I wonder if….
Ok - you noticed the dysregulation.
You practiced stepping away, before becoming reactive, or your child escalated further.
You, your child, or both of you, took the 15 minute break. Good job!
Now for the next step...
During the 15 minute break it’s time to start considering what the behavior is stemming from…
We have found a great place to start is with the phrase:
I wonder if…
- They might feel left out...
- They might be afraid of…
- They might be worried that…
I wonder if is like a springboard. It just gives your child something to springboard off of. Asking them what they are feeling is too broad of a question. There is too many options in their brains. And emotions are hard for them to pinpoint.
A recent example to help explain the process - a really sweet moment a family had as they have been practicing this at home:
A child escalates as he is given a chore. He knows his chore needs to happen before he plays with friends.
Mom has him take a brain break.
Mom goes out to mow the lawn while thinking I WONDER IF….
First, she thinks of the obvious - I wonder if he’s worried he won’t finish in time to play.
But something just didn’t feel right. It didn’t fully connect. Even though it was the logical or obvious conclusion.
She kept mowing and thinking and all of a sudden she had a thought: Playing with friends was kind of a new concept for her child. They hadn’t had good neighborhood friends in the past. But with a recent move, it brought new friend options. She had this thought: I wonder if he’s worried that if he doesn’t get his job done and doesn’t get to play with friends today, that he will lose all of his friends. They won’t want to play with him anymore, since he couldn’t play today. She knew her child was a worrier and might really be worried about this.
She felt a light bulb inside her, or a spark, that she might have hit on the right one.
When her child did his break (At New Hope we have been calling it a brain break - but you can name it whatever you like), and was ready to process, she said: I wonder if you were scared that if you didn’t finish your chore and get to play, that you might lose all your friends? They might not want to play with you?
Now, if she had gone in with the logical easy: I wonder if you were worried you wouldn’t finish your chore in time and get to play today? - he easily could have said yes.
Remember, it’s hard for a lot of the kids to go deep inside their feelings. It takes us, being regulated, and them, being regulated. Everyone needs to be in a good, calm place to be able to process and to help them feel safe enough to go a little deeper.
The child thought about it for a minute and then agreed that he did worry about that.
They were able to have a really tender conversation. Mom being able to help him be in logic. She validated his fears, and related to him, telling him she understood how he could feel scared since friends were so new to him and so valuable to him. But, she also helped him understand how sometimes not being able to play was typical or ‘normal’ for all kids. And sometimes his friends would have days when they couldn’t play either and he would still want to be their friend. They would still want to be his friend also.
So this week: Take your 15 min break when things are escalating, do something (or have your child do something) repetitive, rhythmic, and rewarding. During this time be thinking I wonder if…. Try to come up with 3 I wonder if statements and see which one gives you ‘that feeling’, ‘that spark’, ‘that lightbulb’. It could be the obvious one or it could be something that is a little different. Create that space and stillness, and I promise your parent instincts will start speaking to you!
Next week….. Reason….. The last piece and the easiest of all.
We would love to hear any successes you are having or any questions you have!