A 2 Degree way to help a strong-willed child push the “pause” button

  • Posted On : Feb 02, 2017

For most parents, there comes a time when their kids exert their will. It may be a rare occurrence if you’ve got an easy-going kid. Or maybe you’ve got a great kid who is also a poster child for a strong-willed child.

Many kids can get upset or frustrated at hearing “No”. Or when a sibling does something they don’t like or appreciate. But here’s a small, 2 Degree way to help that child (or any of your children) “get the picture” of what’s going on inside them when they start get upset. And for you, it’s a way to help coach them that there CAN be an exit strategy out of an emotional situation BESIDES blowing up.

Many children (and some adults) simply don’t have a way to understand or manage their feelings. There’s that trigger event (“She took my toy!”) and feelings can just “boil over,” ending in shouting or other bad behavior. One SMALL thing we did with our girls when they were young – and both going for the “strong willed kid of the month” award – was to help them realize there CAN be a different response then just blowing up at their sister or friend or even an inanimate object.

Here’s what we did and you can too.

The next time there’s a melt down (or blow up), AFTER things have calmed down and you’re calm as well, take them into the kitchen to show them something. That “something,” you tell them, is something that can help them do something different than what happened earlier.

Have them help you by getting out a clear microwavable mug. (They need to be able to see the water inside the mug). Then have them help you by pushing 4 minutes on the microwave. In about 2 minutes and 30 second, the water will begin to boil. You can tell that by the bubbles that start appearing and rolling.

Make sure they see the bubbles. Now have them push “pause.” Instantly, the bubbles will stop. (Which is why you use a microwave. This doesn’t work with water on a stove with water brought to a boil). Now have them push resume – and the bubbles will start again. Then pause again, and they stop.

Here’s where you tell them,

“So Brian, let me ask you a question. A little while ago, when you got upset with your sister, was it kind of like a bunch of anger bubbles popping up – and maybe even spilling the water over the cup?” Have them push the “start” button again and say, “Lots of times, our feelings are like those bubbles. Something happens and it’s like there’s like anger bubbles inside us, and it’s hard to not do or say something that doesn’t hurt someone, and that we don’t want to do.

Then share with them a great verse. “Proverbs 17:14 says, The beginning of strife is like letting out water. So step back from the quarrel before it breaks out.” You could say, when you start getting upset, it’s like those water bubbles. So push the pause button before everything spills out.”

Finally – a key thing is then to ask them, “What is one thing you could do, besides hitting or yelling – that would be like pushing the pause button the next time those angry bubble feelings start bubbling up inside?” Yes, you might have to help coach them. Like, “You could push the pause button by walking down the hall and calmly talking to me or Dad about what’s happening.” Or you could push the pause button by closing your eyes for a moment and counting to 10.” Or you could stop and pray about what’s going on. Or… etc., etc.

Kids don’t come with the emotional tools to step back from a fight. But helping them see that, yes, those anger bubbles can start bubbling – but there IS a pause button if we learn how to use it. That’s a lesson some of us adults could use as well.