NEW

Tips and Resources to Help Keep Your Nervous System Calm During the Coronavirus Shelter-in-Place Times

Even if you're a nervous system regulation ninja, times like this can get us dysregulated. And the health of our nervous system impacts our patience levels, our anxiety levels, our reactivity, our ability to stay present, our sleep, our productivity...and, because our...

Tips To Calm Your Nervous System “In The Moment”

Bring your attention to your physical sensations in your body Feel the chair under your butt, your feet on the ground. Notice your breath and what it does. Pay attention to sensations in your body - heat, coolness, tingling, tension. Put your attention there. Notice...

How to Make Sure Your Kids FEEL Unconditionally Loved

I know you love your kids. Unconditionally. The real question isn’t whether we love our kids, but rather – do they FEEL loved unconditionally. You may be thinking, “Of course they do!” But so often I find that we make love and acceptance conditional—without even...

15 Tips to Stay Connected to Your Tweens and Teens

The most common theme with my clients who have kids aged 8 and up is their concern that their relationship is changing and their fear that they’ll lose their close connected relationship with their kids as they get older. My experience and research tells me that we...

Why I Ignore My Kids

The other day my son came home from school and I ignored him. Or that’s what it might have looked like. But really, I was connecting on his terms. Read more Expanded Views on Parenting. It kills me a little bit. When my kids come home, I want to check in: “How was...

Who Am I to Tell You How to Parent?

Against my better judgment and intentions, I still jump in with solutions even when I know my kids should figure stuff out on their own. I still give too much advice. Just tonight at bedtime my son told me something and I didn’t handle it the way I wished I would...

How to Respond When Your Kids “Disrespect” You

Is it important to you that your kids have a voice? You know – that they question things, not just take things at face value, and feel like they can stand up for things they believe in? Read more Expanded Views on Parenting. Yea? Me too. It’s actually really important...

How To Raise Kids To Be Prepared For This Wild New World

If we want our kids to be successful, emotionally healthy, and happy in this wild, new world we live in, we need to shift the parenting paradigm. Read more Expanded Views on Parenting Whether you’re looking into the eyes of your new baby, bringing your child to...

How to Stop Reacting and Start Responding to Your Teen

Parents and kids have the ability to trigger each other as no one else can. Read more Expanded Views on Parenting. “You have no idea what a bad day I had…I have no patience for you right now…” “What were you thinking!?!?” “You need to learn a lesson about respect,...

I Screwed Up! Repairing Trust With Your Child

Recently I was triggered and totally reacted to my son in a way I wished I had not. In the midst of my temper tantrum, I noticed his expression and could see that he was really impacted, I could see the sadness in his eyes and the discomfort in his body language. Read...

You are humanity's greatest hope.

Discover Your Path Forward

Read more about Parenting.

A little girl is lying on the floor holding a LEGO piece and kicking her feet. Her older sister, in the middle of building, keeps demanding, “Give it back! Give it to me!”

“You need to start listening and give that to your sister right now!” her dad intones angrily.

The air is tense. You can sense a standoff. And it’s all because that little one is being “bad.” Right?

What if instead of labeling, we got curious. A child’s behavior is a symptom of their unmet needs and their unexpressed or poorly expressed feelings. Kids (hell, a lot of adults) have trouble recognizing their emotions and expressing them. And when that happens we get behaviors we think of as bad or inappropriate or acting out or melting down.

I like to tell parents they need to be a detective.

That doesn’t mean snooping around. It means getting curious, looking for clues, asking questions and listening. You can help your child understand WHY they’re doing what they are doing.

Let’s go back to that little girl lying on the floor.

Her mom looks at her glaring at her sister and kicking at the LEGO creation. She looks at the box of LEGOs still to be opened. She starts naming what she sees.

“Your sister has a new LEGO set, huh?”

“Two!”

“And you don’t have any. That probably doesn’t feel very good to you. Are you wishing you had a new LEGO set too?”

“Uh huh.”

“I might feel a little jealous right now if it were me.”

She nods and begins to cry.

This example was a 6-year-old, but it works with 16-year-olds too. In fact, we can help our kids at every age learn to understand why they are acting the way they are acting AND express their feelings.

Often our kids don’t know why they’re feeling crappy or even if that feeling is sadness or anger or jealousy or fear. They may not know what they need. They just know something isn’t right.

You can start with the basics.
Have they had enough sleep? Have they eaten? Do they need to let off some energy?

Think about what’s happening in their life.

Are they waiting for results of a try out? Do they have a big project due soon? Have they had any down time lately? Is there something there that’s a clue you could talk about? You may want to ask your child questions to help them figure out what is wrong, but remember, it’s not an interrogation.

Look for the feelings and needs behind the behavior.

Your goal is to be open and curious. You need to listen. And here’s one more tip about being a detective. You don’t have to be the problem solver here. Even though the situation may be uncomfortable, this isn’t about making things “better” or taking care of a problem; it’s about your child (and you) acknowledging their feelings and connecting them to their actions.

And believe it or not, when they get a chance to feel their feelings and when they feel heard and understood by you, the bad behavior usually stops. Feeling heard and understood diffuses the situation and regulates our big emotions. And as they learn how to put words to their emotions and ask for what they need, they won’t have the inner need to act them out through their behavior.

Being the empathetic detective stops the behaviors, power struggles and tension in its tracks.
But … you might be saying, I can’t let them get away with being rude or slamming doors or shouting at me … or taking their sister’s LEGOs.

Being the detective and helping your child understand their emotions and actions doesn’t mean you have to condone the actions. You may need to brainstorm better alternatives when they feel really mad or jealous or disrespected or whatever. The child may need to repair trust with you or their sibling. And those are great conversations to have, but after you’ve done the detective work.

What about you?

And before we’re done, you can be a detective with yourself too. Next time you find yourself slamming dinner down on the table or yelling at your kids for leaving their shoes in the hall, ask what need you have that isn’t being met. Maybe you feel unappreciated or maybe you’re stressed about being somewhere on time. How can you cut yourself some slack? Can you acknowledge your feelings to yourself and perhaps to another adult? Can you model taking a breath and calming yourself down before you act out? It’s a journey for sure!

Tell us how it went in the comments below!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This