When your child is really pushing your buttons and testing your patience with their misbehavior, that is the time when you have to be the most compassionate.
It is important to understand that when a child is angry, that anger stems from fear. A child that seems angry is actually afraid, struggling and hurting on the inside. It is crucial as parents to put our egos aside and be really kind and empathetic to our children even when they’re misbehaving.
“It may sound counterintuitive but with as much energy as the child is putting into being nasty; you put the same energy back with ruthless compassion. You have to create a space for that child where they can feel less afraid,” says Jennifer Kolari, founder of Connected Parenting.
Jennifer has developed the CALM technique, which is a very effective way to help us connect with our children when they are at their worst.
Every evening, Simone gets a sinking feeling at the pit of her stomach as she asks her daughter, Lisa to do her homework. The first ten minutes into it, the child is perfectly fine but then she changes into a horrible little monster. Lisa starts kicking and screaming about how unfair it is to have homework every night while her younger brother, who is only four, gets to play and roam about. The argument doesn’t make any sense but it happens regularly. Sometimes it’s over homework, other times it’s about going to school or eating dinner or something else illogical and blown out of proportion.
Simone tries to remain calm and collected but then she also loses her cool and starts yelling at Lisa. They both exchange hurtful words and then it’s over until the next evening.
Does this situation sound familiar to you? As a parent of an ‘angry’ child, you’ve probably read all the books and listened to all the podcasts out there on behavior management for children but you still don’t feel prepared enough for situations when your child explodes with anger.
Most parents have tried everything from punishing misbehavior to rewarding better behavior but they can’t figure out why their child is so angry and why the strategies that work for other kids don’t work for theirs and what they should do instead.
Perhaps it’s time to try the CALM technique.
What is the CALM Technique?
Jennifer Kolari, parenting expert, child & family therapist, and founder of Connected Parenting has worked with kids for many years that have behavioral, social and emotional issues. She’s developed a very powerful parenting model based on the science of love that says it is vital to build a connection with your child even when he or she is being cruel, nasty and angry towards you.
She talks about using the CALM technique when children are angry. It may seem difficult for parents because they will think ‘How can I be kind when my kid is being so mean and nasty to me?’ But, that’s when you have to dig really deep and try to understand where that frustration in your child is coming from and to form a connection with empathy and compassion.
How to Use the CALM Technique with Your Children:
- C –Connection. Establish a connection with the child using your body language, your spoken words and your presence. Show the child that you are present and you really want to understand where they are coming from.
- A—Affect matching. Have a look similar to the look on their face which shows that you understand the urgency and importance of the matter. This will further show the child that you’re actually getting it.
- L—Listen. Here you can clarify, paraphrase, and summarize what the child says. It is very important to remember that how you say something at this point matters more than what you say.
- M—Mirroring. Completely put aside your agenda. Whatever it is that may be triggering a reaction in your child or whatever it is that you want them to do or stop doing, you must put that aside and let them know you are there with them in that moment. And then you have to step into their shoes and be a part of their world.
The fascinating thing is that when you establish a connection with your child when he or she is experiencing such strong negative emotions using the CALM technique, your body releases oxytocin, endorphins and opiates into the bloodstream. All this serves as powerful medicine to protect them from harmful diseases and infections and also makes them smarter. The technique doesn’t have to be used only when the child is upset but can also be used when the child is extremely excited and happy to get the same benefits of oxytocin.
Bonus Tip to Improve Connection with Your Child
Jennifer mentions another great technique to establish a greater connection with our kids. This will also get the oxytocin to flow throughout their bodies and act as a super-medicine for them. Even if parents don’t use the CALM method, they can just do this to see an amazing change in their child.
When a child is acting up, we tend to pull away and separate ourselves from that child. But, just know that that is the time when he or she needs your love the most. When they feel unlovable, that is when parents should do ‘baby play’, cuddle with them, rub noses together and tell stories about when they were a baby. Even if they show resistance, let them know that they are loved and cherished, even when they are being difficult.
Jennifer Kolari’s approach is certainly counterintuitive and also seems challenging because parents will have to put aside their own egos and anger. But, it surely seems effective in helping manage anger in our children and to establish a better connection with them. Jennifer says, “If you have a kid where nothing else has worked, this will work but it’s not easy.”
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About the Founder
Internationally Recognised Emotional Literacy & Mindfulness Expert Tenille Bentley is the founder of The Emotional Literacy and Mindfulness Academy and the author of the children’s emotional literacy books with Jazzy and Pinky and The Energy Ball. Giving children a wonderful introduction to understanding their emotions and what do with them.
Tenille has been featured on Channel 9 News and other major outlets. Her work has been recognised in the community by The Governor of Western Australia, The Prime Minister of Australia and Australian Financial Review.
As a child she experienced severe anxiety and emotional traumas as well as bullying which left her feeling isolated, and unable to understand why she was feeling the way she did. As an adult this impacted her ability to make healthy decisions because she didn’t have the tools to understand her emotions.
Which is why she is passionate about equipping parents with the tools to support their children to make better decisions in life and healthy ones to help support and create a balanced home life.