How wonderful it would be if there were a manual or a guide with indications, steps and strategies on how to be good parents and control the behavior of our children, especially in these difficult times that we are living as a society, in which abounds uncertainty, concern, fear, stress and anxiety about what may happen in the future. However, all children are different, and strategies that work with one do not necessarily work with others.
Surely, it has happened to us on several occasions that our children throw tantrums or have some inappropriate behavior when they feel upset, frustrated or overwhelmed by a situation. Certainly, we also have been angry and lost our patience with them, we have raised our voices and even punished them. But how exhausting is this? Do we feel guilty afterwards? Do we both end up even more overwhelmed?
To avoid this, it’s possible that we have seek to speak to them at the moment, believing that we can explain the situation to them and reach an agreement. However, this is usually not successful, since in moments of anger it is difficult to have reflections, and, trying to do so, can even cause a fight or a worst tantrum.
The calm corner
Although our goal with these measures is to regulate inappropriate behaviors, they do not help the child to manage his emotions in a positive way. We must bear in mind that when our emotions are in a very high intensity – for example, when we are very upset – they cloud our understanding and can lead us to act negatively. Therefore, it is necessary that our children (and us) calm down before we talk to them. But, how can we do this? One strategy that works is to create a space or a «calm corner» at home.
Children are in the process of getting to know their emotions and learning how to live with them. To help them with this, intimate and protected spaces are perfect. This space also works very well for teenagers and even adults.
This space or calm corner seeks to create an environment where the child does not feel judged to experience an emotion, since no emotion by itself is bad and we just have to learn how to regulate them. It is valid to feel upset, sad or anxious. What is not valid are the inappropriate behaviors generated by not being able to control that emotion. By allowing the child to enter this corner, the aim is for him to calm down before taking action and then, once the intensity of the emotion has decreased, make a reflection, because being calm will make him more willing to find a solution and reach an agreement.
Another benefit of this technique is self-knowledge, because it allows children to learn to identify, recognize and express their emotions in an assertive way, understanding that there is no prohibited emotion, but it is important to seek to control it’s intensity in order to think more clearly and make better decisions before acting.
How do we make a calm corner?
In order for this to be a comfortable place in which the child can relax, it is advisable to include objects such as a carpet, cushions, a mat or a yoga mat. It is also recommended to include items that can help your child calm and feel good, such as his favorite toy or stuffed animal, books and stories. Likewise, you could include a photo or a drawing of a frog, to be able to exemplify the realization of a deep breath as frogs do by inflating their abdomen, since breathing deeply will also help them calm down. In addition, in this space there can be sheets and colored pencils so that he can express how he is feeling and there could even be mandalas for him to paint and relax. It is also recommended to include a calming scent such as lavender and music that facilitate body and mind relaxation.
How to manage the calm corner?
The idea is that we, as parents, introduce this space in a way that is appealing to our child. If we want them to get involved with this space, first they must know what it is for, how to use it and what are the advantages of doing so. In addition, it is important that they understand the function of each of the materials that are in it too.
Initially, it is necessary to accompany the child in this space, until little by little he internalizes this as a habit to go to every time he feels overwhelmed by an emotion. You can support him by inviting him to use the material and also saying phrases like «remember to breathe» or asking him «where in your body do you feel anger?»
In this way, by being guides of this space, we will help our children to be more aware of how they feel, to adequately process their emotions and as a consequence, have better reactions. In the same way, they will feel accompanied in their process of learning how to deal with their emotions and this will increase their confidence in us, because they will know that we seek to help them feel better, paying them attention and sheltering them.
By Kiara Lekles – Nursery to 1st grade Psychologist
Álvarez, C. (2018). Rincón de la calma para controlar rabietas infantiles. Guía infantil. Recovered from https://www.guiainfantil.com/educacion/conducta/rincon-de-la-calma-para-controlar-rabietas-infantiles/