The 10 Second Rule

Power struggle “If only I could stay calm…”

“I just react… I can’t help it!”

Every success story I have ever received from a parent includes, I was able to stay calm. Okay, easier said than done, I know. Human beings are reactive. When we feel threatened, we automatically retaliate. It takes self-awareness and consciousness to intervene before that retaliation. Mostly we gain that self-control in the growing up process, but when our buttons get pushed, old stuff gets triggered self-control feels out of reach.

Without going into the old stuff here, suffice it to say that the amygdala section of the limbic system in the brain gets triggered when a button gets pushed, and we go into fight, flight or freeze mode. Especially when a button gets pushed, we need to gain some perspective so we don’t fly off the handle and react in ways we soon regret. To learn more about what happens in your brain at this time, read this.

Our reactions have very little reason attached to them. They are pure emotion and carrying through means at best we are ineffective in teaching our child anything and at worst, can be damaging. All effective teaching happens when both you and your child are calm and can be reasonable.

Here is the 10 Second Rule to stop an emotional reaction from occurring.


When you feel your blood start to boil or that tightness in your stomach, STOP and count to 10. That is enough time to stop the trigger from activating.

Then BREATHE deeply at least three times.

WAIT by telling yourself you will be far more effective after you calm down.

In that waiting period, THINK. Ask self one or more of the following questions:

Will I regret this later?

Is this the best time to say what I want?

Do I mean what I am tempted to say?

Am I connecting or disconnecting?

Does this build my child’s trust in me?

Am I widening or narrowing the gap between us?

How would I like hearing what I’m about to say?

Do I need to just lighten up or be firmer with boundaries?

How many times has my child heard what I was about to say?

Do I really need to say it again?

You don’t have to know the “right” thing to do. All you have to do is STOP yourself. When you are fueled, you cannot think reasonably. It is through BREATHING and WAITING that you will be able to THINK about what you want to do. How much time you take to THINK does not matter. You can come back to the situation hours, days, even weeks later. When you are calm, you can say what you mean and mean what you say.