Staying Cool (When You’re “Hot”)

With the heat wave we’re experiencing here in the Triangle, it seemed timely to discuss tips for keeping your cool when your kids want you to “lose it.”  The thing about kids is, they are so good at knowing what buttons to push.  And every time they get parents to lose their cool, they feel a sense of empowerment like, “Oh wow, I can make dad so mad the vein on his head pops out.  That’s pretty cool.”  And even though the child doesn’t like to be yelled at, he feels a sense of power that his actions can have such an influence over his parents.  Now, we all know there are some days when you’re hot, tired, hungry, stressed, and you don’t have any patience or coping skills left.  BUT, if we as parents can make the effort to remain calm, cool, and matter of fact when dealing with our kids MOST OF THE TIME, they will benefit (and so will we!)  Many kids would rather have negative attention versus no attention (or not enough).  So how do parents keep their cool?  Here are a few tips:

  • Take a “time out” – if you feel those early warning signs that you’re about to lose your cool (tight chest, rapid heart rate, feel flushed), excuse yourself and say, “I need to go take a few minutes to myself, I’ll be back to discuss this in 5 minutes.”  What a great way to model anger control for your kids.
  • Pay attention to your thoughts.  If you find yourself thinking negative, “all or nothing” type thoughts (i.e., “Why does he always do this?  Is he trying to make me crazy?”) you’ll get even more upset.  But if you can alter your thoughts to be more realistic, (i.e., “He’s just a child.  I’m the adult.  I’m in control and I can handle this.”) you’ll feel a lot better.
  • Don’t give multiple warnings or “threats.”  I see a lot of parents who are afraid to discipline their children or give consequences.  So I hear things like, “Okay Hannah, put up your book and come over here.  Hannah, I said put down your book and come here.  Hannah!  Put down your book and come here or you’ll get in trouble.  Hannah!  You better get over here or you’ll lose t.v. for the week.  Okay Hannah, that’s it!  1….2…3…”  Each time you give a warning or threat, you get more agitated when you see your child isn’t complying.  Give the warning/request one time, and then the consequence.  No second, third, fourth chances.
  • Use simple relaxation strategies in the moment to calm down: deep breathing, visual imagery, whispering a soothing phrase (“Relax…breathe…”).  There’s a great website I frequently send clients to with wonderful audio files for relaxation exercises.  (And I listened to them recently the entire time I had two wisdom teeth extracted – and I opted not to get “knocked out.” The website is: http://www.loyola.edu/campuslife/healthservices/counselingcenter/relaxation.html
  • Finally, if you find yourself routinely yelling at your kids, saying hurtful things, using physical punishments when upset, you may benefit from seeing a child psychologist who can teach you and your family more effective anger control strategies.

Just as Fall will eventually come and give us a relief from this sweltering heat of summer, you can take control of your anger and be the cool, refreshing, calm force within your family.

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One Response to “Staying Cool (When You’re “Hot”)”

  1. Dr Greg Cynaumon Says:

    I can’t figure it out – staying cool while you are hot..it is difficult for me to calm down when something annoys me..but I think this post has a very good point..this could help..slowly but surely..

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