How to respond rather than react to your child's difficult behavior and big emotions...
Do you find yourself at a loss when it comes to understanding what's happening with your child?
End up getting hooked into a power struggle before you know what hit you?
Are you at your wit's end?
Here are my top 5 Strategies to help you
respond rather than react to your child's difficult behavior and big emotions.
tap into your parenting wisdom
feel calmer and more confident about being the parent you want to be.
1. Always remember that connection matters more than perfection.
Baby humans are born hardwired for connection to be inextricably tied to survival and safety. When your child is behaving in a challenging way or experiencing big emotions, I invite you to ask a different question.
Instead of, How can I control my child's behavior?, ask yourself, How can I connect with my child right now? Then you’ll be more able to tap into your parenting wisdom.
2. Respond to your child’s negative behavior as an SOS, not an attack.
What if your child’s difficult behavior is their best attempt to tell you what they need in the only language they have available - behavior talk? If that’s true, then it's not personal. They need your help. They don't have the skills, in that moment, to use their words. By shifting the way you see your child's behavior, it shifts your stance in relation to them from adversary to ally. You can then be in a better place to give your child what they need.
3. Notice emotional age.
Time and again over the past ten years parents have told me that this has been the best strategy for restoring connection and harmony with their child! When your child is dys-regulated they act emotionally younger. But it’s not an act. They’ve regressed and their rational brain is off-line. This is confusing and frustrating when you know they’re old enough or smart enough to know better. The magic to getting through to your child is to look for your child’s emotional age. It gives you your point of connection. When you meet your child where they are and connect emotionally, even though it can seem counter-intuitive, you’re able to co-regulate and bring them back to a calmer, more rational state.
4. Take sips of self-care throughout the day.
If you don’t put your oxygen mask on first, you can’t help your child - it’s that simple! No child wants a parent running on “empty.” Just like a car can’t run on empty, you can’t be the parent you want to be without filling up with what you require for your well-being. But the thought of self-care can feel overwhelming and impossible when you think of adding one more thing to your already overflowing plate, right?! That's why I recommend taking sips of self-care throughout the day. Just like sips of water throughout the day will hydrate you better than one giant glass (which half the time you forget to drink), sips of self-care will help you stay more regulated throughout the day rather than ending up at your wits' end and losing it.
5. Tap into your imagination.
When you're feeling overwhelmed, the part of your brain that can tap into your imagination shuts down. That's why your first reactions to challenging behavior, like defiance and not listening, are of the knee jerk variety. These reactions tend to put you at odds with your child, and leave you feeling like you wish you could do better next time. Next time you find yourself heading into a power struggle, HIT THE PAUSE BUTTON. When you hit the pause button and take a couple breaths, it brings your imagination back on line. Only then can you creatively connect to the parenting wisdom already inside you and choose to respond rather than react to your child.
Here are two of the most valuable truths I've carried with me over the past 15 years since restoring my relationship with my own child. They’re from Bryan Post, author of Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control. He was the first person who helped me finally understand what was going on with my child.
It's not what you say or do, it's who you're being when you're saying or doing it.
Without the relationship, nothing else matters.