A young child is so frustrated and overwhelmed that he just hit his big brother.
As the adult responsible for managing this moment, can we comfort and protect one child while disciplining and guiding the other? And can we do this without shaming or hurting the child who did the hurting?
The answer to both questions is yes, but how?
- We do this with tools and support.
- We do this when we model the skills we want to teach.
- We do this via co-regulation.
Co-regulation looks like this: my kid’s falling apart. They’re super angry or they’re super anxious, and I show up in that moment with empathy and also boundaries. We can talk about that, too.
I say, “You’re so upset.” “You’re so angry” or “You’re afraid.” “I’m right here with you. How can I help? How can I comfort you?”. THIS IS HOLDING SPACE 🧡
Like mentioned about the child was feeling frustrated and overwhelmed so hit his brother. All feelings are okay, all behaviours are not.
“I understand you are feeling frustrated but we touch gently.” Ensure you use positive language and the action you would prefer instead of “don’t hit”. Avoid NO!
Try this new skill: Co-Regulation
Co-regulation is defined as “warm and responsive interactions that provide the support, coaching, and modeling children need to ‘understand, express, and modulate their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors’”
9 Tips for Co-Regulating
- Hold Space
- Expect that hard behaviours will emerge
- Get down to the child’s level
- Validate their feelings
- Use a calm and quiet voice
- Sit next to them
- Supportive silence
- Hugs if wanted
- Use calm corner (see here for how to create a cosy calm corner)
“As you co-regulate with someone, the mirror neurons in their brain are activated, and this enables the person in the deregulated state to literally ‘mirror’ your calmness.” —Caroline Leaf, PhD
Emotions are contagious, and when a teacher or parent is able to model a calm presence through their tone, facial expression, and posture, children are less likely to react defensively. When the teacher/parent listens to what is beneath the behavior, focusing on the student’s feelings, this type of validation says to the child that the parent/teacher sees them and is trying to understand. When the parent/teacher takes deep breaths, gets a drink of water, and creates space for reflection for a minute or two, they are modeling the regulation skills they want to see from children.