“How can I stay in the moment, every moment?” AND “If there is a complex situation with several layers of communication and relationships: how can I work myself and my son through this chaos?”
My answer is broad and addresses something you may not have thought about—the energetics of emotions. Let me begin by stating what my answer will and will not apply to. My answer will not apply to: #1: The snuggly times when everything is calm and happy. #2: The times when you’re explaining a concept that has nothing to do with misbehavior like, “Why the sky is blue?” *Don’t use the process I’m suggesting during these types of situations or it will confuse your child. She’ll perceive you as emotionally distant and that will cause many other issues that we can discuss in another post. My answer will apply to: #1: The moments when you need to correct misbehavior. #2: The moments when your child can’t seem to hear you because both of you are reacting and the room is filled with emotional chaos.
Here’s a scenario we’ve all seen. A child is crying and a parent is lecturing the child about what he or she has done. The child doesn’t seem to listening, yet the parent drones on hoping that the longer she talks the sooner the child will stop crying and begin understanding.
It all begins when a child is an infant. Infants communicate by using the energy of emotions since they don’t have the capability to use language. Babies use their emotions and crying to let you know how they feel. Parents consciously and unconsciously use emotions to communicate with their baby, too.
The preverbal years teach a child to rely on the emotional energy that’s emitted by words, gestures, and actions as they’re learning about language and emotional intelligence. The non-verbal interactions are intense and filled with many clues for a child. Because you’re an adult, living in the verbal world, you may not be aware of how intense and impactful the emotional output of words, gestures and actions actually are.
Imagine you’re using a loud commanding voice around your infant. The infant hears, but more importantly feels, the intensity of the emotions being expressed by the loud voice and cries. When you use a sweet tender voice your baby doesn’t just smile, she moves her body in alignment with the emotion; almost as if she’s riding along with the emotions you, her beloved parent, are projecting.
Fast forward several years and your sweet one has just hauled off and hit her brother. Or he flat out refuses to clean up his toys, or do his homework, or whatever the issue is. You react using your big booming “parent voice.” Your child reacts and yells back. The emotions are palpable, you can almost see them flowing back and forth between you and your child.
So what’s the answer to this week’s question? How does a parent “stay in the moment” and deal with the complex layers of communication?
When you and your child are emotional and reacting, stop, take a breath and pull your emotional energy back, instead of diving into your emotions and projecting their full intensity outward in a reaction.
Parents also need to realize that when a child’s brain, or anyone’s brain for that matter, is processing the emotions they’re feeling they’re only capable of absorbing so much information.
So, the best thing to do when a child is processing emotions is to reduce the amount of words you say, and pull your emotional energy back. Make one statement, or give one command, or share one bit of information, and then go silent and wait. Stay present in the moment. Breathe. Watch for a change. Once you see your child calming a bit, go ahead and acknowledge the emotions you see by saying something like, “I hear how mad you are.” And then share a tiny bit of information, “I need you to sit down, when you’re seated we’ll talk.” Then wait in silence as your child does what she needs to do to manage her emotions. After she calms a bit more she’ll remember that you asked her to simply have a seat and wait. She’ll cooperate much faster because you aren’t giving her too much information to process when she’s emotional. And that’s the key—when emotions are present, use fewer words.
Being aware of the energetics of emotions not only helps a child regain control after being emotional, it also helps you too by buying you both the time needed to manage the emotions present. You’re able to do as the question asked, remain focused in the moment, and peel away each emotional layer, one by one, till you can both come to a resolution.
I hope that helps and made sense. If not send me your question. See you next week.
Now, go hug your kids!