Do you detest arguing? As guest expert for MOFAS on Wednesday, April 25, 2012, I gave parents of children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) two hot tips for cooling down any argument:
- Step One: Remove negative, “fighting” energy from the dynamic.
- Step Two: Insert positive energy to get more of the peace that you want.
#1- Teach your child that you are going to do things a new way.
This needs to be done in a normal, low-heat moment when your child’s brain can actually absorb new information.
Start a conversation with him about a recent fight and “notice aloud” how each of you felt during it. Ask if he would like a new way for you two to get your points across, and let him know that you would sure appreciate it if you could feel more comfortable and at greater peace in “our” home. He will probably agree.
When you decide on an alternative to arguing, rehearse it immediately. Have a pretend argument and practice your new choice. For example, strike up a pretend argument about his recent “money blunder” and, instead of yelling, practice, “I can see this fight is about to get violent. I’m going to stop arguing and go take a break to calm down because we both deserve better.”
Rehearsing a new solution will create new neural pathways that let the brain know there is a substitution to fighting.
#2- When you notice a small success in the direction of your new, healthy alternative express heartfelt appreciation.
For example, “When you paused and took a deep breath just now instead of yelling at me, I noticed and I feel so proud of you because it shows me you’re doing your part in helping us create a more peaceful home.”
- Initiating a new routine for handling arguments gives your child the freedom to go outside the box and see that there is more than one way to do things.
- Rehearsing a new routine during a calm moment offers your child the opportunity to fully absorb it.
When you catch a new success and reward it with heartfelt appreciation it sends a rush of positive, feel-good chemicals to your child’s brain and causes the desire to repeat the positive alternative in order to feel that rush again. You’ll quickly notice how much more positive energy you have to invest in your relationship with your child when you help those old “fighting” neural pathways die off!