14 strategies parents need to know
9. Cool Off Before Solving a Problem
In coping with tough situations, proper timing will improve your effectiveness tenfold. It does not work to deal with a problem at the time of conflict. Emotions get in the way. Thus, it is important to understand and to teach children that, in most cases, a cooling off period is necessary before seeking a solution. Since it is difficult to focus on solutions when we are upset and responding from our irrational brain, where the options are fight or flight, it is helpful to wait until we have calmed down and can access our rational brains. I call this positive time out.
How do you teach children about cooling-off periods? By example and repetition. You (or the children) can go to a separate room and do something to make yourself feel better, and then work on the problem with mutual respect. "I think we are both too upset to discuss this now, but I would like to get together with you when we have had time to cool off." Another approach might be, "What would help you the most right now—to take some positive time out, or to put this problem on the meeting agenda so we can get some help from the whole family later?"
Have your children help you design a pleasant area (with cushions, books, music, stuffed animals) where they can go to calm down when they are upset. Remember that children do better when they feel better.
A Story from Kavita: "I can't believe what just happened!" Roshan's father stammered. "I can't even think straight, I'm so mad! You need to go upstairs. I need to calm down." Roshan, age 6, ran to his favorite time-out spot and hurled his body on the cushions. His father, fraught with anger, went into his study and shut the door, struggling to regain his composure. Both gradually felt better as, in their own worlds, they were able to calm their breaths and maybe punch a couple of cushions. After 15 minutes, young Roshan was quietly playing with his favorite toy car. Downstairs his father had turned his attention to today's newspaper and was reading an article. When he saw the time, he walked up the stairs, tussled Roshan's hair and sat on the floor next to him, eye level. Now the time was right for solving the problem.
Little Deepa has been overcome with emotion. Mom knows this is not the time to sort out the problems that caused the upset, and arranges for her daughter to cool off in their agreed-upon place.