DO I HAVE A BAD KID?
” There are no bad kids — only those with unmet needs or unresolved pain.”
The above quote is something I truly believe in. The hard part is figuring out just what unmet need or unresolved pain is behind our child’s troubling or unwanted behavior. The unmet need, is something we as parents are responsible for identifying and filling, or for teaching our children to fill themselves. Unresolved pain is a current or past experience, negative thought pattern, or emotional or sensory sensitivity, that is causing the child distress or emotions they don’t understand or know what to do with. In the case of unresolved pain, parents can start by helping their children to put a name to their difficult feelings, validate those feelings, show them true empathy for their experience, and help them to find space or activities, as well as needed coping skills or aids, to help lessen or heal the pain or discomfort.
Through parent coaching we use assessments, parent/child history, parent/coach collaboration, and more, to determine each child’s unique needs and any unresolved emotions that may be driving the child’s distress or unwanted behaviors. But, there are things parents can do themselves at home to identify what is behind their child’s negative behaviors, and to know what they can do to help their child and minimize unwanted behaviors.
Instead of worrying or assuming you have a bad kid — try looking for the emotion behind or driving the behavior, instead of focusing only on the unwanted behavior.
“My kid is not giving me a hard time — my kid is having a hard time.”
When our child displays troubling or unwanted behaviors, the first thing we need to do is look at ourselves. Are we modeling the appropriate behavior in our own life; in our relationships, with our spouse, friends, family and children?
“Children don’t turn into the kind of people we tell them to be — they turn into the kind of people they watch us to be.”
By the time a behavior becomes a habit, we can be pretty sure* it is due to our own inconsistent enforcement of consequences, or not allowing our children to experience the natural consequences of their own actions.
“Enforcing or allowing consequences promotes learning, growth and maturity — taking away or having inconsistent consequences impedes all growth.”
*Some habits, or compulsive behaviors, may be due to unresolved feelings or emotional or sensory sensitivities. The child may use rituals or repeated behaviors to help them deal with or lessen distress or discomfort. In this case, consequences may not be helpful, and may actually hinder healing. For habits related to emotional or sensory issues, acceptance and support is key. Instead of focusing on the behavior, look for the emotion, past pain or sensory sensitivity behind the behavior. Name, validate and have empathy for their distress, help them to open up and talk about their feelings. Offer copying skills or aids where appropriate. If possible, minimize stressful activities or events In the child’s life. In time, with your understanding and support, the habit or unwanted behaviors should decrease. Always seek professional help if compulsive behaviors seem dangerous or continue.
TALKING BACK --
NOT LISTENING --
NOT COMPLYING WITH REQUESTS --
HITTING, BITING, STICKING TONGUE OUT --
All of the above can be signs of frustration or having big emotions, feelings of unfairness, hurt, disappointment, anger, jealousy, feeling unheard or misunderstood, and more. Yes, even children experience deep and complex emotions.
POSITIVE PARENTING STRATEGIES THAT CAN HELP
1.) Help your child learn the feeling-words to put to their particular hurt or frustration. Validate, as opposed to minimize, feelings FIRST before offering suggestions or disipline. A child will be more inclined to listen and cooperate if they first feel that their feelings matter, and that they are heard and understood.
2.) Model yourself the appropriate behaviors you expect of your child. Away from negative issues or discipline — positively share with them family values and social norms.
3.) Use simple, short, non-judgemental/sarcastic/condescending statements when sharing your expectations and what is exceptable behavior for your family. Lengthy lectures create mental/emotional walls that keep the child from hearing what you have to say.
4.) Avoid judging your child’s feelings or intentions — they may not yet have the feeling-words to explain their reasoning, so their intentions are unclear.
5.) Never tell your child how they feel or why they are feeling it. Instead ask them questions to help you understand their perspective and experience. Even if you think you understand what is going on inside your child’s mind and heart, don’t assume, the truth is they may experience or view life very differently** than you do. Feeling ignored or misunderstood, is one of the biggest causes of frustration and acting out in children.
**UNDERSTANDING OUR DIFFERENCES:
The single most common issue I hear from parents requesting parent-coaching is that they just don’t understand their child or their behaviors, or they struggle to communicate, teach or motivate them. Through coaching, we find that most often this is simply due to parent/child differences in modality; communication, learning style, and how each of you uniquely and inherently experience the world. Through coaching and simple assessments, we are able to identify just what those differences are, and how they may be affecting your relationship, your child’s behaviors, and your ability to connect and successfully parent your child. Identifying differences in your modality, can also help your child to better understand you, which improves trust, connection and cooperation.
PARENTING LIKE SOCRATES
Try asking your child QUESTIONS — instead of offering verbal commands or explanations. Asking questions, and actively listening with the intent to truly understand your child’s feelings and experience, can help you to better understand your child, and greatly improve the parent/child relationship. Using questions instead of commands has the added benefit of eliminating mental and emotional “walls,” and increasing your child’s logic, analyzing and reasoning skills.
Another alternative to giving commands to motivate your children, is to offer them choices. When a child feels their feelings and input are important to you, and that they retain some control over their lives, they are more likely to have a positive attitude and want to cooperate. “Would you like to go to bed now, or have 15 minutes to finish your puzzle and then go to bed? - Ok, I’ll set the timer and leave it here with you so you know when it is time to go to bed.” With choices, the result is the same with either option, you retain control by choosing the choices offered, and your child ends up complying with your request and going to bed. The difference is that offering choices removes much of the resistance to your request, resulting in less arguing and unwanted behavior.
I can’t encourage you enough — try CONSISTENTLY 1.) looking for the emotion behind the behavior, helping your child to put a name to their feelings, validating them and showing empathy, 2.) framing your requests as questions and 3.) offering choices — you will soon see that resistance to your requests, talking back and arguments, are all but eliminated. With just consistency and only doing these three things, I can share that my daughter and I’s parent/child dynamic was completely changed. The benefits? For her, increased independence and accountability for her own actions, responsibilities and schedule, a more positive outlook on life, added self esteem, logic, analyzing and reasoning skills. For both of us, less arguing, greater personal connection, mutual understanding, respect and cooperation.
In actuality, at times no matter how good our intentions, we will misread our child’s words, intentions or behaviors, due to none other than our own one-sided perspective. Our perspective is influenced by our own modality; our view points and experiences, these can adversely affect the way we view our child and some of their behaviors.
I love the article you can access through this link, for helping parents to see their children and many of their behaviors in a more positive light.
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Hugs & Happy Parenting 🤗
Julie L Gibson-Vasquez
Life, Love & Parenting
Life, Love, Homeschool, Gifted & Parenting Coach
Gifted, Sensitive & Creative Children Advocate & Mentor