How to Stop Yourself From Flipping Out When your kids misbehave
Reframing How You View Your Child’s Behavior
Kids are going to test boundaries. It just comes with the territory. Even though as parents we know this to be true, it doesn’t make it any less annoying. Imagine, you’ve just had a long day from work, and your kid repeatedly does something you have told them not to do. Even the most saintly parent might lose her shit. But here’s the thing to remember in Gentle Parenting: All behavior is communication.
Yesterday, my toddler was following me around crying, whining, and just all around being miserable. He eventually dropped himself to the ground, and had, what some might call a tantrum.The is the kind of behavior for which some toddlers get punished. An overstimulated or tired parent might resort to yelling, time-outs, or even a smack on the butt. I repeatedly asked him what he wanted or needed, and he responded: “I don’t know.”
Before I continue, I want to recommend two books to help you understand your toddler’s behavior: Janet Lansbury’s No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame, and Daniel Seigel’s The Whole Brain Child.
Okay, back to my story. My kid was flipping out, I didn’t know why, but I did know this: he was trying to tell me something. Even though he has the language skills to tell me what is wrong, he’s still learning how to regulate his emotions. His feelings are bigger than his brain can sort of handle, so crying it is. I tried to comfort him, but he wasn’t having it. I then began to think of things that might be wrong: fatigue, overstimulation, sibling fight a broken toy, and settled on hunger. I took a peak over at his lunch and noticed he hadn’t touched it. So I warmed up bowl of mac n’ cheese, sat him down and fed him like a baby, and with what do you know: his big feelings came to an end.
I did not view his behavior as a tantrum or naughty. I chose, instead, to view his behavior for what it is: big feelings.
It’s Important to Reframe and Determine Why.
Your child may be acting out for a multitude of reasons. It might be because they are having trouble sleeping from allergies, or because they had dinner before their snack. It might be because they are catching up on some attention that they have not gotten in a while. Or it may be something you have to dig a little deeper to figure out.
The key point when it comes to certain behaviors is to explore as many causes as possible. Once this cause is pinpointed and/or resolved, you can help your child express themselves in a way that is not only more positive, but more understandable to those around them. If others can understand the why, then frustrations will lower on both sides, as well as tempers.
As adults, our brains often overlook different causes of a child’s negative behaviors in a single day: coming home after school, missed nap time after eating lunch, food sensitivities, and schedule change, among others. These reasons can be true for small children and teenagers, and all ages in between. Children are constantly learning, especially how to express themselves and their feelings.
Sometimes, our child’s behavior can be saying so much more than what we are seeing. As a conscious parent, it is your goal to reframe how you view your child’s behavior so you are less reactive and more able to help them through it. A child’s behavior can be triggering to others, or seen as the child acting out, but often there are underlying reasons why the child is behaving the way they are.
Here are some situations where you can practice reframing how you view your child’s behavior and work toward determining their why:
1. My child throws tantrums!
When a child has a tantrum, try to reframe it. Start with, “My child is having big feelings.” Then follow up by asking yourself how you can help them express their feelings with a different form of communication, or if you can detect what those feelings are and ask the child about them. Ultimately, a tantrum is often the result of a young child expressing their frustrations or anger.
“Parent Do-Overs – 7 Confidence Building Responses”: Janet Lansbury shares several suggestions in her blog post on conscious ways to talk to your child in certain situations, especially after negative behavior.
2. My child does that just to get attention.
Maybe you feel your child acts out to get attention, or other people have suggested to you that this is the case. If your child is acting out in a way that you feel is just to get attention, take a step back and ask yourself if it could be something else. If you feel they are acting out for attention, why are they doing this?
Try to keep track of when it happens to see if there is a consistent trigger for your child. Do you find that your child acts out for attention after a long day? How about after you were out of town for a couple of days? Do you have other children who are needing more of your attention right now? Does your child need you right now, and this is their way of expressing that?
So Instead of viewing this behavior negatively, simply tell yourself, “my child needs me.” This will enable you to switch from being angry or annoyed to being proactive.
An additional resource in this area is 7 Reasons Why Your Child Might Be Acting Out: Some reasons to consider when determining why your child is acting out.
3. My child is manipulative
Children are smart, and often they learn by the reaction they get when they do something. When learning how to express their needs, they may repeat behavior that has gotten those needs met in the past. Once you pinpoint what your child is trying to communicate, then you can work with them on a more positive approach to expressing themselves.
Manipulation can get more and more complicated as children get older. Big things to remember when dealing with these situations are to know your own triggers, write them down if you have to, and continue to teach your child to speak directly, or ask specifically for what they want instead of trying to manipulate themselves into or out of a situation.
Instead of: my child is trying to manipulate me, think, my child is still learning how to best communicate their needs.
EmpoweringParents.com gives more tips on how to handle manipulative behavior while maintaining faith in your child.
- My child throws a fit when they don’t get their way!
Like the example with my toddler above, a child may throw a fit as a way of expressing themselves, their anger/frustration, or because they don’t know how to regulate their emotions yet. Small children can still have big emotions! Seeing their cues and fits as a form of communication will allow you to help them understand their feelings and how better to communicate the big ones in a more helpful way.
With Conscious parenting, there are a number of changes that occur in the way our kids react to everyday life. No child is perfect and it’s impossible for any parent to be either. Like you, your child may be annoyed, frustrated, angry, what have you. Unlike you, their brains are still developing and they are still learning the appropriate ways to express themselves. As Parents it’s best to always assume positive intent. If you choose to believe your child is doing something to spite you will react in a manner you may later regret. If you choose instead to find the why for the behavior, you are far less likely to lose your shit.
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