Understanding what caused the outburst would help the parent understand the child. For example, a mother who is frustrated due to the child’s refusal to sleep could reflect if her son is crying because he is missing his dad who is out of station or wants a story read to him. Reena exclaimed, “But how am I supposed to take a pause when I am angry? I’m not in a frame of mind to think. I just burst out. At that time, I am not able to map the back story of my child!”
Most of the time, we don’t get angry instantly. There is a slow build-up which culminates into a showdown. Our anger can be compared to a volcano. Various pressures and stresses in our life start to slowly build up inside and at an explosive moment erupts suddenly without any warning. Our anger spews out harsh words like the hot molten lava, damaging our relationships. That is why, we need to be aware of what is happening within us. We can recognise our internal turmoil by paying attention to the signals our body gives out. It could be shortness of breath or increase in heart rate, clenching of the jaws or fists, grinding of teeth, sweaty palms or a throbbing forehead etc. Body reactions vary for every person. Later, during quieter moments, try to retrace your steps and think about what happened to your body just before you exploded. Once we are aware of our body signals, we can use our sensory organs of sight, hearing, touch, taste and movement to help regain control. Every person could try out different ways and identify which sensory organ helps to effectively calm oneself.
For example, some of us may prefer to go for a walk, or punch a pillow or clean the room. Hence, one realises that movement helps them calm down. For others, it could be visual — they regulate by looking out the window or the fish in a tank. If a person shouts or screams in anger, he could sing, chant or take deep breaths to help him tone down. For many, sipping cold water or hot coffee relaxes them. As we practise these tools, we can slowly win over our anger.
Next time you begin to get angry, take the ‘PAUSE’ – observe, regulate and understand what may be going on with you and your child. When our children are having ‘big’ feelings, we can help them manage their emotions by teaching them how to observe themselves and use these sensory tools. We could identify and help them use it. Some children may prefer to run around or kick the ball to let out steam. Others may prefer to play an instrument or want some space. While a parent role models, the child watches and imbibes the skill. Reena now looked hopeful and said, “Seems like a long road ahead, but it is a beginning and worth trying.”
The writer is a certified parent educator with Parenting Matters, an organisation which empowers parents to build deeper connection in families. To know more about them, look up parentingmatters.in.