How many times in a day do you feel the need to calm to your child?
He doesn’t have to cry or kick his heels on the floor in a tantrum. Maybe he’s out-of-control angry, and you want to calm him. Maybe she’s so excited about something that she’s becoming hysterical, or refusing to go to sleep. It could be fear holding your child in its grip. Or laughter – sometimes, you can laugh so hard you’re struggling to breathe!
Whatever the emotion, beyond a point, it needs to be managed.
Here are some ideas:
1. Declare “Quiet Time” – I have used this successfully with lots of children. It works under 2 conditions: firstly, your parenting style must involve your doing something with your child. It could be giving her a bath, reading him a story, gardening, shooting hoops – whatever.
You’re solving a jigsaw puzzle with your son. When you finish you might say, “Now we’ll have some “Quiet Time”. He’ll ask, “What’s that?” You answer: “We both sit quietly, doing nothing. We don’t speak, don’t do any work, don’t watch TV or read a book or play or put things away or listen to music. We just sit quietly, doing nothing. We don’t even hug or hold hands.”
Sit yourselves down in front of a clock with a second hand, if need be, and tell your child: it’s “Quiet Time” (QT) for 1 minute. If he can’t tell the time, tell him that 1 minute means the second hand will move once around the clock from 12 to 12, and then QT is finished. By the way, you might want to start with 2 minutes or more. Also, it’s not your child who will get fidgety; it’s you who won’t be able to handle ‘doing nothing’!
He might think it’s weird, but he won’t question it, because he’s used to doing things with you – this will be just another thing you do together. You will definitely think it’s weird, but try and stick with it, because it works. Gradually, increase the time to 2 minutes, 3 minutes and so on, till you are up to 5 or 10 minutes.
Make sure you have at least 1 QT session a day, if not more. Initially, declare QT at arbitrary times of the day – when you are both peacefully engaged in whatever you’re doing, not when you are trying to calm him.
When he (and you! 🙂 ) get used to QT, you can begin to introduce it when he needs calming. It’s an activity he knows well by now, so it’ll work. But keep doing QT even at no-need-for-calming times, or he’ll get wise to your strategy, and won’t ‘play’ QT any longer! 🙂
QT works if you do things with your kids, and if you introduce them and get them used to the idea during regular times.
I’ve seen a 7-year old struggle with learning to tie her shoelaces, and declare QT to her dad when she became too frustrated! 🙂
2. Offer a glass of water – Most of us could do with more water in our bodies. Children are no different. When hysteria is ruling the roost, offer your child a full glass of water, and ask that she drink it. If you start this when she is young, it will work for her right through life.
Drinking a full glass of water requires time, which gives your child a break from the extreme emotion. It hydrates the body, thereby reducing stress and lowering her heart rate. Invariably, she will be calmer.
I am such a great believer in this, that if a child comes to me saying, “I’m bored. What should I do?” one of my top 3 responses is “drink a glass of water”. (The other 2 are “I don’t know” and “Take all your clothes off and stand outside the house”! 🙂 No, really! My logic for giving the last suggestion is “you’ll never be bored for the rest of your life!” 🙂 )
3. Go outside for a walk – with your clothes on! 😉 We spend too much time boxed up indoors. Just being outdoors, seeing space around us is healing. Even if you live in a concrete jungle, even if you don’t have very good air quality, even if it’s noisy – go outside. Take your child out of the house, and walk together.
Walk aimlessly. If you use the walk to pick up groceries, visit a friend, or get some work done, it will be much less effective as a calming strategy. As you use going-outside-the-house-and-walking, your child will begin to relate the aimless walk with calming down; he will begin to ‘get’ it.
Keep conversation to a minimum. Conversation fans emotion. Just be silent and walk. If he wants to say or ask anything, respond normally. For instance, when you’ve been walking for a few minutes, he might say, “Are you angry with me?” Speak long enough to reassure him that you’re not; you’re just in a quiet mood and want to be with him. Say no more.
As you both walk and he calms down, you might strike up a conversation, and that is fine. In fact, it’s great! But let it be his decision to speak or not.
4. Hold your child – Young children accept being held by their parents. As they grow, first boys and then girls, begin to shrug off your cuddles, caresses and hugs. The accepted physical expressions become an arm around a shoulder, a pat on the back, a head leant on a shoulder, a squeeze of the arm or hand, a moment’s hand-holding, a touch, and eventually, maybe just silence. As your child grows from one stage to another, and depending upon the specific emotion she is going through, different things will work. But they all centre around holding your child.
Croon something soothing, if you wish; or just hold her quietly. Keep holding her long past what you believe is necessary. Even if you believe she is in an uncomfortable position, don’t pull away. Ask her if she’d like to be more comfortable. If she does, she’ll move herself, but stay in your arms. You keep holding her, till she pulls away.
Do let me know your experience with these strategies, if and when you try any of them!
P.S. There’s another benefit to the first 3 – they work for you as well! 🙂