There is a lot of confusion about logical consequences and stress behaviour. If you aren’t familiar with Uncommon Sense Parenting, the Logical Consequence Process (LCP) is our alternative to time-outs. It’s a process for actively teaching our children how to think critically, and begins the collaboration process that we want to carry through to teenagehood, but at a developmentally appropriate level. It’s combined with natural and logical consequences. If you haven’t heard of this concept before or you aren’t familiar with how we use these concepts here in Uncommon Sense Parenting, you can check out the MudRoom blog for a full walkthrough!
NLCs Should Only Be Used When Your Child Is Calm
When using NLCs, you need both language and reasoning to be able to engage in it. If you try to use an LCP while your child is all dysregulated, you’re going to fail and fail hard. When our children are dysregulated, they genuinely cannot access their neocortex, which is where language, learning, executive functions, and reason lives. It becomes unavailable to them because it’s not necessary for life. And when we’re dysregulated, our brain reduces the availability of energy down to our limbic system as our limbic system is necessary for life. Although our limbic system doesn’t have any reason, it has emotional language, our safety sensors and our memories, so it’s very good at comparing our present to our past experiences.
In ParentAbility, we take a deep dive into the neurology of this in ParentAbility, one being about stress behaviours, check it out if you would like further information.
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If your child is upset, they’re dysregulated, hyperaroused and emotional, you cannot LCP them.
It’ll go in one ear and out the other. They physically cannot process it. It’s like if someone gave you a calculus textbook in grade 1… Thanks? But I can’t use this. Part of their brain that processes that information isn’t available to them! It’s not a matter of “do I calm them down or do I teach them?” You need to do both, after calming them down as you cannot teach an escalated child. If you learn nothing else from me, let this one thing sink in: YOU. CANNOT. TEACH. A. DYSREGULATED. CHILD. Attempting to do so will make it so much worse. Stop!
How do you calm your child down?
Waiting for our kids to grow out of behaviour that is disrupting their ability to engage as an active participant in their life is like gagging them. It’s if you were in a foreign country and got severely injured, but when you get to the hospital they can’t understand you, so instead of examining you to find out what the problem is, they send you to a room on the other side of the building to slowly die. Only when it comes to behaviour, it’s a lack of information and skill. Both of those things are entirely fixable. We just have to prioritize getting that exam so we can figure out what the problem is and start coming up with a treatment plan.
Do I think it’s possible to “grow out of” behaviour?
I really wish I had a boilerplate answer for this. We are all individuals and what one of us finds calming, another person won’t. I usually find the best demonstration of this is comparing extroverts and introverts and ambiverts. Extroverts find social interaction calming, and isolation dysregulating. That’s why people who identify as extroverts have had a hard time during this pandemic, because your default regulation strategy has been unavailable to you. Introverts find social interaction draining, and isolating calming. This past year has been a teenage dream for introverts. And then there’s ambiverts who need a balance of both – they find social interaction invigorating but only to a point, and then they hit a wall and need isolation to recover; too much isolation will begin to feel draining.
That’s how most of us are: we need a healthy dose of whatever calms us down, but too much or too little has the opposite effect. Which means figuring out what is calming for you, for your children, for your spouse will always be different and in different quantities, and on a different schedule. Figuring it out for your child is going to be a process. It takes time, and often it takes guidance because as parents we’re often too close to our children’s day-to-day and we end up missing things.
In ParentAbility, we make our clients focus on figuring out how to calm their children for the whole first month. It is that important! And that subtle. The funny thing is that a lot of parents know what is calming for their child, they just don’t want to accept it or make it available to them, specifically because their child enjoys it. Parents often get wrapped up in this concept of punishments and rewards, which then makes them actively withhold calming activities from their children because they think that by allowing their child to calm down, means rewarding them. In my experience, parents are actively withholding calming from their child as an effort to punish them for being dysregulated. They are perpetuating the very thing that is causing the problem. Being calm isn’t a reward. It should be the status quo. The next time you find yourself preventing your child from calming down because you want them to experience a consequence first, BACK UP.
Consequences Are Not Punishments
Consequences aren’t something you do to your children, they are collaborative and they require both parties’ input. Consequences cannot be executed if your child isn’t calm! Allowing your child to calm down isn’t giving them a tactical advantage and it doesn’t keep them accountable. It’s not “making sure they understand what they did was wrong.” Consequences hold your children hostage in a state where they cannot learn and it’s using their emotions against them.
Allowing your child to calm down before you discipline them is basic human decency. We want our children to know that they should not be engaging in arguments with people whose better judgement is impaired by dysregulation. That’s not a fair fight and we teach them that by modelling it and not engaging them until they are calm. The consequence will be far more effective if they can collaborate with us, and they have the ability to learn from it. The next time you’re trying to use an LCP and your child starts to escalate, that’s your red flag that you need to give both of you space to calm down first, and then once you’re both calm, teach.
If you’re finding that you’re having a hard time figuring out what to say beyond an LCP, I have a free script pack for you: Scripts to Manage Crazy-Making Behaviour! This script includes 10 one-liners to start a conversation with your child, and it explains why these work so that you can modify them and use them in different situations without losing their effectiveness.
If you’re ready to come join us in ParentAbility, to start figuring out your child’s regulation cycle and how to calm them down, click here. We’ll be opening up registration again soon so make sure you pop yourself on to that list and watch your inbox!