Reena had read the article ‘Understanding the Backstory’, which suggested that during a conflicting situation between parent and child, the parent take a pause and try to map all the events that had occured to get an in depth picture of what may be happening in the child’s life.
Understanding what caused the outburst would help the parent understand the child. For example, a mother who is frustrated due to the child’s refusal to sleep could reflect if her son is crying because he is missing his dad who is out of station or wants a story read to him.
Reena exclaimed, “But how am I supposed to take a pause when I am angry? I am not in a frame of mind to think! I just burst out. At that time, I am not able to map the back story of my child!”
Most of the time, we do not get angry instantly. There is a slow build-up which culminates into a show down. Our anger can be compared to a volcano. Various pressures and stresses in our life start to slowly build up inside and at an explosive moment erupts suddenly without any warning. Our anger spews out harsh words like the hot molten lava, damaging our relationships.
That is why, we need to be aware of what is happening within us. We can recognise our internal turmoil by paying attention to the signals our body gives out. It could be shortness of breath or increase in heart rate, clenching of the jaws or fists, grinding of teeth, sweaty palms or a throbbing forehead etc. Body reactions vary for every person. Later, during quieter moments, try to retrace your steps and think about what was happening to your body just before you exploded.
Once we are aware of our body signals, we can use our sensory organs of sight, hearing, touch, taste and movement to help us regain control. Every person could try out different ways and identify which sensory organ helps to effectively calm oneself. For example, some of us may prefer to go for a walk, or punch a pillow or clean the room. Hence, one realises that movement helps them to calm down. For others it could be visual, they regulate by looking out of the window, watching nature or fishes in a tank. If a person shouts or screams in anger, he could sing, chant or take deep breaths to help him tone down. For many, sipping cold water or hot coffee relaxes them.
As we practise these tools, we can slowly win over our anger.
Next time you begin to get angry, take the ‘PAUSE’ – observe, regulate and understand what may be going on with you and your child.
When our children are having ‘big’ feelings, we can help them manage their emotions by teaching them how to observe themselves and use these sensory tools. We could identify and help them use it. Some children may prefer to run around or kick the ball to let out steam. Others may prefer to play an instrument or may want some alone time.
While a parent role models, the child watches and imbibes the skill.
Reena, now looked more hopeful and said, “Seems like a long road ahead, but it is a beginning and worth trying.”
Author : Sunitha.R, is a certified parent educator with Parenting Matters, an organization which empowers parents to build deeper connection in families.