What is a Negative Emotional Spiral
The negative emotional spiral is something we’ve all experienced. You wake up late, stub your toe on the bedpost, spill your coffee on your shirt, hit all the red lights and get into the office utterly irate and it’s not even 9am yet. We’ve all had a day like this, right?
Children, like adults can get stuck in a negative emotional spiral too.
Your child comes home from school in a bad mood. You ask What’s wrong? , which just sets them off more. They stomp up the stairs to the house and slam the door. You snap at them, they snap back. Sound familiar?
This negative emotional spiral often leads to arguments and punishments between parent and child. My genius childhood friend and badass behavior consultant, Megg Thompson, gave me a fantastic strategy that has helped Sofia and I stop the cycle of arguing. It’s called Start Over Your Day.
How we Start Over Your Day
If I see that Sofia is in a negative emotional spiral, I don’t take her snapping at me personally. Instead, I acknowledge that this is either misdirected, or she’s possibly hungry or tired (just like I can be sometimes).
I’ll say something like, “Sofia, it looks like you’re sad/upset/angry and you’re taking it out on me. Would you like to Start Over Your Day?”
Or, maybe we began arguing over something small, and it’s escalating to an inappropriate level of anger.
I’ll say something like, “Sofia, we are getting too worked up over this. Would you like to Start Over Your Day?”
This triggers Sofia to examine her words and behavior. It also gives her a safe place to pull back on her anger. Then, we make it funny to change our emotional state.
Typically, we hug and rest our heads on each others shoulder. We close our eyes and pretend to sleep. I fake-snore, which makes her laugh. Then I remind her that I love her, she typically responds with the same. Then we can have a conversation with cooler heads, and in a more loving manner about whatever we disagreed about in the first place.
Does this work 100% of the time? Of course not. But more often than not, this strategy works to bring the energy back to love and laughter so we can have a calm conversation.
Also, this strategy changes their emotional state from a negative emotional spiral (anger and sadness) into positive emotional spiral (love and laughter).
Give it a try and let me know how this strategy works for you!
P.S. Check out Megg’s website! She has tons of videos and strategies that will help you understand your children’s needs and positive love-based, behavior strategies.