Parent Superpower

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Welcome to Tuesday’s Tips, the one-day a week when I dispense useful, actionable and empowering tips!

Parents, I’m about to bestow upon you a superpower. This power is going to give you the ability to sidestep drama with your children. In fact, it is going to equip you with the skills necessary to teach them how to de-escalate themselves. You are about to become a coach.

Let’s look at a typical fight:

Your 14-year old daughter Jane is punished for lying. Today a friend offered her a ticket to a concert and she’s asked you to make a 1-day exception. You say no and she begins throwing a temper tantrum. It starts off slowly with her trying to negotiate, and then it begins to escalate, first in volume, then with profanity and insults, then it morphs into full-on teenage warfare. By the end, she’s basically in lockdown for the foreseeable future – and your blood pressure has peaked to a new high.

Now let’s look at the situation with you as coach. You’ve already told her no and she’s escalating. Her voice is getting louder.

Jane: Seriously? They’re only playing in town tonight. It’s my last chance. I’ve agreed to add 3 days to the end of this stupid fucking punishment. This makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE.

You (in a calm, loving tone):  I know this is very frustrating. I know you want to go to the concert. You only have 7 more days of this punishment. It’s going to be over in the blink of an eye. I get that you disagree with my unwillingness to compromise on this issue – but we have to agree to disagree on this one because my position isn’t changing. I don’t want your disappointment over this to cause you to make a mistake that will extend your punishment.

Jane: But it makes no sense!

You: Listen, I know you need to blow off some steam. I’m going to leave you alone to do that. You can write in your journal, call a friend, do some pushups or sit ups, or watch a funny movie to get your mind off this. Let’s agree to talk again in an hour. If you need me, I’ll be downstairs.

This scenario presupposes that your daughter has already been taught how to ‘blow off steam,’ ie, self-sooth. This is best taught by a third party/therapist, but in order for it to work, the parent must coach the child to use the skill at specific times. Equally important, the delivery must be done in a very specific way, devoid of condescension and impatience.

I’m going to break down the coaching scenario for you below so that you can see the techniques I’ve employed with each statement.

Jane: Seriously? They’re only playing in town tonight. It’s my last chance. I’ve agreed to add 3 days to the end of this stupid fucking punishment. This makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE.

You (in a calm, loving tone):  I know this is very frustrating (validated her feelings [which must be done before you can do anything else]). I know you want to go to the concert (validated). You only have 7 more days of this punishment. It’s going to be over in the blink of an eye (pulled the focus off of Jane’s momentary desire & reminded her that soon she will have all the freedom she wants – which she ultimately wants than the concert). I get that you disagree with my unwillingness to compromise on this issue (validated) – but we have to agree to disagree on this one because my position isn’t changing (informed her that the outcome won’t change regardless of how she behaves). I don’t want your disappointment over this to cause you to make a mistake that will extend your punishment (helped her to predict the outcome of potential bad behavior).

Jane: But it makes no sense!

You: Listen, I know you need to blow off some steam (sidestepped a power struggle that would have ensued by debating if it makes sense – and instead focused on the solution to her problem which is in de-escalating herself). I’m going to leave you alone to do that. You can write in your journal, call a friend, do some pushups or sit ups, or watch a funny movie to get your mind off this (gave specific reminders of ways to self sooth – but didn’t call it self soothing because that would sound condescending). Let’s agree to talk again in an hour (let her know that she can talk to you again which will help her allow you to walk away). If you need me, I’ll be downstairs (reminded her that you’re her support system and that you’re not overwhelmed by her emotions – that you can handle them and support her through this frustration).

So there you have it – you as coach to your child. This type of plan requires strategy, learning new skills, and learning how to manage and regulate your own emotional response, but it can be done in as little as 3 months of parent coaching. Email me if you’d like to take the next step: Darcy@AskDrDarcy.com  Happy Tuesday.