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The 10-second Rule: How to Make it Work

Staff Post

Posted on February 15 2017

Here’s the scenario:

You are hosting a party at home and in a few hours, guests will start to come over as you celebrate an eventful day for your family. You have everything laid out perfectly – balloons, decors, plates, tables, gift items, and food. The pressure from your preparation starts to abate as you feel that everything is timed well and you have all stuff covered. And then bang! You hear a loud noise from the guest area so you immediately rush in and to your dismay, you find your expensive porcelain remains scattered on the floor, glass frames shattered, tables rearranged and too much chaos you can’t even absorb! Turns out your kids forgot to behave appropriately and are having the time of their lives playing catch the ball.

You are turning red out of anger and frustration knowing that the guests may come any minute.

You have a few options here:

(1)    Fix your stuff and clean up

(2)    Run to the bathroom and cry your heart out

(3)    Vent out your frustration to your children (probably smack them even)

You’d probably take option one as an ideal answer, although we know you are way too mad to just let the situation pass. If we talk about how our brain waves would react to this, you’d take option three 80% of the time.

Good parenting is never about the nuts and bolts of providing for your children. It is a continuous work of art – an intricate challenge of keeping all the bits and pieces of your family values intact while nurturing the young in order to become a significant addition to the community.  The philosophy of good parenting lies within the premise of healthy child development, where we could audibly identify what parenting hacks work and what do not. Oftentimes, as parents, we are torn between practicing parenting principles by the book and just following our own instincts.

One of the challenges we face as parents is controlling the urge to instantly react to stressful situations; leading us to decisions we may regret afterward. Humans as we are, we tend to react instinctively and act before we think. And the casualty? A disheartened kid or a crying toddler who got smacked for being just a kid. True, patience is a virtue that needs to be cultivated well, especially when you are around children who unwittingly annoy the life out of you. But is this something you can trick the brain with, especially when all the buttons get pushed?

Yes, and as familiar as it sounds, the 10-second rule still works as it is supposed to.

But before we dig deeper into this rule, let’s try to understand why we react the way we do.

Humans are reactive by nature. There is an automatic retaliation going on when we get threatened, and can only be intervened when you get a good grip of self-awareness and consciousness before the retaliation takes place. Take note that these things happen in a matter of microseconds. If your buttons get pushed at the moment of extreme emotion, you lose self-control.

Having said that, your automatic response is governed by pure emotion rather than reason. This makes such particular response an ineffective teaching tool to our children, and worse, it could even be damaging to them.

So how do you use the 10-second rule to avoid such sudden emotional reaction from happening?

STOP. As soon as you feel your blood spiraling into your head, stop and just freeze. Count to 10. This should be enough time to deactivate your triggered senses.


BREATHE.  Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale deeply if you have to. Do it at least three times.

WAIT. Tell yourself there is nothing rewarding about doing something at the moment of anger.

THINK. Convince yourself that it is not worth the damage. You may want to ask yourself the following questions:

  1.       Is this something that I won’t regret later?
  2.       Is this the appropriate time to do or say what I want?
  3.       Do I mean it?
  4.       Will this build my children’s trust and confidence in me?
  5.       Will this narrow or widen the gap between us?
  6.       Is this how I want to communicate with my children?

You don’t need a book to tell you about how crucial the 10-second rule is. When you are fueled by anger, you lose logic. And when you do, you disconnect. Effective values teaching only happens when you and your children are in the best mood. There is nothing reasonable about acting without thinking.

So before you start going nuts with option three from the situation above; stop, breathe, wait, and think. Be reasonable. Be calm.

So how does the 10-second rule apply to you? Let us know in the comments section below!