One of the most fundamental concepts as a parent that we HAVE to master is the ability to go BRAIN DEAD. Well, if it's so fundamental then why is it so hard to do? What's the SECRET???
First, a quick refresher: Going "Brain Dead" means that when we are about to blow our top because our kids are pushing our buttons, we STOP and go Brain Dead. Yep, we just shut up, cancel our emotions and say things like "I knooooooow..." in the most calm and boring way possible. Or, we just keep a straight face and say nothing. Your kid might not like it since they might be yelling "Why are you doing that?" but you keep calm and don't take the bait. Just keep calm.
It is HARD to do. We are upset and emotional ourselves and we're being asked to be calm? Impossible! Or, at least, it seems that way. However, it is probably the single most important skill to learn to up your parenting game. If you can keep calm then your kids won't control you by making you out of control. This is POWERFUL stuff!
BRAIN DEAD SECRETS
- Have a helper
This person might be your spouse or other good friend who can help give you hints from the sidelines. My husband and I used to say "Honey, I think the cat needs to be fed." while pulling on our ear. That was our official signal that emotion was creeping in and that person needed to go Brain Dead. You and your partner set up what your signal is BEFORE things go badly.
- Leave the room
Yep, sometimes you need to say to your child that you are too upset to talk, that you need a Parent Calm Down Session. Go in your room or on a walk around the block, anywhere except near your child. It can help things go better if you actually prep your children ahead of time about what a Calm Down Session is for during a Family Meeting after dinner or some other calm time so that they don't panic or feel abandoned (and to up the odds of them actually leaving you alone!).
- Put reminders around the house
Put up yellow stickies all over the house reminding you (during pleasant times) of the phrase "Brain Dead". One family tried this for a month. They put up 10 stickies in different places. They read them as they roamed their house during the day when they were calm. Try the fridge, the bathroom mirror, the steering wheel in your car, on the toilet seat... anywhere that works. My advice would include having someone move them around the house so you can be surprised when you find them, sort of like love notes but of a different sort.
- Get boring
When we learn this skill we use the "I knooooooow" as a classic response but to do it well I would recommend taking a DEEP breath, really DEEP and then saying the phrase while blowing out all that air we just took in. It should take 5-8 seconds! Really slow... really boring and without emotion... just a bunch of air.