My heart goes out to the many people affected by the Connecticut shooting. The sad thing is I feel we are going to see much more of this. People do not know what to do with their emotions; therefore, they are reacting to them. At the beginning of this year, I was doing a parenting class and was going over the importance of teaching children what to do with their emotions. We talked about how children react on emotions because the front lobe of the brain where problem-solving takes place does not even begin to develop until between the ages of 12 to 15. Many people in the class said, “How are we supposed to teach our children what to do with their emotions when we do not even know what to do with our emotions?”
People have to cope with stress and trauma and will refer back to the ways they were taught and conditioned, even into their adult life. We have less and less adults working with children teaching them what to do when they have problems. As a result, children are responding to their emotions in negative ways. Today, we have children as young as three and four playing violent video games and watching violent movies. They are learning techniques and tactics on how to blow people away in a matter of minutes. They know exactly what weapon to use to get the job done. When they are upset, they react on what they have learned. We need parents and other adults who will step by step walk children through what to do when they have stress or a conflict. You cannot just tell your children not to do something; you must show them what to do. When your children are fighting and you only tell them to stop or go to their rooms, they do not learn what to do to solve the problem. You want to teach them problem-solving skills (going from the cause to a solution). This takes time, but it is time well invested and can save many lives.
Often, when children come to parents or other adults for help with a conflict they are told to quit tattling. They are not tattling. They do not know what to do, so they are coming to you for help. Stop and take the time to walk them through what to do when a problem arises. If you don’t, who or what will?
What do you do? First, you have to get to the root of the disagreement. You get to the root by gathering all the facts from both parties. Once you gather all the facts, you can discuss the steps necessary to solve the conflict in a productive manner. Conflict is also a time to teach character traits.
For example, Caitlin is writing on the marker board and Olivia wants to write something. Olivia asks Caitlin for the marker. Caitlin does not give Olivia the marker, so Olivia grabs it out of Caitlin’s hand. Caitlin gets mad, punches Olivia in the stomach, and grabs the marker back. Caitlin has victory! Wrong. Caitlin may have gotten the result she wanted, but it was not done in a productive way.
It would be much easier to tell the kids that they should not hit each other and put them in a timeout than to spend time walking them through proper conflict solving skills. Chances are if you only tell them to stop, they will repeat the behavior because they do not know what else to do. All they know is that they got the result they wanted (the marker back).
If your children know that you are there to teach them how to solve their conflicts, then below is a conversation you might have. If you are starting to teach them these skills, then you have to walk them through what to do and what you will do. It takes repetition, but eventually it will become habit. Learning to read and write takes time and repetition, so does problem-solving skills. Be patient. You may say the same thing over and over. Eventually, they learn to read, write, and problem-solve.
Mom: “Caitlin, I know that it was wrong for Olivia to grab the marker from your hand, but it was also wrong for you to punch her. Hitting only hurts others and causes more problems. What could you have done differently when Olivia would not give you back the marker? “
Caitlin: “I could have come to you to let you know that Olivia grabbed the marker from me and would not give it back.”
Mom: “That is correct. If you would have done that, what would I have done?”
Caitlin: “You would have made sure that Olivia gave me the marker back, you would have talked to Olivia about her behavior, and given her necessary consequences.” (Caitlin knows what you would do because you have walked her through the steps a number of times.)
Mom: “Because that is not the way you handled it, what has to happen?”
Avery: “I do not get to play with the marker board?” (She knows that the consequences you give always go along with the crime.)
Mom: “That is right. You also need to sit here on the couch for a little bit and think about the correct way to handle a disagreement while I go talk to Olivia about her behavior. Next time, remember that if you cannot solve a problem, come to me and I will help you. That way you will not lose out on what you were doing.”
After you work with Caitlin, then you need to work with Olivia. The following is a conversation you might have with Olivia.
Mom: “Olivia, why did you grab the marker from Caitlin?”
Olivia: “I just wanted to show her something. I asked her for the marker and she wouldn’t give it to me, so I grabbed it from her. I was going to give it right back.”
Mom: “Do you think that people need to give you whatever you want just because you ask them to?”
Mom: “We know that it is important to share, but at the same time if someone is playing with something, it is not right to expect them to stop playing with it so you can do what they are doing. What should you have done?”
Olivia: “I should have asked her for the marker. If she wouldn’t let me have it and I felt she was being unfair, I could have come to you and you could have helped us see who was right.”
Mom: “Because that is not the way you handled it, there needs to be some consequences for your behavior.” (You decide the consequence. The consequence could be that Olivia does not get to play with the marker board for a length of time.)
Have the girls come back together and apologize to each other for their behavior and discuss any other character traits you would like to teach them at this time.
Ask yourself, “Am I teaching my children problem-solving skills?” “Do I allow my young children to play violent video games?” “Do I send my children away when they come to me for help?” What one change can you make today to help your children know how to handle stress in a positive way?
I used to use negative coping strategies to deal with situations because I was never taught how to deal with my emotions. As I learned new coping strategies, I began to control my emotions rather than allow my emotions to control me. In the book I wrote, “Pass God’s Legacy to Your Children: One Talk at a Time” I have a section that gives you numerous examples like the above to help your children learn what to do with the many emotions that will come their way. To learn more about what is in the book, go to livingforhimllc.us
I have also created a series of classes on emotions to help people understand what emotions are and how to handle them in a positive way. I was able to present this series at Grace Church in Allen Park and the series was well received. I have summarized most of the classes. You will find the summaries under the heading Emotions. If you are interested in knowing more about the emotion classes, send me an email @ firstname.lastname@example.org and I will get back with you.
Let’s teach our children how to handle their stress and trauma in a positive way.