You can see it coming…you’re out, running errands, and you’ve been in the busy grocery store just a smidge too long. The music is blaring over the loudspeaker, there are people pushing and shoving all around you, and the small behaviors that you have been noticing in your children over the past several minutes are becoming more and more frequent.
Both of you are red-faced, overstimulated, and the little things are about to result in a very public display in a very public place.
We’ve all been there…no judgment. But, how can we take what we’re learning about stress and its effect on the family and make these moments much less frequent? Let’s take a look…
5 De-Escalation Techniques for Parents
Remove yourself from the situation.
Perhaps the most important piece of advice I can offer is to give yourself permission to take a break.
When I have had a stressful day at school, it is hard to handle the baggage my own children come to me with at the end of the day. I give myself permission to go on that run to burn off stress or lock myself in my bedroom and take some deep breaths before engaging. The moments when I say things I regret are much less frequent this way…you are NOT a bad parent for needing a break. You are a normal human with the need to decompress frequently to stay regulated.
Re-evaluate your “non-negotiables”.
Crisis Prevention Institute (2020) argues that it is wise to examine what you insist upon as non-negotiable. For example, if your child has a meltdown over showering before bed, is it really that important that they shower right then? Or can they get up and take a shower in the morning after a full night’s rest?
Do not attempt to make decisions in the heat of the moment.
A person who is overstimulated and beginning to panic cannot think clearly. Whether that person is you or your child, try to remove yourself from the situation causing distress, allow time to calm and regulate, and then make a decision.
Be empathetic, non-judgmental, and use non-threatening body language.
When communicating with a child or another person in distress, be sure to be empathetic, non-judgmental, and use non-threatening body language. Rather than just telling your child to “get over it,” use empathetic language that conveys understanding, such as, “Wow…that must feel scary…” You will likely get a much more positive response.
Additionally, our tone dictates the response we will get from others. If your tone is dripping with sarcasm or negativity, your child or anyone else you are conversing with will not respond in a positive manner.
Stay connected to your rational thinking brain.
As parents, we set the tone. If you react to your child’s emotional outburst with your own emotional outburst, little will be accomplished. If that is proving to be too difficult, I would encourage you to refer to tip #1 and give yourself a moment to gather yourself. Meeting emotion with rational behavior will always be more effective at de-escalation.
Crisis Prevention Institute (2020) affirms that, “The truth is that there is no magic recipe for keeping troubling things from happening in the world. But there is a way that you can respond to these kinds of events that is constructive, positive, and impacts real resolution”.
We cannot prevent these moments from occurring, but by controlling our response, we can create a positive, gentle tone in our home that enables our children to learn the art of self-regulation, a skill that will carry them far in life.
Crisis Prevention Institute. (2020). CPI’s Top 10 De-Escalation Tips. Retrieved from https://www.crisisprevention.com/Blog/CPI-s-Top-10-De-Escalation-Tips-Revisited
About the Author: Brandy Browne
Brandy Browne is an early childhood educator in the United States, as well as a family coach and blogger for UnStuck (www.unstucks.com), her family coaching service aimed at helping families develop positive habits and breaking the cycle of generational trauma and poverty.
Her education is in early and elementary education, and she also has a masters degree in parenting and child/adolescent development. Brandy is a wife to her high school sweetheart of fifteen years, and together they share three children, aged ten, seven, and five. In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, writing, and distance running.