I write a parent blurb for the EC Buzz every month, and this month, I was going to write about the conscious discipline skill of maintaining Composure. Conscious Discipline is an evidence based, trauma informed approach to social emotional learning. In this crazy time that we are all now living in, I think it is even more relevant and appropriate to talk about Composure.
Firstly, I feel like it is important to acknowledge that our country is in crisis. We are stressed and tired, trying to navigate a situation that is totally brand new and nothing we could have ever imagined. Stressed adults cannot teach stressed children. It is not neuro-biologically possible. Our focus, first and foremost, should be on connecting with our kids and making sure they feel safe. A child that feels safe can focus on tasks at hand and can listen to direction well.
An important part of helping a child feel safe is by demonstrating our own composure. I would encourage each of you to take a deep breath, and recognize you are doing something new and different. That it is hard. There is so much out of our control and when things are out of our control, we feel anxious. What we can control is how we react to things.
Composure is one of the most difficult, but important things, we can do as parents. In a normal time, when our child is whining or having a meltdown or even when we have just had a hard day, composure can be very difficult to maintain. Today it is twice as hard. Composure means we have to be conscious of our own internal state and be willing to turn our own upset to calm and to bring our mind to the present moment. We have to become the person we want our child to be. Our behavior is modeling for the child how to act in difficult situations. It is far easier to yell or get angry; remaining calm is a deliberate and intentional act, but is much more effective in getting the desired outcome and the ultimate behavior change we want.
Once we learn self-control, we can teach it to children. We have to remember STAR (Smile or Stop, Take a deep breath And Relax). Composure is the ability to believe that we have the power or control to handle our own upset. This is the idea that outside stuff are not what is making us mad. For example, whining, children saying no, rude colleagues, zoom not working, or kids needing our attention when we are on a conference call are not the cause of our anger. If we believe those things are making us angry, we give our power to those outside forces. It is like saying “It is zoom’s fault that I am so angry.”
Conscious discipline talks about the power of perception “How I perceive something dictates my emotional state which then dictates my behavior.” “No one can make me angry without my permission.” “Ask yourself who or what do you believe is making you angry or who or what you believe is making you happy.” Whoever that is has the power over you. Whomever you have placed in charge or your feelings, you have placed in charge of you. When we take that power back and believe, my child is whining because she is tired or has not learned a better way to communicate her feelings, or a coworker is rude because they are having a difficult day or my kid is bothering me because they miss seeing their friends every day, and I am stressed because I am trying something I have never done before. The power shifts, and we are in control.
There is no doubt we are in a situation we have never been in before. With all new situations we feel some degree of anxiety, that is our body's way of telling us we are doing something new and different. We do not have control over what is happening in the outside world. That is scary. It is scary for us and it is scary for our kids, but we do have the ability to be conscious of our feelings, to acknowledge them and make a choice as to how we want to handle them.
Give yourselves credit for doing something new and for surviving your first week at home. Take a deep breath and remember that you are safe at home with your family.
I am virtually here for anyone who needs me. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wishing you all well,
Andy Blum, LCSW
EC through 5th Grade Counselor