We are all familiar with the saying, “We can’t change others, but we can choose how we respond to them”. This is the same for parenting; we cannot change our children – but we can change how we respond to them! It’s about understanding that all behaviours are a form of communication, and it’s up to us as parents to figure out what feelings or unmet needs might be underpinning the child’s behaviour.
What we want to do is to try and respond to feelings, rather than react to behaviours.
This can take time but believe me when I say that when we respond empathically to our child, the situation gets resolved a lot quicker and the relationship does not suffer.
First of all, make sure you are calm (take 5) and then try to:
- Connect before correcting. Go down to eye level, get the child’s attention by using their name.
Make a request rather than a demand. If you meet resistance, try to name the feeling; for example, ‘It sounds like you are upset, and don’t want to clean up your toys. Well yes, it’s hard and a big job when you don’t want to clean up, I hear that. How can we make it a bit of fun for both of us?’ When the child feels heard and understood, it takes the ‘heat’ out of their feelings and then we can engage better with them.
A child never wants to make your life difficult; they are just letting you know that something is not right in their world.
When we are aware of the way we respond (including our body posture, tone of voice, empathy and validation of their feelings, they will respond differently.
I know this is easier said than done, especially if this happens between cooking the dinner or rushing to get out the door! But please be patient and kind with yourself, and like I always say, ‘little steps – and deep breaths’. Because it’s all about the relationship – and that’s the heart of parenting!