Many parents struggle with a child’s behaviour and then default to trying to find strategies and discipline methods to curb the behaviour.
We see this in shows such as Super nanny where a child is “naughty” then the child gets put on a “time-out” or “naughty step”.
Because these are popular, well known behaviour management strategies many parents will turn to such approaches in a desperate bid to get their child to behave. The thing is these approaches do not work (if you have to use a discipline method more than once, twice and so on… it’ a sure sign it’s not working) and they don’t work because they don’t get to the root of the problem.
When a child is displaying big behaviours there are ALWAYS big feelings going on underneath these behaviours and it’s the feelings we need to work on addressing.
Getting to the root cause
“Kids do well if they can do well” (Ross Greene, child psychologist) and when they can’t, it’s because they are delayed in the development of crucial cognitive skills.
No child deliberately misbehaves. They aren’t out to get you, pushing your buttons or any other thought you have when you find yourself triggered by their behaviour. It’s easy to think that in the moment though especially when stress levels are running high.
When children can’t behave there are a number of factors to consider:
How connected are you and your child? (and a scale of 1-10, 10 being extremely high)
What’s communication like in your family? Do you talk about feelings and emotions? Do you have in depth conversations? Do you feel like you understand your child and how they see the world?
Would you say you actively listen to your child? Meaning you get down to their level, make time and space to fully listen to them. To listen without interrupting, advice giving or judgement.
Do you validate your child’s feelings? When a child says “I’m scared” do you invalidate them by saying “No you’re not, there’s nothing to be scared of” or do you validate them by responding with “I’m hearing your scared, do you want to tell me more about this?”
What’s going on at home for the child? Is your child around parental conflict? Are both parents stressed? Is the child living between two homes? Are parents extremely busy with work? Does the child have many siblings? What life stressors are you experiencing as a family?
What is going on for you as the parent? Do you suffer from mental health problems? Are you stressed, unsupported and burnt out? Are there things from your own childhood you didn’t like? What’s your relationship like with your own family?
How do you self regulate? What this means is how do you deal with your own feelings? What is your relationship like to your own anger, sadness, frustration etc. There is a big correlation between how you manage your own feelings and how your child handles theirs.
These are questions parents can reflect on if they are experiencing unwanted behaviours from their children. It’s important to move away from judging or labelling the child’s behaviour and instead dive deeper into their emotional world to think more about what the child could be thinking, feeling and experiencing.
If you are fixed on viewing your child’s behaviour (and viewing them negatively) this will impact how you respond to them and can create further disconnect in the parent/child relationship.
I’ve worked with parents just like you who initially came to me with a long list of their child’s problems and behaviours. During the course of our time together working through my 10 week ultimate parenting success course parents have started to understand their child’s feelings, found positive ways for navigating and holding space for their child’s feelings and have deepened their relationship with their child. You can read some success stories here: