One of the best times to build a strong emotional awareness in your child is when things are breaking down. Whenever we interact with upset kids, we choose between getting our kids engaged with us OR further enraging a situation. So what’s the best way to engage and not enrage your kids?
How well we can engage them will help them learn greater impulse, stress and emotional control. And it will also strengthen the connection, trust and sharing between you and them.
When your child is going through an emotional flood or emotional desert, these are golden moments for learning and growth. As we build these skills in our kids, they become more adept at doing it. We are changing the physiology – the structure – of their brains. Circuits are strengthened, and they learn a key life skill.
The art of how to engage and not enrage
According to Gabor Mate – a prominent and cutting-edge Canadian physician and author, as parents we are constantly encountering times when are buttons are pushed by our kids. In fact, they are sometimes the best at pushing our buttons.
We get upset at kids at a time when the part of the brain that is responsible for behavioural control, (the frontal cortex) is not fully developed. That development isn’t in full effect until 16 years of age.
Now we’ve all had moments where we have a child howling from frustration. It might become unbearable, and we quickly begin to feel drained and perhaps even angry at the behaviour.
We may decide to send the child to a timeout where they can continue to howl until they calm themselves down. When something occurs where kids are THIS upset, what they need is a Time IN not Time OUT
You can engage and not enrage by facing the problem head-on
People are social beings. From an evolutionary standpoint; being separated from the group is one of the highest forms of punishment.
Kids between the ages of 2 and five are only beginning to learn how to:
- Control Impulses
- Be patient
- Use good judgment
- Pick up on social cues
This development carries on until they are 16 years old.
Kids, above all, need to feel safe and understood. And it’s our job as parents to understand what is going on with them.
When we can ask questions, calmly and without judgment, it allows the child the opportunity to reflect and process what went on.
Using questions such as:
- What were you feeling when you were playing the game with Grandpa?
- Did you like playing that way with Grandpa?
- Why do you like playing those games?
- What do you think of spitting?
- Why do you think you spit on Grandpa?
- What could you do now?
There’s an immense amount of information can be gathered when trying to understand a child’s behaviour. Your questions can lovingly help them uncover her own motivations so that they are revealed to her and to you.
But first and foremost, you must create a loving, safe space, with your tone, body language and questions and how you structure them. Kids need to understand their own behaviours before they can anticipate behaviours in others.
As parents, we need to be patient and skilled in helping our kids navigate the complexity of what’s going on inside of them, so they are not in a state of stress and turmoil.