Q: I always find myself yelling at kids, and yet, they still don’t listen to me! I am getting so exasperated! How can I stop this cycle?
A: In our last article, we discussed catching ourselves before the storm erupts. Today, I’d like to introduce you to an incredibly useful tool that WILL change your parenting experience. I call this tool, trigger happy! Before I teach you about this tool, I have to tell you more about myself.
I recently founded a Parenting Life Coaching business, called “Rhyme & Reason Parenting”. One of the main reasons we chose that name for our practice is because I love making up rhymes, quotes, songs, and ditties in my life. If there is a certain character trait I want to improve, I make up a rhyme and put it on my fridge. If I want a child to clean up his toys, I sing him a personalized song about how he’s doing a great job cleaning. When each of my children was born, I made up a unique song for them, stating in many ways about how much I love them. And the list goes on. I’ve cultivated this talent to help the parents I’m teaching by providing them with tools to have at their disposal in their toolbox. Each tool has a different name that’s easy to remember, and you associate the particular skill that you are working on with that name.
Today, I am introducing you to your trigger happy tool! And because it has such a catchy name, you’ll be able to remember it and whip it out of your pocket when you need to use it.
Enough of the introductions—let’s get down to the meat and potatoes!
Picture yourself in the following scenario: Junior, aged 9, routinely jumps off the school bus and runs into the house. He brings with him a tornado of pent up emotions and regurgitates them all over your previously peaceful house. But what gets you the most is that every single day, without fail, he leaves his backpack right in the middle of your kitchen. Toddler routinely trips over that backpack, predictably erupting into a 20-minute long tantrum…which then causes your 5 year old with sensory issues to go ballistic because she can’t handle the cries of Toddler. Now you erupt because you tell yourself that if only Junior had put away his backpack upon entering the house—like you’ve reminded him to do well over a million times—none of this would’ve happened! And you take your anger out on 9-year-old Junior, releasing those pent up emotions. He then storms off into his room and won’t come out until many hours have passed. Your vision of a nice quiet supper, enjoying the new recipe you were so excited to introduce to your family, is now a relic of the past. Are you feeling the situation yet? Has your heartbeat gotten a little faster? Right, so now I’m going to give you the tool that will help you stay calm.
Trigger happy works as follows: Choose for yourself a trigger that routinely causes you to lose your cool. In this case, we’re going to call our trigger Junior’s backpack. Now, multiple times a day, I want you to relive that trigger. Picture young Junior dropping his backpack on the floor (in another installment, I hope to address how to get Junior to hang up his bag. But for now, we are focusing on you and your responses). Most likely, just picturing the bag on the floor will get your heart beating a little faster. Because you’ve lived through enough difficult situations to know that when he drops that bag down, chaos ensues.
Now that you’ve gotten your pulse nice and fast, I want you to take 4 deep breaths. Breathe in to the count of 4, and breathe out of your mouth to the count of 8. Repeat that four times in a row. And repeat it often throughout the day. In doing this, you are training your brain to use Junior’s bag as a trigger to get you to your happy—doing your deep breathing. Eventually, I’d like you to expand your trigger happy to other scenarios so that pretty soon, whenever your body goes into that fight or flight mode, you’ll automatically start taking those deep breaths.