“I know you’re mad that I said you can’t go, but that doesn’t give you the right to speak to me like that! (SLAM!) If you slam that door one more time, I’m taking your iPad! (SLAM!) That’s it, iPad is out, and the TV is next!” (SLAM! SLAM!) Whoaaaa… How can your gentle, loving child seem so UNREASONABLE sometimes, and when did you turn into that kind of parent?
Think about that word: unREASONable. To be able to REASON (for example, to think, “I know I wanted to go to that event, but I guess it does make more sense that I should attend my sister’s graduation party”), your child needs to be able to access skills like controlling impulses, thinking through options, and predicting outcomes. The problem is, the access door to those skills is closed when your child is upset, or “dysregulated,” so talking to your child when s/he is already upset is nearly doomed to fail.
At times like this, remember this alliterative phrase: Regulate, Relate, Reason. Get your child calm and REGULATED first (younger kids may calm with a hug or rocking, older kids may do better with some time alone). Then try to find a way to RELATE to the child and his or her concern (e.g., “I’m sorry I yelled earlier; I know that didn’t help. I wonder if we can talk about the event that you were hoping to go to. I’d like to hear why it’s important to you.”) Then, with a REGULATED and RELATED child… you’re ready to REASON together to discuss the problem and see if there is a good solution (“I understand that you want to see your friends, and I think it’s important that we support your sister. I wonder if we can find a way to do both of those things.”).