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Feeling like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? 10 Ways to Be the Parent You Want to Be

Feeling like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? 10 Ways to Be the Parent You Want to Be

Parenting can be a rough ride. No matter how much we love our children, there will always be times when they stretch our patience to the limit. No one wants to lose control, but it can be difficult to stay calm, loving and logical when nerves are frayed and the two-year-old has just dropped the car keys into a sewage drain. These 10 tips will help keep your emotions in check when life hits the tipping point.

1. Maintain perspective

Is this a life or death situation? Is anyone going to lose a job, limb, marriage or bank account if the problem is not immediately resolved? Sometimes the answer is yes, and decisive – perhaps even aggressive – action is required. Usually, however, the stakes are much lower.

2. Act, don’t react

Children are incredibly talented at pushing buttons. Don’t let them goad you into a knee-jerk response. In particular, don’t allow yourself to be sidetracked by your child’s insulting language or by complaints about tangential issues. Focus on the primary problem; there will be time enough for the others some other day.

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3. The First Temper Tantrum to Manage is Yours

We tend to assume that hot-blooded parental anger is the result of misbehaving children. In reality, children seldom behave worse on angry days than on happy ones. The difference lies in the parent.

Exhaustion, stress at work, financial worries, poor eating habits and chemical mood swings can all change the way we react to our children. Learn to recognize your own temper tantrums for what they are. Resist the urge to pin the blame on someone else.

4. Look for Silver Linings

Every situation, no matter how grim, includes a few rays of hope and humor. Like the glowing sunbeams that light up the edge of storm clouds, these positive elements can help us find joy in the midst of crisis.

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Try to focus on the positive, even when it’s so miniscule as to be ludicrous: “Well, honey, the car broke down and now we have to walk five miles in the rain. But hey, at least you don’t have to take that math test today!”

5. Consider Pint-Sized Priorities

A popped balloon may not seem like a crisis to an adult, but ask any toddler and the answer will be quite different. Understanding your children’s priorities may not change your decisions as a parent, but it can help you not to go ballistic during a fifty-minute bout of adolescent self-pity. It can also help with Step 6.

6. Search for Holistic Solutions

A parent’s first response to squabbling siblings is often to enforce a parental decree. (“John, you take the orange cup. Mary, you’ll have to be happy with the blue one.”) The second instinct is to require a compromise, which is usually just a parental decree in disguise. (“Let’s switch off. John gets the orange cup today. Mary can have it tomorrow.”)

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Sometimes these techniques are appropriate and desirable, but often they keep us from reaching the ultimate goal: A solution that makes everyone happy.

Give John and Mary a chance to discover what they really care about. Is it the color of the cup? The size? Is there a patterned cup in the cupboard that Mary likes even better than the orange one? Would John be willing to give up the orange cup in exchange for a turn on Mary’s ipad? Get your children talking about solutions, and you’ll be surprised how inventive they are.

7. Decide not to be Bothered

Feelings aren’t a choice, but actions are. If your children’s bickering is getting on your nerves, by all means, take steps to alleviate it. But do so decisively, by creating and enforcing a rule. Do not allow yourself to become part of the squabble. Take a deep breath, remember that you are the parent, and take active control of your behavior.

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8. Make Eye Contact

It’s easy to yell instructions across the room while your arms are full of groceries – but it’s seldom effective. Slow down, free up your hands, and focus on one child at a time. If your child responds well to touch, place a gentle hand on her arm or shoulder. Speak in a normal tone of voice about what you’d like to have happen next. Create the option of eye contact, but do not force it.

9. Create Enough Space for a Resolution

When tempers are flaring, it can be hard to slow down and consider the needs of others. Help your children get along by deescalating the situation. This may require temporarily confiscating a disputed toy or sending children someplace where they can be alone, but it may also be as simple requiring that children don’t all talk at once. Make sure everyone has a chance to speak and be heard. Help each child to know that his needs are important.

10. Take Steps to Reduce Future Stress

The best time to solve a problem is before it even happens. After a crisis situation has been resolved, take time to ask yourself how things got so intense in the first place. Are there actions you could have taken to head off the conflict earlier? Do the children need more sleep, healthier food, or more one-on-one time with adults? Life is tough, and no one is perfect, but there’s always a silver lining: Every conflict gives us tools to help manage the next one.

Featured photo credit: ecerroni via morguefile.com

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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