The CALM Technique

The CALM strategy is a technique invented by Jennifer Kolari, MSW, RSW, and described in her book Connected Parenting: Set Loving Limits and Build Strong Bonds with your Child for Life. (View my Book Recommendations page to see this and other helpful books.) 

Using the CALM method, parents can use their genuine connection with their child to calm them and facilitate communication. CALM is an acronym for Connect, Affect, Listen, and Mirror. (Mirroring is the effect that will be achieved throughout the initial three steps).

1. CONNECT

To properly Connect with your child when he or she is upset, give your child your complete attention, including eye contact and focused posture. As Jennifer Kolari describes it, "When you really feel the connection, you'll know you are getting it right." When you connect in this way, you are able to Mirror your child's emotions. 

2. AFFECT

"Affect" is a psychological term; in this context, it is a noun referring to the emotion a person is externally displaying. When your child shows an upset Affect, this is an opportunity for you to Mirror their feelings in order to improve your communication with them. It is best to imitate the Affect they are presenting in a careful way, specifically by exhibiting a more controlled version of their emotions. For example, if your child is distraught to the point of hysterical crying, you should reflect a more muted version of their feelings rather than attempting to replicate their uncontrollable sobbing. Mirroring in an exaggerated way will only shift the attention to your own feelings instead of your child's, as well as cause your child to doubt your authority and sincerity. However, you should still imitate the child's sense of urgency in order to validate their feelings.

3. LISTEN
Show your child you are Listening by voicing their feelings as if you were in their place. Resist the temptation to voice their feelings from a distance; for example, "You must be sad that..." or "I understand that you don't like that...." This does not make the child feel heard. Instead, talk about their feelings as if you were their friend, on their side.
For example, "Yeah! You had a great situation and now you're being asked to do something that totally interrupts your fun." According to Jennifer Kolari, this aspect of Mirroring is done correctly when it "reflects [your child's] perception of the problem in that moment."

4. MIRROR

When performing the three steps correctly, you should be enabled to effectively Mirror your child, achieving a state of calming connection that can tremendously deepen your bond and help your child feel heard and understood. When your child is properly Mirrored, they will calm down in the moment; later, you can talk about the issue in a way that shows them any misconceptions they may have had at the time and teaches them a new way to regard the situation.  

Diana Kierein, LICSW

Watertown, MA 02472

DKFamilies@gmail.com ● 617-467-4611 office ● 509-362-9656 fax

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