The Traffic Lights, the Pause Button and the Scales Techniques
We all get some physical signs when we are getting wound up or stressed, so it’s helpful to teach your kids to recognise their own signs. I use the traffic lights analogy as a simple but effective tool to help them remember to recognise the signs and to stop themselves saying or doing something that they may regret later.
Ask your kids to start noticing when they are getting wound up. What’s their body doing? Is their stomach churning? Have they got a dry mouth? Are their muscles tensing? Is their hair standing on end? Are they gritting their teeth, sweating or have they gone red?
Teach them to recognise these signs of rising anger. I use the imaginary traffic lights, the DVD pause button and the scales to help kids get back in control.
The Traffic Lights technique
Imagine you can see in front of you a huge set of traffic lights. They are really close to you and you can see the lights going red – which means you are getting wound up and angry. This means ‘STOP’ before you say or doing anything you’ll regret.
Notice how bright the glow of the red light is and how it is sending you a message to stop and step back from what’s happening – it’s a warning signal to you.
The Pause Button
A similar technique is to press an imaginary pause button like the one on your Playstation or your DVD player. Imagine you are holding the remote control button of your DVD or Playstation – really feel the shape of the remote in your hand and really see it in your imagination. Take a deep breath and press the pause button. This helps you to detach and step back from the scenario that’s winding you up and helps you get back in control of your emotions.
Now imagine your favourite TV character or actor coming up really closely beside your ear and asking you a really important question. Hear them saying:
“What’s the best thing to do or say right now for everyone to feel good and win here?”
Now get your character to jump across some stepping stones across a river and hear them saying:
“I feel………..angry, fed up, hacked off
“when you………. nick my trainers, borrow my shirt, take my pencil case
“because ………….. you never give them back, look after them, listen to me
“I would like…………..you to ask me first, wait for me to come home”.
See and hear yourself jumping across the river behind your favourite character laughing and smiling at the way you handle conflict now.
The Scales Technique
Now imagine a huge weighing scale like the ones held by the Statue of Liberty inNew York.
See on one side the good things that might happen if you control your temper.
And then see on the other side the bad things that might happen if you lose your temper.
Now hold your hands out and feel each scenario in your hands and weigh it all up. Imagine doing the best thing for everyone – walking away, going to shout in the garden, going to hit a pillow in your bedroom instead – and take control of your choices right now and act on them.