Excerpt from “The Parenting Path” by Darlynn Childress, Professional Parenting Coach

Step #1


The modern brain often times misinterprets stressful moments as being an immediate treat to our personal safety. This triggers the amygdala to sound the alarm and the brain is flooded with adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine. The survival instinct of fight/flight/freeze/faint takes over. Parents can arrest this reaction in about 45 seconds by doing something with the body to regulate the brain. Notice what your body wants to do when you are angry. Besides yelling what else do you do? Slam? Stomp? Glare? Walk away? Clench your teeth? Rub your hands together? Check this list out for ideas on how to use your body to regulate your mind.

Step #2


Just as your brain is overloaded with stress chemicals during an episode of misbehavior, so is your child’s. When the brain is overwhelmed, thinking, problem solving and empathy are not accessible. A parent’s typical instinct is to teach the child a lesson immediately following misbehavior. But in all actuality, the child is not capable of learning anything until the brain is completely regulated. Parents can help regulate their child’s brain by demonstrating compassion through words or non-verbal communication. The emotional coaching tool is explained in detail here. Children learn empathy by experiencing it. Emotional coaching helps you remember how to show empathy.

Step #3


An effective limit clearly communicates what you as the parent will do or allow and the circumstances in which you will allow it. An effective limit should avoid putting the child into the fight/flight instinct; it’s given as an invitation or permission, instead of a threat or command. Here are some examples.

Since a limit requires thinking, a parent must wait until the child’s mind is completely regulated and ready for learning. There is no magic time frame. Every brain is different. A child that feels generally safe and unconditionally loved should be able to regulate the mind in a couple of minutes. Children who have experienced trauma, attachment disruption or other stressful home-life experiences may need longer to regulate emotional overwhelm. Be patient.

Step #4


Children make mistakes. It is our responsibility as parents to use those mistakes as opportunities. Giving children the skills to make amends, replace something that has been lost or broken, or do a chore for causing an inconvenience helps children feel capable, instead of inadequate. To teach responsibility, we need to give our kids opportunities to make a mistake and then fix it. Resilience is not perfection. Resilience is knowing how to bounce back from hardship. Resilience is the ability to recover from difficulty. Parents should be a partner in helping their child make something right, not the adversary.

Read More about the Parenting Path on Darlynn’s Blog

Darlynn has contributed the following articles to AdoptTogether:
10 Things Parents Should Do When Bringing Their Child Home for the First Time
5 Essential Resources Every Adoptive Parent Should Have


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