Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Choose to Connect and De-escalate the Situation

·       Your response changes your child’s!

 You’ve picked up the cues, by noticing that voices have gotten louder. Or, that there’s a slight whining tone to your child’s voice, or he’s starting to forget the rules.

Now what?  The next step in emotion coaching is to connect with your child and draw him to you.   How you respond matters.  The key question is, does your response de-escalate the situation or innocently escalate it? 

If you coming roaring in like a bulldozer you’re going to push your child further into the red zone.   So take that deep breath, relax those shoulders, and monitor the tone of your voice.

Move in with the idea in mind that you are coming to help. 

Your child’s body language will tell you how you’re doing.  If he looks away, thrusts out his jaw, melts down, strikes out, runs away, shuts down or cringes he’s viewing your advance as a threat. And not as someone coming to help.   If he looks up at you and turns to you – you’re connecting. 

What exactly does this sound like?

Here’s the situation; two children want the same toy.  If as you move to intervene you say, “I see you both want the same thing.” The children immediately know you are coming to listen and help.  If on the other hand you come roaring in like a fighter pilot and immediately demand, “Who had it first?”  Or, “Give it to your sister, she’s younger.”  Or, “If you are going to fight over it, I’m taking it away.” The kids will immediately know they’re under attack and will be ready to battle with you. 

Here are some more examples. We want to stress this is the beginning – it’s not the end of this interaction.  It’s merely a step – one of five to win cooperation. 

De-escalating Responses
Escalating responses
Sibling and peer relationships
One child grabs a toy from another
What did you want to tell him?
Stop fighting with your sister. 
You can’t do that.  Give it back. 
Needing attention
Two children both wanting mom or dad at the same time.
I know you both want mom.
Do you want to know when I can play with you?
Right now I have to feed the baby.
You need to wait until I’m done.
If you are going to act that way go to your room.
Handling a disappointment.
You say, “No” and they start melting down.
Did you have a different plan?
I know you really
It’s hard to wait when you really want something.
Stop it!
I said “No” and I mean it.
No, you can’t have it.

So check your response:

  • Does your approach de-escalate the situation or escalate it?
  • Does your child know you are coming to help when you approach or plant their feet ready to do battle?
  • Are you connecting and drawing your child to you? 

 Your response really does changes your child’s and what happens next. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Picking up the Cues: BEFORE the Meltdown

Picking up the Cues:  BEFORE the Meltdown

Trust your gut!

Two thirds of our “sensing cells” are in our gut – that’s why when your child wakes in the morning and you know before he’s even gotten out of bed that it’s a going to be a lousy day you get that “kick in the gut” sensation.  You might hope you are wrong or even consider ignoring that punch hoping if you do it will slip away, but your gut picks up the “red zone” giving you warning.   “Heads up, be on alert.”  The challenge is to stop, listen and respond while things are still in the “rumble stage,” BEFORE the full fledged meltdown. Just think about it.  If you intervene when the voices first begin to get louder, rather than waiting until your children have hit one another you catch it while they can still “hear you” and work with you.  It’s so much easier! 
There are 3 categories of behaviors you’ll commonly see when intensity is going up.

Striking out
Shutting down
Gathering in
Blood goes to the muscles
Can’t stand stimuli – noise, lights, smells
Don’t want to be  alone
Refusing to walk, eat etc.
Experience anxiety
Hitting /throwing/yelling 
Hot and itchy
Want to sleep/stay with you
Not trying
Refusing to do work
Not trying

  • The reality is that by the time you see these “big cues” your child is already past the rumble and either in or very close to an over the top meltdown. That’s why it’s critical to catch the “rumbles” the “little cues” when your child is just beginning to struggle to “regulate his emotions” and calm himself.
Before the “big” cues there are little cues.  

BEFORE Striking out you’ll see...
BEFORE Shutting down…
BEFORE Gathering in…
Irritable/voice tone changes
Fingers/objects in the mouth
Wanting to be held 
Can’t make decisions
Go off to a quiet spot  
Seeking contact
Wired /jittery
Not listening
Going for lovies
Glazed look

Picking on others
Can’t eat or sleep

Who cares?
Roll on the floor

Bit of resistance

Nothing is quite right

So stop and think. 

  • What do you hear, see or sense that first tells you - things have just changed? 
  • Your child’s “internal volcano” is beginning to rumble?
  • If you respond when your child first gets silly or starts to get wild it is so much easier to bring her back to the green zone of calm energy where she can work with you.
  • This is when the effective emotion coach steps in – not waiting until you are in the midst of a foot-stomping power struggle. 

And then be honest. 

  • What keeps you from being fully present and picking up and responding to the little cues? 
  • Are you texting?  Talking on your phone? Seeing what your friends are up to on Facebook?  Are you reading this blog!  No one is a perfect parent.  No one is going to be totally focused 24/7. 
  • So take note of the “danger times” like first thing in the morning, before moving from one place to another, at the end of the day when you are picking up the kids or before beginning bedtime. 
  • Stop and ask yourself – would you bet Lynn and me $100.00 that your child is going to get through the next 30 minutes without losing it? 
  • If you’re not willing to bet us then trust your gut and take time to give that hug, listen, calm or maybe even decide to just go home.  Your response truly will change your child’s if you move in to connect when your child is merely at the “little cue” stage.