a visual cue as a reminder to STOP.
The visual cue I use to begin the shift is a STOP SIGN. I also put my hand up and say "stop" out loud.
2. Slow the situation down. DROP
Ninety-five percent of the time, the event causing tempers to flare is not an emergency. Make a physical motion which reminds you to slow down and breath. I DROP into a chair and say "breathe sister;" breathing slowly until the hotness in my ears starts to cool. In the five percent of the time when my kids are in physical danger, I manage that first then sit down. I use the word ROLL to remind me to using rolling breaths; slow, deep, without holding my breath between exhale and inhale.
STOP ∙ DROP ∙ ROLL
3. Speak less, think more. SHUT UP (sorry Mom)
We cannot make sense when we are emotionally flooded; the part of the brain that reacts will be in control. I silently tell myself to shut up until my responsive, rational words can make it out. I say this to the kids, "I am taking a moment to calm myself down. I will talk again when my brain stops freaking-out and starts checking-in." This shift to our rational mind turns, "What the hell do you think you are doing??!!" into "I am angry you hit your brother. I also see you are very frustrated with him. Let's sit on the sofa and figure out what is going on here. I want to hear from both of you and see how we can do this differently next time."
SHUT UP first, CALM DOWN next until you can use rational words.
These steps are likely to have the best effect if we engage in a process to understand what gets our blood boiling and why—I use journaling, talking with my husband, and the occasional visit to my own psychotherapist to help with this (yes, therapists benefit from counseling too). It is also important to have an outlet valve for the anger you calmed down. Some days I'm doing my anger plan five times when my youngest is really struggling with tantrums, and those days I need to let off steam. Going out with friends, singing, writing, and dancing like an idiot are all ways I do this.
So remember this: STOP ∙ DROP ∙ ROLL ∙ SHUT UP ∙ CALM DOWN
What a gift to you and your children! By modelling this process, you will be teaching them how to self-regulate their own anger.
Photo credit to Flickr - bitterbethany