Let’s say you walk in the door after work and the house is a mess. Your kids are fighting, and they are on you immediately, accusing each other and calling one another names. You feel the mercury rising and want to scream. The question becomes, What do you do at that moment instead of losing it?
First, simply tell yourself that you’re not going to scream. Say, “I’m not going to go there no matter what.” Don’t give yourself permission to get reactive. Instead, take some deep breaths, do whatever it takes. And then pull out your emergency plan.
Here’s one that I recommend—I call it the “STEP Plan.”
S: Smile. Pause and smile rather than jumping into the fray immediately. Do not respond until you’ve smiled. Your responsibility is to get yourself under control before responding to the child.
T: Think. Once you anchor yourself on peace because of your glorious smile, get some perspective on the situation. Think about the outcome you want. Talk to your spouse or a friend, take a walk, do whatever it takes to get perspectives on the options you have. Once you’re calm, once you have understood options, you are ready for the next step.
E: Evaluate Options. With perspectives clear, evaluate the options. Depending on the situation, you have options about how you want to behave, how you want to act, and what you want to do. Evaluate keeping the outcome you desire, in your mind.
P: Plan of action. What comes next? How can you disengage from the fight? Can you send the kids to their rooms? What consequences should you give your kids, if any? Whose help should you take? When you should you initiate action? Act!