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Time In

Contributed by Jody McVittie

If you are a parent you probably recognize that feeling inside that comes when you’ve really tried your best and NOTHING seems to be working. You are tired, dinner is almost ready, the table needs to be set and the kids are bickering. Or maybe you are in a hurry and everyone knows what he or she is supposed to do but you think are the only one who really cares if you get to Grandma’s even close to the time you promised to be there.

Ick. For me it is kind of a frantic, out of control desperateness that starts in my chest and moves outward. When (if) I notice it, I don’t like it and that makes the feeling worse. It is unpleasantly transforming. At those moments I lose my ability to “connect before correct” and the “kindness” piece of “kind and firm at the same time” vanishes. I “know” what I could/should do – but I just can’t get there from here. I’ve lost my connection to the “better me” and seem to be parenting from some alien spaceship. I’ve clearly “flipped my lid.” It isn’t good for me or for any of the people that are in the vicinity.

Does this look familiar? Our children lose it too. They tantrum. They yell and scream and hit each other – or worse. They do the very things we know they know not to do. They just can’t seem get to their better selves from that (tired, frustrated, hungry, or mad) place.

What can human beings – who seem to have become temporarily un-tethered – do? Children learn to calm down largely by watching us. So let’s start by looking at what we can do.

Re-connect with yourself (time in). Some people do this by moving away from others and call it a “time out.” But it can happen in the company of others – the key is taking time to come back IN (to yourself).

– Breathe, long slow deep breaths
– Stop judging. For the moment you are doing the best you can.
– Find a friend who can listen without judging or fixing. Remember that you are not alone.
– Write in a journal.
– Go outside for a minute
– Step aside from the situation so that you can re-gather. I used to keep comic books in the bathroom for this purpose. It was my “time-in” space.
– What do you do? Share your strategies with us please!

Repair. After I “flip my lid,” and stop being so angry with myself and with my children I often feel guilty or ashamed. What then?
– Acknowledge that I made a mistake (but I am not a mistake).
– Ask myself, “What can I learn.” “Did I not get enough sleep or food?” “Was I so focused on what needed to be done that my children got the sense that where we were going was more important than they are?” “Am I taking care of myself?”
Make repairs. After I recognized my part in the problem (this is often much later) I can own my responsibility and apologize to my children.
More on other tools for working with your children next week.

If you want to read more in the mean time, check out Positive Time Out by Jane Nelsen. There are several other articles on the blog as well.

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