Peaceful Parenting It can be difficult to parent our children, particularly when they are in their pre-teen or teenage years. At any age, children can know how to "push our buttons." Margie Gale, RN, MSN, Nurse Wellness Specialist at Work-Life Connections EAP, discusses ways parents can learn to regulate their own emotions and parent more peacefully.
Janet McCutchen: Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt University Health and Wellness Wellcast. I am Janet McCutchen with Work/Life Connections. Today, I have the pleasure speaking with my colleague, Margie Gale, who is the Nurse Wellness Coordinator at Work/Life Connections. Today, our topic is positive parenting. Margie, I know you are a parent, and I wanted to talk with you a little bit about parenting and as it relates to the role of the parent managing their own emotional reactions when their child is misbehaving. Talk a little bit about that. How does this work day to day with a child who knows how to push our buttons? Margie Gale: I think every parent has to practice that, and I remember being pregnant and having a best friend say how important it was to regulate your emotions, even saying, “If you ever just get really frustrated, you can always call me,” and I remember thinking how wonderful that every parent has a person who they can call if they need to, and so I found myself, I began to just calm myself down. I do something I call internal active listening. I first check in with myself and do kind of a body scan of how I am feeling, and as you practice that over many months and years, you can do it in about 10 seconds, and if it is not a good time, if I cannot leave, you have a child, you may want to step away into the kitchen, another room, or out in the front porch for a minute as you come back to respond because being able to regulate my own emotion and match with the child and then slightly go less emotional and bringing them to follow you can be very effective, and gosh, it is helpful for the parent. Janet McCutchen: Absolutely right, so I am hearing you say then that we need to calm down first before we do anything. Margie Gale: Yes, and that is just listening to saying this is a difficult situation, but it is not catastrophic, and I will get through this, and if this does not go well this time, I will stop and take a break and maybe come back in a couple of hours or tomorrow because most issues with the child or in a family are not going to be resolved in 1 hour or 1 day even. Janet McCutchen: That makes sense. So, what is an effective way that parents can manage misbehavior? We have heard a lot through the years about timeout. Is timeout the most effective approach or maybe are there possible alternatives to that? Margie Gale: Well, actually timeout can be good. I really love and approach for people who actually want to read a little bit about or see a video. There is a skill called one, two, three magic by Thomas Phelan. It is a thin little book, and he actually makes CDs, and I think we have some here in the office that people check out frequently. It is probably one of the most checked out ones. At one, two, three, the parents really are lion tamers and that there are start behaviors and stop behaviors, and we have learned that it is easier to get a stop behavior like stop hitting your sister, and I am going to count to one, two, three, and I want to stop, and there might be consequences or a timeout. Actually start behaviors are a little bit more difficult. They are frustrating. Start behavior is get up in the morning and get dressed for school, and then the whole household is just having a rally around. How do we get this one straggler in the family and to the car and out the door? There are actually different skills, and anyone who is actually struggling with that probably would do well to look at that video, read the book, or come in and see somebody here in Work/Life Connections because we do help people with that as you know. That is something we see people for. Janet McCutchen: So, positive parenting then I am hearing first of all has to do with regulating our own emotions and then looking at a very structured approach to addressing misbehavior rather than getting caught up in the emotion of the moment. Margie Gale: Exactly, and as I say this, I may try to make it. I do not want to over simplify it, but understanding actually we are better off if we keep it simple, but just because I say it is simple does not mean it is easy. It is still very hard, and we are here to provide support for people because most of us have been through this if not with the child, with a family member or a colleague or someone who we are dealing with difficult behavior, and it helps to just have someone to talk it over with but to have a structured approach with some principles involved and skills. Janet McCutchen: Excellent. Well, Margie, thank you so much for your time today. We have just touched the surface of positive parenting, but I appreciate your time, and hopefully, our listeners have gotten some basic ideas, and if anyone listening is prompted to come in and speak with any of our clinicians here about parenting or your own reaction to parenting your children or anything related to Work/Life balance, we are more than happy to see you here. Thanks so much Margie. Margie Gale: Thank you. Janet McCutchen: Thanks for listening. Please feel free to leave us any comments on this Wellcast by clicking the “Add New Comment” link at the bottom of this page. If you have a story or suggestion, please email it to us at email@example.com, or you can use the “Contact Us” link on our website at healthandwellness.vanderbilt.edu. Thanks for listening. -- end of recording --