Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Emotional Distractions

In the last post, I talked about using distraction if you catch "anger overload" before your child explodes.  Granted many children "overheat" so quickly that distraction will not work, and you are better off then not saying anything and waiting until he calms down (if you child is not harming himself or others).  If you can intervene while your child is revving up, the idea is to use a comment that changes your child's emotional set.  You are trying to communicate to your child's emotional brain, so that what you say might provoke a different emotion in your child, other than anger.  It does not matter if your comment does not make a lot of sense because you are not trying to reach your child's rational brain.  Examples of "emotional distractions" are singing a lyric or telling a wisecrack about yourself (or someone other than your child), which might make your child smile or laugh.  While you sing, or talk about some unusual event (real or fantasy) use facial expressions that are weird or unusual for you.   Maybe you could tell a story (real or imaginary) that grabs your child's attention.  For example, you could say that you think there might have been an elephant pooping on your front yard yesterday and you are not picking up the poop (Poop jokes work with younger children), or you might say that you wonder if someday there will be a computer that would fit inside your skin so that you could play video games in school without the teacher knowing it.  Use your imagination to come up with something that will grab your child's attention.  The idea is to get your child wondering about something or laughing.    If you can get your child to laugh, his anger will diminish greatly.  It is hard to be angry and laugh at the same time! 

The other kind of distraction is an activity that your child likes so much that he forgets about what he was upset about.  For example, you could say you want to bake something for dessert or maybe you could say that you want to go for a bike ride now before it gets dark outside (if it is afternoon).   You could just start getting ready for the activity and your child will probably want to come, or you could ask for his help.  There is a risk of asking your child a question though if he is still mad; he might say no because of his angry state.  So you are usually better off just starting an activity rather than asking for help directly.  If your child asks to help you, just say fine or "cool", and do not bring back up what he had been angry about.  Activities are engrossing and change your child's emotional set, so that his anger will diminish or disappear.

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