Feelings. They can be so fickle and difficult to manage, and they are so subservient to both our outer and inner experiences. They also linger, either adding to or sapping our energy. They are transient, moving from one state to another, sometimes slowly and sometimes faster than we have time to prepare for.
I've been teaching children about the Zones of Regulation, an emotional regulation curriculum that teaches kids how to manage and balance their emotions. The concept behind this framework is that our feelings and states of alertness can be categorized into four main zones, which are depicted by a color. The blue zone represents low energy feelings and states such as boring, tired and depressed. The green zone represents calm states such as peaceful, happy and ready to learn. The yellow zone describes heightened alertness and emotional states such as anxious, frustrated and afraid. The red zone describes extremely heightened states of alertness and very intense emotions like anger, terror and mania. While we all experience and transition through various emotional states, it is paramount to be able to manage those the feelings and bring ourselves back to the green state.
Sometimes the tools that help the most are the simple ones. Zones of Regulation provides individuals, young and old, with a practical and simple way to identify, organize and manage their emotions. So many times parents and educators focus on teaching children how to regulate emotions, yet forget that the best way to teach a child is to model the behavior they are looking for. For instance, in a conversation between father and child, the child stated, "Daddy, remember when you got mad. You went right into the red zone and started yelling at me, then you hit the table." The father appeared a bit embarrassed by his son's comment, and replied, "Yeah, I get upset when you don't pay attention." The father then looked at me and said, "I was really tired from work, and I just wanted to him to get his homework done so we could all relax." I empathized with the father and used that opportunity to teach an important parenting skill - acknowledging our own states of alertness and emotions as a way to model desired behavior. We all know the motto, "There are no perfect parents, and there are no perfect children, but there are plenty of perfect moments along the way." This moment was one of them. The father and child agreed that they would help each other identify the yellow/red zone and agreed that they would take a deep breath and ask for five, by holding up their hand. This would be their sign that they need a few minutes to de-escalate and calm down.
Here is the link to Zones of Regulation: http://www.zonesofregulation.com/index.html
Love and Logic Parenting
L&L is not a punitive approach, nor permissive. L&L is an approach where children experience firm limits and accountability within the context of incredibly loving and encouraging relationships. When relationships are damaged, even the best techniques fail.
Maintaining or rebuilding relationship can be very difficult when trying to parent a rebellious and oppositional child. Here are a few tips: (1) make every “hello” and “good bye” a special event by fully acknowledging them with eye contact, kind words and joy; (2) at least once per day notice something special about them…”I noticed that you ___”; (3) remove sarcasm – sarcasm is fun…only for the person who is delivering it – it erodes relationships; (4) love them even when they are behaving not so lovable; (5) neutralize arguing – having endless arguments takes time and energy away from relationships – so does yelling, screaming, and resorting to punitive techniques.
The five Love & Logic principles are (1) Empathy Before Consequences, (2) Shared Thinking, (3) Shared Control within Limits, (4) Shared Dignity, and (5) Maintaining the Relationship.
Technique #1: Putting an End to Arguing, Back Talk and Begging
Step One – Go Brain Dead. The less our lips move, the more effective we become. Don’t lecture!
Step Two – Calmly Repeat a Love and Logic One-Liner each and every time your kids try to argue or beg. Say it with empathy, not anger or sarcasm. Examples: “I love you too much to argue.” “I know.” “What did I say?” “Thanks for sharing.” “I’ll love you wherever you live.” “I argue at 6 am on Saturdays.”
Why do they argue? Arguing is a good way to get attention. Arguing prevents boredom. Arguing enough will get my parents to eventually give in. There’s nothing more exciting than seeing my mom’s face turn red when she’s angry. This is how I can get power over the person that has power over me.
Technique #2: Teaching Responsibility without losing their love
Empathy allows us to remain the “good guy” while allowing our child’s poor choices to be the “bad guy.”
Provide a sincere dose of empathy BEFORE delivering the consequence. The goal is to get your child firmly into “thinking mode” before doing anything else. Examples: “It’s so sad…”, “What a bummer…”, “I’m so sorry…”, “That stinks…” such as…”Oh man, I’m so sad. I talked to your teacher today and she told me about your behavior. I’m so sad that you now have to miss your field trip because of the poor choice you made.”
Technique #3: Setting Limits Without Waging War
Never tell a stubborn child what to do. Our words are meaningless to them. Instead, describe what you are willing to do or allow. Consequences lose their power when…(1) they are delivered with the purpose of getting even with them (2) with anger, frustration or sarcasm (3) repeated warnings or lecture – nagging or reminding, (4) feel sorry for them and we give in.
How do we deliver an enforceable statement?
Examples: “You can keep the toys you pick up”, “I respect myself too much to do extra things for someone who treats me like a doormat”, “You may have a cell phone as long as you are paying for the phone and the service”, “You may get online as long as I’m around to supervise”, “I call the police when I find drugs in my home”, “I am planning on spending $50 for your sneakers. If you can come up with the other $50, you can have the ones you are asking for.” You may have ________ as long as __________.
How would you restate the following unenforceable statements into enforceable ones?
Brush your teeth - Go to sleep…I mean it! - Stop taking my phone. - Leave each other alone.
Hurry up. We’re going to be late. – Put your clothes away. – Don’t talk back to me.
Technique #4: Avoiding Power Struggles by Sharing Control
Examples of effective choices: Will you be wearing your coat or carrying it? Are you planning to be home at 10:30 or 11? Do you want to do your chores now or in an hour? Are you going to take a shower or a bath? Are you going to turn off the tv in 15 minutes or now? Do you want to receive your allowance on Friday or Saturday? Do you think it would be best to pay for the broken lamp with your saved money or do you want to complete extra chores to pay for it? Are you going to turn off your phone now, or will you just ignore your friend’s texting until after dinner?
Kids need to have freedom to make poor choices so they can learn and make better ones later on
Technique #5: Guiding Kids to Own and Solve Their Problems
Step 1: Provide empathy – empathy opens the mind to thinking and problem solving.
Step 2: Lovingly hand the problem back. “What do you think you are going to do?”
Step 3: Get permission before sharing ideas – “Would you like to hear what other kids have tried?”
Step 4: Give a brief menu of ideas and help them evaluate each. Ask, “How would that work for you?”
Step 5: “I love you. If any kid can solve a problem like this, you can.”
Use the 5 steps to explore how you would handle your child saying, “They’re calling me names.”
Technique #6: Teaching Kids to Complete Chores…Without Reminders and Without Pay
Here are a few questions for you to consider:
What will help your kids to feel better about themselves and your family?
What do you want your kids to believe about helping others?
What do you want them to believe about relationships?
How do you want your kids to be motivated?
What attitude do you want your kids to have as they go to school or work each day?