Being able to connect with your child when they’re reactive can really help in the disciplining process.
These are some of the steps from the book:
- Communicate comfort: The first step in establishing connection is to communicate physical affection non-verbally. Watch your body language when you speak. Conveying non-verbally that you’re not a “threat” is important for the child’s brain, otherwise the limbic system picks up signals of threat from your posture and tone of voice and the child doesn’t feel safe.
- Validate: Acknowledging their experience without trivialising or minimising is very important. You want to make them feel that they’re heard and their experience, even if you don’t understand it in the moment, is valid. “Attuning” to their subjective experience is crucial. The simplest way to do that is to identity what they’re feeling and saying it, calmly. For example, You’re feeling upset, aren’t you? This must be tough for you etc. This helps in calming their body and also gives them “emotional vocabulary” to describe what they feel.
After acknowledging, the next step is to empathise with what they’re feeling. “I get you.”
- Listen: Have you spoken to someone when they’re having an emotional reaction? Does talking help? It doesn’t. Appealing to the logical part or reasoning doesn’t work. Similarly with children, it doesn’t work. It just adds to their emotional overload. “Hear the feelings within the words” and stop talking too much. Resist the temptation to argue, defend your point of view, lecture and ask the child to stop feeling what they feel.
- Reflect: Communicate to them what they told you while emphasising the temporariness of big feelings. You need to acknowledge and validate what they feel but at the same time you don’t want to make the feeling a permanent part of the child’s narrative either.
Reference: No drama discipline. By Daniel J Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson