When you feel your body start to tense — the imminent mess/meltdown/whatever seemingly apparent to you, you can help both yourself AND your child with one simple phrase…
“What’s your plan for that?”
So let’s say you walk into a room and find your kids doing something that immediately makes your anxiety level go through the roof — you suddenly feel this clenching in your chest. For me, that usually happens when my very creative children decide to make something with tons of different materials strewn about the room. Maybe the mess part isn’t what makes you anxious — make it’s climbing high on the playground. Your instincts are screaming at you to stop them right now. And if you *do* stop them, it can lead to meltdowns, lots of big feelings, and a loss of trust between you.
But if instead you manage to pause and try saying, “What’s your plan for that?” it helps both you and your child. Because I can guarantee that whatever your child is doing — that to *you* looks like pure chaos — your child has a plan for that. It’s not a plan you can guess, because only the mind of a child could come up with a plan like that. It might be a step by step plan. It’s more likely to be that they just know what they want the end result to be. Regardless, they have a plan.
So if you ask them, “What’s your plan for that?” it’s going to do two things:
The first thing it does is for you: It’s going to buy you some time to unclench, take it down a notch, and reassess the danger level — because it’s probably not as high as your initial reaction thought it was. And when you find out the plan, it really helps to deescalate the situation for YOU.
The second thing it does is for your child: It gives them a chance to think ahead a few steps and fully form that plan. So they already had in their head what they want the end result to be, and now they’re verbalizing how they’re going to get to that point. AND it helps them to feel like you trust them with their plan.
So the next time you’re in a situation that makes you want to explode or stop the imminent danger, pause and say, “What’s your plan for that?’