What’s the toughest job on earth that most of us choose to undertake? That’s right: parenting. We all know that there’s no book on how to actually go about all the nitty-gritty, but nonetheless we embark upon the adventure with love in our hearts and optimism in our being.
We Parent The Way We Were Parented
Because each of us has been raised differently by our own parents and thus have our own attachment style, what we deem is “right or wrong” in terms of parenting our own children varies widely. Typically we either do things that our parents taught us by example when we were kids, or we go to the other extreme of doing the exact opposite of how we were raised (and then we’re horrified to hear something that comes out of our mouths that we SWORE we’d NEVER say)!
Inevitably, there will be times when you are not “at your best.” Are there times when you find yourself:
- All of the above at your kids.
Don’t feel ashamed—it happens to all of us. What comes next? Guilt!
Quick Repair as a Parent Child Conflict Resolution Strategy
Once you have calmed down and your brain comes back online, take stock. Quick Repair means that you review what happened and take ownership of your bad behavior in the interaction:
- Evaluate your words and actions
- Identify your main emotions during the interaction.
- Apologize to your child for the bad behavior
- Explain your emotional state. Maybe you were tired or hungry (Hangry!) – it doesn’t excuse the behavior but, it helps give context.
- Apologize again.
We are apologizing for our loss of control and this has nothing to do with your child’s bad behavior. It’s more about modeling how to apologize for the mistakes we all make as humans and move toward a constructive resolution of the problem. It’s not about never making a mistake, it’s about fixing the mistakes you make.
NeuroBiology – Hurtful thoughts and feeling, if not fixed right away, become lodged in your brain.
Co-parenting Constructively Helping Your Partner
One of the things that can make this already stressful situation WORSE is when your partner tries to “help.” Now, helping is good. Matter of fact, I encourage it. Most times, however, the partner tends to fuel the already lit fire and you wind up thinking to yourself, “Oh, you want in on this? Take a number mister because you’re next on my list!”
As a PACT therapist, I think of situations like this from an arousal regulation perspective and a neurobiological perspective:
Looking at the arousal of the parent who is yelling at her child, she is completely dis-regulated. She is not able to think clearly, breathe normally or relax. Neurologically, her forebrain, which defines us as humans, has virtually taken a long lunch break and she is in a mode of fight-or-flight.
She is therefore being ruled by a part of the brain called the amygdala which registers when it perceives danger. It then becomes a game of “kill or be killed.”
How to Help Your Partner Regulate
In order to be successful as a parent, we need our partner to “help” by NOT intervening.
- “Listen to your mother!”
- “What’s going on in here?”
- “I’ll take care of this.”
While all good-intentioned, these phrases actually escalate the situation at hand, can make the parent involved with the child feel ineffective and undermined, and the child sees that one parent has more say than the other. It’s a lose-lose-lose all the way around.
So, you’re asking, “What SHOULD happen? How CAN I help my spouse when she’s lost it?”
Find Things That Will Diffuse Your Partner’s Arousal State
In our Therapy Sessions we identify and role play these regulation interventions. It’s not always easy to come up with those things that actually bring your partner into the realm of “human being” again. Often it’s a process of figuring out what definitely WON’T work in order to then find what will. The MOST IMPORTANT thing to do is to help regulate your partner so that she can begin to think more clearly (because you’ve found a way to drag her forebrain back from lunch) and thus be a more effective parent. The kid sees that there is a solidarity between his parents, one where they take care of each other and look out for each other’s well-being. This is solid parenting and the kid can feel it.
Parent Child Conflict Resolution Strategies Case Study
Candace and Walter have two kids: a girl age 15 named Sequoia and a boy age 12 named Chase. One evening, Candace was in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner when she heard Sequoia and Walter getting into it. Candace really had no idea what the argument was about, just that she could feel the tension rising as the seconds continued to tick. Sequoia had an uncanny way of pushing every last button of her dad’s and Walter was becoming more and more disregulated: His voice was getting increasingly loud and he was barking and swearing like a sailor. Not his proudest moment. Candace figured that Walter could use some help. He obviously was handicapped at this point. Because Candace and Walter had been in PACT therapy, Candace already knew what would and wouldn’t work to help regulate Walter’s arousal. A clutch intervention was always humor. Candace walked down the hall to Sequoia’s bedroom where the battle was taking place. She quickly came in, stood beside Walter, and asked, “Should we kill her?” and shortly thereafter, left the room. Upon hearing Candace’s quip, Walter chuckled and yeehaw! his brain was back online!! Candace did a great job in helping to regulate her husband, making her intervention short and sweet and then getting outta there! Sequoia didn’t exactly know what had happened, just that now she and her dad could hear one another. Walter felt supported and empowered.