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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.

The Five Love Languages of Children, Part 9: Acts of Service

Last week, I discussed the final love language of children, acts of service, based on the book “The Five Love Languages of Children” by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell. In case you missed it, please follow the links below to read previous posts about the various love languages of children:

  1. Physical Touch (Part 1 and Part 2)
  2. Words of Affirmation (Part 1 and Part 2)
  3. Quality Time (Part 1 and Part 2)
  4. Gifts
  5. Acts of Service (Part 1)

Today, I will continue to discuss the final love language of children, acts of service, to provide some tips, tricks, and tidbits on how to incorporate acts of service into a parent-child relationship.

Love language

It is easy for parents to have hopes, wishes, and dreams for their children. A part of incorporating acts of service into a parent-child relationship is a parent’s acknowledgement that the child is not an extension of the parent, but rather an individual. This means that it is important for parents to allow their children to develop their own skills, abilities, and goals without the parents pushing their own unfulfilled wishes or desires upon their children. A parent’s goal is to help guide a child and give the child room to explore their own autonomy. This does not include giving a child a detailed map stating what the rest of the child’s life will look like.

For children whose primary love language is acts of service, requesting help from a parent is more about creating a connection then receiving the help. Because it is about connection for the child, a parent’s response may negatively impact the parent-child relationship.

For example, an adolescent approaches his mother while she is reading and asks, “Mom, will you cook me breakfast?” Without looking up, his mother snaps to him, “No you know how to cook it yourself.” In this instance, the son was not just asking for food, but to engage with his mother. This response may leave the son feeling defeated and upset. Parents do not need to jump at every request but should remain sensitive a child’s requests and recognize that it is motivated by a child’s need for connection.

Instead of snapping at her child in the above example, an alternative response may have looked more like this: “I’m sorry, I cannot cook right now. Would it be okay if you made something yourself and then we can do something together later?” In this way, the mother is still denying the request, however, she is also addressing her son’s need to connect.

As a parent, when providing acts of service for a child, it is important to help a child regardless of the child’s behavior. For example, some parents may feel that they can only help a child when the child behaves well and may choose not to help a child if a child is behaving poorly. This will ultimately teach a child that love is conditional and must be earned. This is not a message a parent should teach a child - love is unconditional, and therefore, a parent’s role is to support and help a child as needed, whether the child has had a good day or a bad day.

Below is a list of tips, tricks, and tidbits to help parents connect with a child whose love language is acts of service:

  • Children will notice a parent who does things for others out of love, not obligation, and will model this behavior
  • For younger children, have them help with chores or cooking. This will not only show the child skills for future independence, but will also allow parent and child to connect with one another
  • As children get older, engage in the community together such as through volunteering and/or walking for awareness or a cause
  • Respond to a child’s request - not react. If a parent refuses a child, pushes the child away, or responds to a child in a harsh or critical tone, it may impact the child’s emotional tank

And remember, a parent does not need to say “yes” to a child’s every request. However, a parent should try to remain sensitive to a child’s request, recognize it as a bid for connection, and respond in a gentle manner.

If you enjoyed reading about the five love languages of children and would like to learn how to incorporate these languages into your own relationship with your child, therapy can be a safe space to explore these connections. From individual therapy, to family therapy, to couples therapy, there are lots of ways to create connection and explore specific and unique patterns within a family. For more information on therapy, visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please contact us.

The Five Love Languages of Children, Part 8: Acts of Service

For the past few entries, I have been discussing the five love languages of children based on the book of the same name by authors Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell. In previous entries, we have reviewed and discussed the first four love languages including physical touch (part 1 and part 2), words of affirmation (part 1 and part 2), quality time (part 1 and part 2), and gifts.Today, we will be discussing the last of the five love languages of children, Acts of Service.

An act of service is a parent’s ability to help a child with a specific task. This ranges from changing a baby’s diaper, to making a toddler’s bed, to helping an elementary-aged child fix his bike, to quizzing an adolescent on an upcoming test.

During acts of service, it is not a parent’s job to please a child, but rather to do what is best for the child. This may not satisfy the child in the moment, however, these skills will serve to help the child become a mature and independent adult.

Acts of service

For example, a child may want to eat ice cream after every meal. A parent can provide the child with this request, however, this may not be the best option for the child’s overall health. As such, giving the child ice cream every now and then may not be the child’s ultimate wish but it will help the child in his or her future.

Parents can view acts of service as a means to helping a child until that child is ready to learn the behavior on his or her own.

A father may show an act of service by cleaning his 2 year old daughter’s room - this is developmentally appropriate. However, if that father continues to clean his daughter’s room until she is 16 years old, he may be hindering his daughter’s ability to know how to clean and take care of her own individual needs. This may become a problem when she is ready to live on her own. As such, it would be more appropriate for the father to begin to teach his daughter how to clean her room and continue to help her until she is ready to clean her room on her own.

In this scenario, the father first models the behavior, then helps his daughter learn the behavior, and finally, allows the daughter to do the behavior on her own. That’s what this love language is all about - it is to help children emerge as mature adults who are able to give love to others by helping one another.

Be sure to visit us again next week to learn tips and tricks to parent a child whose love language is acts of service.

As a parent, if you feel learning about the 5 love languages has been helpful, seeking individual therapy can be a great way to take these topics and learn about them in relation to you and your family. There are many different types of therapy outside of individual therapy, including couples therapy and family therapy, that can help you and your family create, maintain, and/or strengthen connections. For more information on therapy, visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please contact us.

The Five Love Languages of Children, Part 7: Gifts

For the past six blog entries, I have explored and discussed the various ways in which children express, and hope to receive, love. According to authors Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell in their book “The Five Love Languages of Children,” there are five ways in which children view love: physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of service. Please refer to the following articles to learn about the first three love languages:

Today, I will be discussing the fourth love language, gifts.

Many children like gifts and often enjoy the sensation that comes with receiving gifts. However, that does not mean that the child’s primary love language is gifts. For children whose primary love language is gifts, they will receive gifts in a different manner. Often times, these children will pay close to the details - was the gift wrapped? What kind of wrapping paper was used? Did it have a card? They will likely want the parent to be closely watching as these children open the gift and may make “ohhh” or “ahhh” sounds during the gift opening process. For these children, receiving gifts is about the experience and the connection between a parent and a child. Therefore, it is not about the gift, but creating a special moment with a parent.

It is especially important for a child that the gift is genuine. It is not uncommon for parents to give gifts as a reward. Many parents set-up reward charts for good behavior. For example, when a child gets a certain amount of stars, the reward is picking out a toy. This can be a great reward option for some families. However, this type of gift is different than giving a gift out of love. This gift is conditional (i.e. the child displays good behavior which is then rewarded with a gift) whereas a genuine gift may be seen more aligned with the idea “I thought of you today and I wanted to express that love.”

Psychology

Some parents may also provide children with gifts out of a parent’s own personal emotional distress. Most commonly, parents provide children with gifts out of guilt. For example, if a child does not see a parent frequently, gift giving may be a way for the parent to try to create a connection. Or maybe a parent is not affectionate and gives gifts to compensate for a lack of saying “I love you” or giving hugs. Maybe the parent and child got into a fight, and the parent’s gift can be seen as an “I’m sorry.” Once again, these gifts stem from a parent’s own discomfort. A parent may truly be attempting to express love to a child through this gift, however, children will pick-up on the non-verbal cues associated with the gift. During these times, it is not uncommon for the gift to lose all or any meaning to the child. 

As such, gifts should be given in combination of the other love languages. Make the gift-giving experience a moment to have quality time. Talk about the gift, ask the child questions about the gift, and take the time to answer the child’s questions about the gift. If genuine, tell the child “I love you” and give the child a hug during the gift giving process - all of these love languages combine to make the gift-giving moment truly special for the child.

Remember, giving gifts as an expression of love is seemingly a random act rather than an expected occurrence. Therefore, this type of gift giving is different than receiving gifts for holidays. In the love language of gifts is not about the size of the gift or how much the gift costs, but about showing an expression of love.

Come back next week as I discuss the last love language of children, acts of service.

If you have enjoyed reading these blog entries on the love languages of children and would like more specific information, therapy may be a great option to address specific concerns. Whether you are interested in individual therapy for yourself or your child, couples therapy, or family therapy, there are many options to create personalized goals for you and your family. For more information on therapy, you can visit FAQ at Hilber Psychological Services. If you would like to schedule an appointment, you can contact us at Hilber Psychological Services.