Remember, the parents are the head of the family. It is best to think of this process as training, for your child and yourselves. Using common language can help everyone understand the goals of easing behavior and tension in the house.
Red, Yellow, Green
Red – really angry, need a time out
Yellow – getting angry might be time to take a break
Green – everything is great
These three colors can be used to self identify – “Mommy’s feeling red right now, might be good for you to fix your own breakfast, I need a break for a minute”
The also should be used for praise and indications of intervention escalation for your kids.
“Maria, I see you’re at a yellow right now. Maybe you need to take a break before you hit red.”
“You’re a red right now Johnny – you need to sit down for a minute and take some time.”
“Paul – this was a totally green morning – GREAT JOB”
Stickers can be rewarded for greens, yellows that work and even for successful time outs.
Some kids can tolerate a time out, others need a time in. Time ins require a greater parental calm. You can negotiate them for time, in fact the negotiation process can be calming. Always offer a couple of options:
“You can sit and count or sit and draw but either way you have to sit.”
The negotiation can continue – as long as your child is redirected from their anger you are succeeding. In the end take any concession and praise your child for sitting. No lectures. Just get on with things.
“Go to your room for five minutes – I’m at a red and you’re at a red and we both need to cool off”
Grounding and Lost Privileges
If your child breaks a house rule good punishments are grounding from play-dates and lost privileges (iPod, TV, video). These should be short in duration; one day but long enough to be a firm consequence. There has to be incentive for your child to behave – negative reinforcement works very well.
Remember – children crave attention, any attention even bad attention means they are the center of the family’s activity. You may want to think about the following:
- Is my child getting enough attention?
- Am I missing anything
- Am I assuming too much self-control or self-knowledge
When to talk about feelings
NEVER talk about feelings in the middle of a fight. Your child can’t hear you then and you’ll only feel worse. Find a neutral time to talk with your child, preferably in the car, and without radio or iPod. Do not tell them you’re going to talk in advance!
Then, go for a drive and say;
“Remember when we had that big fight the other day? I’m still thinking about it…it really hurt my feelings. I probably overreacted. What do you think we could do differently next time.”
This opening allows for the interaction to be less combative. You take some of the blame (whether you want to or not), which creates a forum for some sharing of solutions in the future. Plan for no more than a 15 – 20 minute talk. NO blame. The second you lay blame, your chat will be over. Remember these guidelines:
- These conversations are best held one on one – remember, your child’s hidden wish is for attention, if you have more than one child you may have to have more than one conversation. Later, you can decide as a family how to address multiple family needs.
- Talk as little as possible – listen more – Your best success will come from opening the conversation (rather than dominating it)
- Ask questions like a detective…”Was there something else going on that day?”
- Share your feelings, but ONLY to work toward an improved communications solution “It felt like you just shut down on me…Is there something I can do that would make it easier for us to talk” or “When you freak out in the mornings its so much harder for all of us to get to school – can you think of something we I can do or we can do as a family to make our mornings run more smoothly.”
- Thank your child for having the talk “I’m so glad we were able to talk today – I felt really bad about what happened the other day.
- In an informal setting, dinner, or walking the dog – NOT a formal family meeting – talk about new ideas you might try based on your ‘car conversations’. Keep it light and allow for slip-ups.
Praise – Catch Them Being Good!
Make sure you remember to notice days without stress. “Wow, this was a great day! It feels so much better to have a good day then a bad day! I love you”