Managing Your Reactions – Three Uncommon Suggestions for Dad and mom
Parents tell me every day that they regret yelling at their children, or using a condescending tone, or maybe pushing in a moment of extreme frustration. Children can be really difficult and frustrating. Staying calm in the face of their annoying behavior can be one of the toughest challenges parents face. ADHD adds a whole different dimension to this challenge, and even the calmest parents will “lose” it on a regular basis.
So, besides the typical “count to 10” and “take a deep breath”, what are the best tips for parents who want to control their reactions to the annoying, sometimes terrible behavior of their children? Here are my three personal favorites that I have used on both my own offspring and my occasional trying spouse.
1. Do a serious mindset check.
Our way of thinking always leads to our feelings and our feelings lead to our behavior. It’s likely to generate less than positive responses if your mindset sounds something like this:
- “Why me, why do I have such bad children?”
- “My kids are purposely angry and trying to ruin my life.”
- “Why can’t my children be as good as Suzie’s children?”
A victim-like or opposing mindset only leads to angry and frustrated feelings that lead to negative parenting behavior. Rarely do our children misbehave just to torture us. Usually they misbehave because they are grappling with their own problems. If we don’t take their behavior personally, it is so much easier for us to respond positively and with appropriate consequences.
Download a free tip sheet “Top 10 Ways To Stop Meltdowns In Their Tracks” to stop everyone from screaming and tantrums!
2. Buy some time with a little empathy for angry children.
What’s this? It recognizes your little angels’ emotions no matter how frustrating they are. You could say something like:
- “You’re really pissed off right now” or
- “You are so frustrated that all you want to do is scream and scream.”
Then you want to confirm your feelings, even if you don’t understand them at all. After acknowledging their feelings, you could say:
- “Who could blame you for being so upset?” Or
- “Everyone in your shoes could be really frustrated.”
Why should we do this and how does it help us control our reactions? Empathy will help your child calm down almost immediately and it will buy you time to calm down. Empathy is an automatic change in mindset by diverting our anger to focus on our children’s feelings. It’s not always easy, but believe me – empathy can be a magical sedative pill for everyone involved.
3. Ask some questions – open-ended questions.
Yes, instead of immediately reacting negatively to your children, why not ask them some clarifying questions? You can tell them:
- “Say more?” or
- “What is so worrying about this situation for you?” or
- “How can I help you?”
Open-ended questions are a great way to calm things down, get more information from your kids, and help you respond more positively and helpfully. It takes some practice to do this, but once you get used to it it is a powerful tool for the parents.
Responding helpful is one of the most difficult aspects of parenting, especially when raising children with ADHD. The usual tips of taking a deep breath, taking time out for parents, or counting to 10 aren’t always successful or useful at the moment.
Changing our mindset to one that is more hopeful and less defensive is the first step in managing our reactions. Showing empathy to your children by acknowledging and validating their feelings will instantly take the heat away from any situation. It will allow your children to have their feelings and be heard and loved despite those feelings. Open-ended questions help parents to get more information from their children and to clarify the situation.
Get in the habit of using these three skills and you will find that your own reactions make you feel better and have better relationships with your children. When we manage our responses with a calm, healthy response in a challenging situation, we move away from our children and everyone feels respected, loved … yet connected.