We can offer threats or we can offer hugs. Hugs seem to have a far more positive impact on the emotional level of children than threats. Hugs keep kids calm so we can talk about issues productively.
If we can see the world through our children’s eyes, we can be more attuned to them. We not only know how they feel, but we feel how they feel. When we feel their emotions, we can name them, understand them, and work with them. This is an entirely different approach to dismissing their emotions or disapproving of their emotions. And it is significantly more effective in calming an angry or upset child than turning away from them or turning against them.
3. Use coping self-talk
Using coping self-talk involves saying things to yourself to calm down. Children can be encouraged to say things to themselves like:
- Take it easy
- Take some deep breaths
- Stay cool
- It’s okay if I’m not good at this
- Chill out
- Don’t let him bug me
- Time to relax!
- Try not to give up
To teach children to use coping self-talk, it is helpful to model it yourself. For example, you could make a point of saying out loud, “I need to relax”, “I’m going to cool down” or “I won’t let this get to me”. You can also use coping statements to coach children through stressful moments. Asking older children what they could say to themselves when they need to cool down their anger helps them learn to use coping self-talk for themselves.
This is best practised before children get angry.
There are times when the best thing we can do is to give our children space. This is not a punishment, but a simple acknowledgment that “right now you don’t seem to want to be with me because you’re so upset. Would you like me stay with you, or should I leave you alone?” Combining the offer of space with the offer of hugs can help children feel loved and safe, while giving them the freedom to choose for themselves whether they want our company.
5. Problem Solve
As long as our children are not flooded with emotion it can be useful to simply ask, “Well, what do you think is the best way for us to solve this problem?” Working together on the same problem-solving team can be a helpful strategy to get past challenging emotions.