“MOooooom, I can’t find my library books.”
My daughter stopped, stood in the middle of the living room and stared at me with these sad eyes.
Her head was down.
Her shoulders drooped.
I don’t buy it for a second.
“Have you cleaned off your dresser in your room? Taken everything off your nightstand?” I ask.
“Noooooo. But I looooked….”
Oh, it’s the helplessness that gets me. I know that she defines “looking” as glancing for a milisecond, not seeing it and then giving up.
It’s a very frequent scenario in our house and honestly, having this same situation play out again and again drives me insane.
So I breathe again.
“You should go look again and this time take everything off your dresser.” I reply.
“But, I looooked alreaaaady…” Her eyes become a bit glassy and I know that tears are not far away.
Frankly, I’m ready to lose it.
I’m about to yell at my kid
I’m frustrated because she can solve this problem so easily.
- Why didn’t she put her library books in a place she could she easily keep track of them?
- Why didn’t she look for these last night instead of 10 minutes before we need to pile into the car?
- WHY DOESN’T SHE JUST CLEAN OFF HER DRESSER???
Well, THAT escalated quickly.
Parenting is a tough, tough job. I’m not perfect at it – far from it, in fact.
Sometimes, I’m so tired/ overwhelmed/ stressed that I react.
But my gut reaction is usually never the correct one – the same problem keeps popping up over and OVER again.
We want our kids to be proficient problem solvers, control their emotions and react to issues calmly.
To do that, we need to control our own emotions. Here’s how.
Stop yelling at your kids with a simple pause
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In the book, No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, authors Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, PH.D. encourage parents to pause.
They explain, “Parents want to handle things well when their kids are struggling to do the right thing, but more often than not, they end up simply reacting to a situation, rather than working from a clear set of principles and strategies.”
In the case of the missing library books, I agree.
How to handle this?
PAUSE before saying anything else. That pause allows us to gain control of our own emotions and ask ourselves three important questions:
- Why is my child acting this way?
- What lesson do I want to teach her?
- How do I best teach it to her?
Let’s go through these one by one.
Question 1: Why is my child acting this way?
This question allows us to stop and consider the reasons for the meltdown before we react.
In the case of my daughter, she was could have been:
- worried she’d get in trouble.
- Possibly stressed about having too much to do before we leave for school
- Probably hungry since she hadn’t eaten breakfast yet.
Are those reasons I should just ignore her tears and move on? No.
But I can now see the entire context for her overblown reaction so that I can make a better decision about how I will react to it.
Question 2: What lesson do I want to teach her?
Discipline is all about teaching. We want to show our kids that we love and respect them, but also set firm boundaries and limits.
Based on her reaction, there are several lessons that come to mind. Most of them, I was ready to yell at her earlier.
I could teach her:
- Setting aside a place for library books
- Making sure she eats breakfast before freaking out
- How to search for a missing item by cleaning and organizing
All of these are great lessons she can benefit from, but before we get ahead of ourselves….
Question 3: How do I best teach it to her?
Ooooh… here’s the kicker.
There is a time and a place when kids are ready to receive our advice and endless knowledge.
That is NOT when they are angry, crying or overcome with emotion.
At that time, the rational side of their brain shuts down. It says, “Screw you world. I’m a caged animal now. Hear me roar.”
When kids (or any humans for that matter) are upset, we need to connect with them, help them calm down and then later, in a calm moment, talk about the situation.
With my daughter, I chose to first acknowledge her feelings:
“I see you are worried right now and scared you’ve lost your library books.”
I thought of her nightstand upstairs piled with books, papers and little toys… . Then, gave her one simple direction.
“Why don’t you go upstairs and take everything off your nightstand? I’ll wait down here so I can finish eating breakfast.”
She went upstairs… and lo and behold… found one of her missing books.
Since she was still upset, that’s as far as we got that morning.
Tomorrow, when we come home from our library trip – and hopefully return all her missing books – I’ll teach her how to set aside a space in her room for her library books.
Parenting Discipline is all about teaching
By taking that pause before I reacted, I was able to calmly assess the situation, think about what I wanted to teach her and then intentionally teach at the appropriate time.
While we as parents may not remember to do this for every meltdown- everyone is allowed to lose it – knowing this strategy gives us one more tool in our parenting toolbox.
And you know, we could use as many tools as possible.
Want more positive discipline help? I picked out these for you: