You’ve promised yourself countless times to model courtesy to your young ’uns, but now you’re barking at your offspring like a market trader.
Amid your frustration and shame, you realise three things. First, you are deafening everyone around you. Second, the children are ignoring you. And last — and this was most upsetting — you aren’t being the mum you’ve always wanted to be. Clinical professor and parenting expert Dr Daniel Siegel, who co-wrote No Drama Discipline, believes that by actually focusing on each situation and your children’s needs clearly, you can learn to deal with tricky moments in a calmer, quieter way.
Here are his top tips…
1. Pause for 30 seconds
“Before you respond to misbehaviour, take time to ask yourself three questions: ‘Why did my child act this way?’; ‘What lesson do I want to teach in this moment?’ and ‘How can I best teach this lesson?’,” Dr Siegel suggests. “This helps you think about which approach will be effective.” Stepping back from a situation for 30 seconds may stop you from reaching boiling point.
“If your child is screaming, don’t shout at him to stop — it’s sure to enrage the emotional downstairs brain.”
2. Reason with him
Scientific research proves that shouting doesn’t work. “When your child is born, parts of his brain are already fairly developed — like the ‘downstairs brain’, which helps control instincts,” explains Dr Siegel. “The developing ‘upstairs brain’ is for more complex reasoning. Try to discipline your children in a way that engages this upstairs brain. If your child is screaming, don’t shout at him to stop — it’s sure to enrage the emotional downstairs brain. Instead, help him to use reasoning. Try saying: ‘It’s hard, isn’t it? Can you tell me about it?’”
3. Be proactive
Your 3-year-old gets a look in his eye that you’ve learnt to recognise when he’s about to have a tantrum. But how can you stop it? “Sometimes you can spot a storm brewing — a hungry child is whining or your toddler is about to throw a toy,” Dr Siegel says. “If you think your child is about to act in a way that will require discipline, try to divert him before he gets there. Give your hungry child an apple, or ask the toddler if he wants to look inside your handbag. Being proactive can save you headaches down the line.”
Three more vital tips to stop that tantrum… click “next”…
4. Step into his shoes
Dr Siegel suggests putting yourself in your child’s shoes to see life from his perspective. “If you think your toddler is misbehaving because he's feeling sad or left out, calm these feelings first. Give him a hug and, when he is calm, explain why what he is doing is wrong,” says Dr Siegel. “It’s more loving, but also more effective. An overly emotional child will not be able to learn from what you are trying to teach him.”
5. Work out your own triggers
“Every parent has certain things that cause them to overreact,” acknowledges Dr Siegel. “A small problem presents itself, but you are already racing ahead to worry about the future, or remembering something negative from the past. These triggers make it hard to understand where your child is coming from. For example, perhaps you were disciplined harshly for your table manners as a child. If your child drops food on the floor, pause before you react to what’s happened and ask yourself, ‘Is my response appropriate?’”
6. Be consistent
“If you feel like you’re at the end of your tether, try to remember that your child’s brain is changeable,” says Dr Siegel. “The complex ‘upstairs’ part of the brain won’t be fully formed until he’s in his mid-20s. The lessons you’re trying to teach might not seem to sink in today, but being consistent and giving positive discipline will eventually help him develop.”