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Posts tagged anger
9 Things Parents Can Say to Defuse a Meltdown With Compassion

Of course you love your children, but aren't they just so good at pushing your buttons? It's easy to get frustrated when your children are demanding impossible requests or continue to do the one thing you asked them not to over and over. Thoughts may cross your mind such as, "I brought you into this world, I can take you out," (although you would never say that aloud). Your first reaction may be to raise your voice and punish your child, however this article will prepare you with 9 sayings to use when your child is having a meltdown that get the point across while still using compassion. 

It is important to reinforce connection, not separation. Vanessa Lapointe suggests "discipline without damage". Based off of science, and the way a child's brain develops, we want to build children who are hardy, not hardened. Children who are hardy have the ability to overcome to struggles of life, while children who are hardened cannot, and instead shut down using poor coping skills. Below are 9 sayings found on Lapointe's Disciple Cheat Sheet to help change the way you defuse a difficult situation with your child. 

1. Instead of: "What were you thinking?" 
Say: "I'm going to help you with this."

2. Instead of: "How many times do I have to tell you?"
Say: "I'm going to do (__) so that it will be easier for you." 

3. Instead of: "Stop it! You're embarrassing me!"
Say: "Let's go to a quieter place to get this sorted out."

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4. Instead of: "If you don't stop that, no Xbox for a week!"
Say: "I can see this is tricky for you. We're going to solve this later. Let's get a drink of water first."

5. Instead of: "Go to your room."
Say: "Come here, I've got you."

6. Instead of: "No stars on the star chart for you!"
Say: "Let's figure out a better way for next time."

7.  Instead of: "Stop. That. Right. NOW!"
Say: "If you need to get your mad out- then go ahead. It's okay. I've got you."

8. Instead of: *Silent eye-roll and frustration sigh*
Say: *Kindness in our eyes and compassionate hair tousle*

9. Instead of: "You are IMPOSSIBLE!"
Say: "We will get this figured out. I can handle ALL of you. It's all good."

The key to defusing a meltdown is to use different tactics from the Disciple Cheat Sheet. When your toddler does something, such as color on the wall, instead of yelling, begin by maintaining a calm voice and saying "You know we aren't supposed to color on the wall, let's get this cleaned up." If your toddler fights back, stay calm and move to another tactic, "I can see this is tricky for you, we're going to solve this later. Let's get a drink of water." It may take time, but eventually your child will calm down, and that is when you can show them how to get the color off of the wall. Your child still learns their actions have consequences, but you were able to get your point across without raising your voice. 

Children's brains have not developed impulse control, therefore no amount of yelling will change the brain's wiring. The phrases above work best for young children, but you can use the same idea of compassion to get your point across with older children and adults. When using these phrases, it is important to remain confident, all-knowing, and in charge, in order to avoid helicoptering your child. Although it may take time for the parent to refer to these phrases before getting frustrated, remember that "It's okay. I've got you," may be exactly what your child needs to hear. 

If you have questions about using compassion and the good affects it can have on you and your child or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact us. For more information on therapy, visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services

~Written by Allison Parker and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

Reference: Porter, Evan. “9 Things Parents Can Say to Defuse a Meltdown with Compassion.”Upworthy, Cloud Tiger Media Inc., 21 July 2017.

Emotions of Children on the Autism Spectrum

Emotions of children on the autism spectrum are often hard to comprehend. It is important to help children not only identify an emotion, but also connect that emotion to a specific event. According to Alice Kassotaki, speech language pathologist MSc, BSc, there are four steps to identifying emotions.

  • -Step 1: Definition of the child’s emotion: “Nick, you look scared”.
  • -Step 2: Connection of the emotion while it is being expressed: “Maybe you are scared because this is a new game”.  
  • -Step 3: Confirmation that it is normal to have such an emotion: “It makes sense to be scared when you try something new for the first time”.
  • -Step 4: Reassurance: “Let me help you. It will be easier and less scary if we do it together”.  

There are many simple games that can be played to help children identify emotions. Mirroring emotions and having children guess how you are feeling is a great way to have them practice recognizing emotions. One a child has accomplished this step, they will later learn how other people think, and then eventually be able to connect how their feeling in regard to what they are doing.

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Children on the autism spectrum may have difficulties displaying empathy. However, during the transition period from early childhood to preschool age, children are able to gain some skills. For example:

  • verbal and nom-verbal characterization of the emotional expressions
  • use of emotional language to describe personal emotional experiences and to clarify others’ emotional experiences
  • development of knowledge about the rules of emotional expression and how various emotions can occur at the same time
  • gradual understanding of social emotions such as guilt

It is an important first step to understand one’s own emotions. Once this is achieved, identifying, understanding, and reacting to others’ emotions is crucial to building strong social skills. Misunderstanding social ques, such as non-verbal signs, can lead to miscommunication. A child may unknowingly misbehave because of the lack of understanding. This can often be avoided by teaching children specific emotions and reactions in the clearest way possible.

At a young age, 4 to 6, most children are able to understand the main emotions: joy, sadness, anger, and fear (think of the Disney movie, Inside Out). More complex emotions, such as pride, guilt, and shame, must be learned through the main emotions. Here are 7 ways to help children understand the complex emotions:

1.     Attention approach: some children must be taught to pay attention to social information. When you notice a child feeling a certain emotion, such as anger, state their emotion and why they are feeling that way while continuing to show nonverbal signals, such as crossed arms and stern voice.

2.     Naming the emotions: As a child begins to pay attention to social information, teach them the names of the emotions, starting with the main emotions. Using pictures of familiar faces with obvious emotions can help the child relate the name to the understanding of the emotion.

3.     Designation emotions: Once a child is able to look at a frown and identify that that person is sad, teach them how to designate each emotion. Ask questions such as “How does he feel?” to be able to designate different emotions

4.     Actions based on emotions: Now that the child is able to understand and designate each emotion, help them react based on emotions. Rather than looking at pictures, show them real life examples of emotion.

5.     Role-playing: Give the child different scenarios of receiving ice cream and feeling happy or losing a toy and feeling sad, allowing them to role-play and further identification and expression of emotions.

6.     Modeling (filming): When watching a movie or television show, point out characters’ emotions that the child will be able to relate to.

7.     Games and books: Playing board games and reading books are also great ways to help the child learn about others’ emotions in different situations. This is a way to turn learning into an interactive activity.

While this information is geared towards individuals on the autism spectrum, this same information about identifying and understanding emotions can be used to all children. 

 Contact us for more information on children on the autism spectrum, learning and expressing emotions, or for help with children who are struggling.

~Written by Allison Parker and Tanya L. Hilber, PsyD

Reference: Kassotaki, Alice. (2017). “Emotions of Children on the Autism Spectrum.” Upbility.

No Drama Discipline: The Principles, Part 4

Last week, I began to discuss the second of three principles, Chasing the Why, in the article “No Drama Discipline: The Principles, Part 3.” These three principles, based on the book “No Drama Discipline” by Dr. Daniel Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson, examine how parents can connect with their children during discipline, utilizing the moment to teach a child rather than make a child feel bad. To learn about the foundation of No Drama Discipline, please review articles “No Drama Discipline: The Foundation, Part 1,” and “No Drama Discipline: The Foundation, Part 2.” To review the first principle in No Drama Discipline, Turning Down the Shark Music, please refer to the articles “No Drama Discipline: The Principles, Part 1” and “No Drama Discipline: The Principles, Part 2.” A parent’s goal throughout discipline is to play the role of a detective. Chasing the Why asks parents to internally ask themselves, “what is my child trying to communicate through his or her behavior?” By remaining curious about a child’s behavior, a parent allows him or herself to look into a child’s internal state rather than the external behavior.

Let’s review an example of what discipline may look like utilizing the connection principle, Chasing the Why.

Dave is a single parent raising 12yo Alice. Alice has always been a good student and Dave hopes that Alice will follow in his footsteps to become a lawyer. One day, Dave receives a phone call from the school stating that Alice has been disruptive in class by frequently talking to classmates. Embarrassed about the call, Dave begins to become anxious. He imagines Alice's grades dropping and her future jeopardized. For Dave, his shark music regarding his own fears for his daughter’s future become louder. Instead of letting the shark music grow, Dave takes a deep breath to clear his head. He allows himself to become curious as he asks Alice questions about her behaviors rather than make assumptions about the motivation behind them. He may begin by asking Alice, “Alice, tell me about your day,” to first connect with Alice. Dave may then ask Alice specific questions about the conversation with Alice’s teacher. “Alice, I heard from your teacher today. She seems to think that you have been more talkative in class than usual. Tell me a little about that.”

By taking the time to explore the reasons behind the child’s behavior, a parent may be surprised from what the child’s motivation is rather than the parent’s own perceived motivation. In the above scenario, Alice may reply that she has been more talkative because she recently made a new friend, or that her friend had a bad day and she wanted to make her feel better. The parent will still have to help the child learn strategies to handle these situations in an appropriate manner, however, by chasing the why the parent is creating a way to connect with the child rather than dismissing the child and missing the opportunity to understand the child’s motivation for the behavior.

Tips and Tricks: It is important for parents not to directly ask, “Why did you do this?” For many children (and even adults) asking “why” can cause defensiveness in those being asked. Furthermore, depending on the age of the child, the child may not be at a developmental level where he or she could tell you the motivation for the behavior. It is not uncommon for parents to hear “I don’t know” when asking a child about an event. Try asking open-ended questions (i.e. “What did you do in school today?”) instead of closed-ended questions (i.e. “Did you get into trouble today?"). Closed-ended questions will limit the interaction between parent and child.

Chasing the why is asking parents to ask “why” in their own heads in order to create that curiosity and let that open mindset guide the conversation. In this way parents can begin to not only address the external concerns, or behaviors, but look into the child’s internal concerns, or the root cause underneath the behavior, to prevent future problematic behaviors.

If you would like more support in parenting your child, whether in couples therapy or individual therapy, please do not hesitate to contact us at Hilber Psychological Services to explore options. Therapy can be a great way for parents to discuss personal concerns that may get in the way of parenting. If you have any general questions, please visit our FAQ.

Tune back next time as we examine the third and final principle, Think About the How based on the book “No Drama Discipline” by Dr. Daniel Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson.

Passive-Aggressive Behavior

Have you been accused of being passive-aggressive? Have you told someone else that they're being passive-aggressive? We hear these terms quite frequently. Some of the time they are often right on the mark and other times this term just does not fit. What is Passive-Aggressive Behavior?

Passive-aggressive behavior is indirectly being aggressive to get what you want or don't want, while still appearing like you're easy-going and trying to please others. Using passive-aggressive statements is seen as a way to resist and still appear like you're complying. Passive-aggressive behavior can also be defined as a "deliberate and masked way to express covert feelings of anger" as stated by Whitson in Passive Aggressive Diaries. Many times people may want to appear likable, easy-going and happy, yet they are actually angry or resistant. These people may believe that they're not allowed to have or show their feeling.

What can I do instead? 

As the term states, this is a combination of two extremes: Passive behavior and aggressive behavior. Passive behavior and communication tends to be wishy-washy, indirect, and hints at the point we want to make. Aggressive behavior is typically attacking, mean, and hurting someone else to get what we want. Neither extreme helps you achieve what you want to accomplish.

Instead of passive-aggressive behavior, we can be assertive. Assertiveness is being firm but friendly and using our words to mean exactly what we want to say. To be assertive, you can state the exact message you want to get across without hiding your emotions or being hurtful. For example, instead of saying, "Fine, whatever. I don't want to finish this anyways." You could say, "Can we stay for 10 more minutes? I just want to finish this first." By using this assertive statement, the other person is unlikely to feel bad, hurt, or angry, and you get to finish your task. Being assertive still means you both "win" and you still get to have your feelings and be friendly.

You can also talk to a professional to help guide you through these behaviors and be more assertive. This can help you feel better about yourself and increase the connection in relationships.

To discuss this and other behaviors in detail, contact us at Hilber Psychological Services.