I wish I would have said something different.

Want to hear what happened? Recently, I was at an event with my family and I saw a mother get mad at her own child for being too scared to get on a horse. It made me so upset that I reacted and made a snarky remark to the mother. In an agitated tone, I said “She is just scared. Why are you getting mad at her for being scared?” Immediately, I felt awful for saying that. As a mother of 3 little ones, I know how hard situations like this can be. I don’t think it is a good idea to interfere and make the mother feel even worse, Even though I must admit that I too often have. It never turns out well.

What I wish I would have said is “It’s hard sometimes isn’t it?” I wish I’d said something that would have made her feel understood instead of judged and then maybe offered her a technique to help her help her daughter when she is scared.

A technique that I like is to connect and redirect. Dr. Dan Siegel, author of “Parenting from the Inside” Out suggests that we connect first and then try to get our child to name what they are feeling.

When you’re in fight, flight or freeze mode, your limbic system is super active and thoughts like “I am scared, I am scared” are on repeat. It’s not easy to simply turn these thoughts off, because once adrenaline is in the bloodstream everything seems scary. The first thing we want to do is connect, give a hug, rub their back, make a conscious connection then help them name their emotion, for example by asking “Are you scared? Are you angry?” If your child can name the feeling, the brain will secrete soothing neurotransmitters into the blood stream, calming your child down. Dr. Dan Siegel calls it “name it to tame it, as he describes in this video.

We want to remember that we are all doing the best we can as mothers, fathers, daughters and sons, and if we could do better we would do better.

Having techniques in your back pocket for troubling times will help you help yourself and others to make better choices and experience fewer regrets.