We’ve all been there. We walk in on our child doing something they shouldn’t be doing, and our mood is suddenly thrown into a negative whirlwind. We chastise, we accuse, we make snap judgements. Our child meanwhile, feeling confronted and uncertain, goes immediately on the defensive. They clam up and refuse to talk, or perhaps they shout. Maybe they run off and begin to do something even more destructive. And we the parent are left standing there in shock, wondering what on earth just happened.
The trouble is, when we only see the behaviour and react without taking a moment to pause, we set ourselves up for failure.
What if we come in and find our child quietly painting the carpet? When we shout or blame, we leave them no room for manoeuvre. They know we have made up our mind and they close themselves off to our words. They feel angry and resentful, and this then leads to further behavioural struggles throughout the rest of the day.
However, what if we come in and pause? What if we take the time to assess their motives and see the world through their eyes? Yes, perhaps they should have known better. Perhaps this act was bought on by an earlier incident where they felt judged and squashed? Or maybe they were simply exploring the materials at hand? Maybe they were curious? Maybe they were feeling a strong urge to create, and this is what they came up with?
But in the first reaction, not only will you never discover what their motives were, but you will also miss out on an opportunity to help them channel their creativity or frustration in other ways, and avoid a repeat of this situation in the future.
So instead, we can pause. We can breath and get ourselves under control, and then, we can connect.
We can sit down beside our child and talk gently. We can ask what they are doing and why. We can voice our disappointment at the damage caused, without blaming or accusing. We can use this opportunity to get closer to our child rather than driving a wedge between one another. And together we can find a solution that doesn’t pit us against each other.
Connecting may seem like the last thing you want to do when you feel angry or disappointed, but it is the one tool that will enable your message to get through and help your child want to do the right thing next time.
So connect before you correct. Use connection to build a strong and trusting relationship so you and your child can eliminate conflict and instead work together in partnership. And soon those behavioural issues will start to melt away.
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