Have you found yourself in the middle of the shopping centre looking at your child as they have an emotional outburst? Or have you been utterly surprised by your significant other just letting it rip? The three most common thoughts I have at this point are: “Oh my goodness what is going on?”, or “Please stop, I beg you!” and the other is “I wonder when the ground will open and just swallow me up?!”.

No matter what age, we all lose it from time to time. Sometimes children let us know with loud emotional outbursts and sometimes adults let us know with different kinds of outbursts.  Nevertheless, at the core they are often the same – a clear declaration that we are either severely stuck or that we are totally overwhelmed by our current perspective.

I have found it’s helpful to have a strategy to manage myself and ‘others’ (child or adult) so that I can stay calm and purposeful in the heat of the moment.

Here are a couple of tools I have found to be super helpful as a carer, teacher, family member and friend:

1. Know what pushes my buttons well so that when I am ambushed by an emotional outburst I can manage my responses well and calmly. My favourite way to do this is to quickly find a prop e.g. a pen, a ball or my phone, and let my nervous energy flow into that rather than out my mouth or though my actions. Holding the object firmly can help to ground me too as the outburst seems to encompass me. I remind myself that I now need to step up as this crisis needs a response and personhood needs to be honoured. Personhood put simply, is the understanding that the whole person matters intensely, all the time.

2. Find the emotional plug and pull it out. We generally find it very hard to think and hear from others when emotions are swirling around our minds and bodies. So we need to release the pressure and decrease the intensity. I have found one of the best ways to do this with children and adults is to validate their perspective by commenting; ‘I totally see that you are really bothered by this’ or ‘I can see that you are really annoyed and frustrated, it’s hard work feeling this way’ or ‘This must be driving you nuts hey? I can see that you think its a huge problem.’ You may have other ideas too which work. Letting this go of emotionality is huge.  Sometimes, children and adults need time to let the emotional surge in their bodies subside. It is well worth everyone’s time to allow for this. Nothing can’t wait for a person to be given time to recalibrate. After all, personhood should be prized above all things, schedules and desires. I have always felt if I need time to reset then so must others.

3. The final tool is to be curious. Above all things be curious! Being curious means we leave the person in charge of what’s in their mind, their story and perspectives. No one is a mind reader, so we need to be sure our words and actions do not convey that we are. If we truly want to get to the bottom of the perceived issue we have to be truly curious. Some questions I use are; ‘Tell me about what just happened?’, ‘Help me to understand where the trouble came from?’ and ‘Share with me what is going on for you and how you think I could help.’. These curious questions leave the person in the seat of expert in regards to their perspective. It also empowers the listener to truly see where the other perspective possibly had its origin and how it might have been derailed. However and most importantly, it shows a deep respect for their personhood.

Be sure to take your time with these things. We can never let ‘time’ terrorise us when it comes to matters of personhood. It is critical that we let our actions speak louder than our words in this way. I always say, when we are feeling truly and deeply valued our capacity gets an injection of rocket launching fuel and we jettison into a place where we are more able to change or adjust the tantrum worthy perspective.

Written by Rod Soper