By: Jenn Kiefer, Army brat, Coast Guard Spouse
“I’m putting myself in time-out,” I screamed angrily to my husband. “The kids are yours.”
And without waiting for a reply, I stomped out the door.
After having argued with my daughter WAY too long about something way too inconsequential, I’d had enough.
So I ran. And I don’t mean a slow paced trot where your feet barely shuffle type of jog.
I mean running for your life, because a wild bear is chasing you type of all-out sprint.
Not surprisingly, I didn’t get far before I was exhausted, but it was enough to calm me down. When I returned to the house a few minutes later, I was ready to behave like a sensible parent again.
Everyone gets frustrated sometimes, there’s no use arguing that fact. When children start to spiral out of control, one of our jobs as parents is to help them calm down– even if their frustration is aimed at us.
But what happens when we get frustrated with them? When we are the ones starting to spiral out of control?
While it would be nice to always have the luxury of sprinting out the door for a quick run or closing oneself in the bedroom for a self-imposed time-out, it’s not realistic.
In need of some different self-calming techniques, I turned to an expert for advice and discovered a number of methods perfect for parents.
We’ve all heard it: count to ten slowly and breathe.
According to Biteena Frazier, a family counselor, there’s a good reason why this advice is popular.
“The emotional (reactive) part of our brain is approximately six seconds faster than the thinking (response) part,” explains Frazier. “When anger is triggered and we start arguing, reactive elements hijack our brain and we go into fight-or-flight mode. Breathing brings us back into our body and gives us a few seconds to engage our thinking part of the brain.”
Instead of just counting to ten, the next time you get upset, try counting backwards in a foreign language or mentally alphabetizing objects in the room to help engage the thinking part of your brain quicker.
Navy mom, Laura, suggests a quick change of scenery.
“Once when my daughter started arguing,” says Laura, “I told her I needed a drink of water first. I was honestly just thirsty, but the few seconds it took me to get the water from the kitchen changed the whole tone of the argument. When we started talking again, I didn’t feel as defensive about her anger. Instead of yelling, I was ready to listen and help.”