Tools & Techniques for Parents

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Interrupting Automatic Reactions

1. Notice the message your body is trying to send you by noticing the emotions. You’ll usually

find a complex mixture, probably of:

  • Anger (“They know better than this!”)
  • Fear (“Will they hate each other for life?”)
  • Shame (“It’s all my fault for not managing my own emotions better and being a terrible role model!”)
  • Powerlessness, which is a form of fear (“I just don’t know what to do to stop this fighting!”)
  • Or sometimes numbness or lack of any feeling, which is a sign that you’re in “freeze” mode (which will push you to withdraw instead of yelling)

2. Notice that the emotions are pushing you toward an automatic reaction – in this case, yelling

at the children.

3. Resist your automatic reaction. Activate your pause button by taking a deep breath. Notice, but don’t react.

Slow yourself down. This breaks the habitual neural connections (In this case, you might even put your hand

over your mouth to help you avoid your habitual response of yelling).

4. Redirect your impulse toward a healthier response. For instance, train yourself to take a deep breath and

blow it out slowly instead of yelling. Conscious breathing has been proven to be calming to the anger

response. Substituting a different response begins to rewire your neural pathways. 


from Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids by Laura Markham

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Remember the 5:1 Ratio!

Try as we might, all of us sometimes have less than optimal interactions with our children. Remember that each one of those interactions that leave anyone feeling bad require five positive interactions to restore a positive valence to the relationship. These can be little – a smile or pat on the shoulder – as long as you make sure they have a positive impact.

One caution -- don’t be tempted to buy five presents, even if you goofed royally. Occasional gifts for no reason are fine, but all kids distinguish between emotional connection and things, and they always notice when parents use money to buy their goodwill. They won’t turn down the gifts, but it’s a net loss to the relationship’s emotional bank account.



from Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids by Laura Markham

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Stop Yelling at Your Children

If you're a yeller or shouter, it can be really, really hard to change your habit. But the results are priceless. You and your child will be much closer, which means he'll want to behave better. And watching you manage your emotions will help him learn to regulate his own emotions better.

The key is supporting yourself so you're less likely to lose it. That's why I recommend you take a Vow of Yellibacy. Once you clearly state your intention, you have more chance of success.

The next thing you need is an accountability partner. Who knows if you're using a respectful voice with your child? Your child! So your child decides whether you get a sticker each day. Obviously, yelling is not a respectful voice. Notice you can still guide your child -- just respectfully.

Try it for a week. Give yourself whatever support you need to be successful. I'm betting you'll see a wonderful change in your family, one that will keep you going long after your experiment ends. In a year, you won't remember the last time you yelled. Miraculous? Yes. But this is something you can do. Which doesn't make it less of a miracle.

Here are your Respectful Voice Star Charts. You'll notice separate charts for Mom and Dad. (Don't push your partner to sign on if he or she is not interested, because they will end up feeling attacked when the kids won't give them a star. Always work on yourself first. Your role modeling will be noticed.)


from Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids by Laura Markham

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Check out Aha! Parenting

This website has many articles to help guide you through the difficulties you face as a parent, from handling toddler tantrums and separation anxiety to effective communication with your teenage and strategies for setting rules and boundaries!  

Go to Aha! Parenting