You know those explosive moments before they go to sleep, before you have to leave the house, or at the mall, when your child loses it? That tender moment when you stress out (for a very good reason) and are willing to do anything to make it stop?
What most of us usually do is snap. We yell. Threaten to leave. Send the kid to his room. Does it help them to cool down? Relax? Does it teach them anything? Usually, it won’t. Does it make you feel any better? Usually, it doesn’t.
In life before COVID-19 these moments were just that – moments. Now, in quarantine, most of us lose it multiple times a day, every day, and the children are way more sensitive and much needier than they usually are. Living in lock-down is basically like living under a magnifying glass. All the things that trigger our anger seem to happen more and more, and our reactions are less and less what we want them to be. Admittedly, the less connected we are to our reaction, the less likely we are to make any good in the situation.
What’s Going On?
Living in lock-down (check out my six sanity saving tips right here) and under constant threat undermines so many of our existential needs; freedom, movement, autonomy, choice, connection, space, clarity, safety, and security are just a few of these needs. When our needs are not met, our brain goes into survival mode, and when we’re in survival mode – attacking is our “natural” choice. And we are adults. We’re supposed to have the tools to manage these situations, yet we seem to snap all the time. So how about the kids? They’re experiencing this 100 times worse, and they don’t have the tools to cope. So they snap. They lose it. They break down. And they do that many times a day.
To add to your confusion from the sudden change in your children’s behavior, you now need to collect everything that you, yourself, don’t have to handle their behavior and big feelings. This is tough. Really tough.
So Why Does It Happen Again and Again?
It happens again and again, and we all lose it again and again because, just like everyone else around us, we hope that this time it would work. This time there will be a difference. This time, and “if I only yell a bit louder, or double the punishment, they will finally hear me.”
But remember that Einstein quote, “we can’t expect to see different results if we keep doing the same thing”?
Why Doesn’t it Work?
When we look at the situation from the outside, it’s clear to us that our children are spiraling through unpleasant experiences, and from pure love, we want to help them get to a better place. But we’re so stressed ourselves, that we, too, fall back to everything that we know, those “fast” solutions that don’t solve anything. We’re so stressed out that we can’t see them, what’s happening within their hearts and souls, and we can’t see ourselves, and what’s happening within us. When we address the behavior without addressing its root cause – we’re only making it worse.
This is the paradox that is traditional discipline. Those explosive moments when we feel that nothing but a fiercer display of power will help, are the most tender and vulnerable moments when we can make a difference if we’ll start using other tools.
Recall a painful moment from your childhood, whether you were five or sixteen (it doesn’t matter), and you wanted something you couldn’t get or wanted to do something that you couldn’t do. And you expressed your (rightfully) big feelings about it. What did your parents do? Did they “punish” you for having these feelings? Did they send you away or disconnected from you in any other way, when all you wanted was for someone to see you, to understand you, to want to understand you?
There’s intense loneliness in these moments when we feel completely and utterly alone in our experience, and now, in lock-down, this is one million times stronger.
This is where empathy comes in. This is where you find all the strength you don’t think you have and take a step into your child’s experience. Name their feelings and needs and help them understand why they feel the way that they are feeling. Because they don’t know, they, too, are blinded by the intensity of their emotions right now. And they are lonely. So lonely. But you are there for them, and you can help them out of this emotional tunnel. And you know what? Helping them will help you, too 🙂 This is a win-win situation.
The less you will “lose it” when faced with your children’s “losing it” experiences – the more connected you will grow, and the less you will all lose it. Because you will be there for them, contain their feelings, see them, understand them, help them cope, give them new tools, just like you wanted when you were a child.
Under this magnifying glass that increases all our feelings and behaviors, is the best time to make a change, to be together, to connect. I will name this change for you – it is Nonviolent Communication (NVC), a method that is already helping dozens and thousands of families all over the world.
NVC allows us to stay connected and centered, focused on our needs and feelings so that we can remain calm when waves of anger and frustration approach the shores of our lives. NVC empowers us to make different choices, connecting choices that allow us the power of unity not only now but for years to come.
In Positive Parenting VIP, my membership group, I teach members how to open their heart and unlock the doors to empathy, to allow real connections, improve family life, and experience more patience, love, and calm. Join us here 🙂
You can also join my free life and parenting support group on Facebook and tell me what you’re going through.
Hope to meet you soon 🙂
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