Tell it Like it is!
Do you ever catch yourself lecturing, or ignoring “random acts of rudeness” coming from your child because you’re not sure how to respond? If this applies to you (who me?) read on!!
Why do we address challenging behaviour?
As parents, why do we refrain from addressing occasional rudeness? Why? There can be many reasons. Often, you may be unsure of what to do. Or, you don’t want to upset your child, or risk a meltdown. I’ll give you that much. In the long run, though, without a plan in place your child will walk away assuming that his actions haven’t caused any negative emotional fallout. Ultimately, this is doing your child a disservice. As I’ve said many times, one day your child might say something rude to the wrong person. Wouldn’t you rather your child hear a negative response from you in a caring fashion? Check.
What’s your “go-to” response? Do you ignore, or mutter something under your breath, thinking like there’s no point in engaging? Or, maybe you launch into a lecture about why such-and-such is rude and why so-and-so is more appropriate, only to discover that your child is either long gone or staring blankly at you. Been there, done that? I’m going to offer a specific and simple solution. Tell it like it is. The good news? You can implement this quickly and easily.
We often assume that our goal is to have a child that behaves in a socially acceptable fashion. At some level this is true. My approach goes far beyond bandaid solutions, so let’s dig deeper people!
Ultimately, your goal is to help your child understand why he/she should or shouldn’t do something, and to build his capacity for self awareness so he can relate to others.
Correct? It may sound obvious, but if you don’t share your real emotions with your child, how will they ever really know how their actions are making you feel?
Tell it like it is. Use emotional descriptors; express what you feel outwardly.
Here’s how to implement this simple approach:
1. Awareness is essential to making change of any kind. Until you know where you are, it’s impossible to get to your destination. Here’s a small exercise for you to do. Take an evening, and have a journal ready. Write down how you respond to your child’s actions – good, or bad. Don’t censor, just write. What did you say or do in response to inappropriate behaviour?
2. Now, think about your goal. Ultimately, you want your child to understand how his or her actions affect others! So, you need to help your child effectively “get the message” when he/she says something hurtful to YOU.
3. Next step – give specific feedback, using emotional descriptors. Tell him what he did, and how his actions made you feel. For example, you just prepared a snack for your son. He flies down the stairs, snatches the bowl out of your hand and keeps running. What should you do? “Liam, you grabbed that bowl right out of my hand. That hurt my feelings!” Use a sad face (or an angry face) depending on how you’re really feeling. Give your child a few seconds to respond. If he apologizes, I would encourage you to say something along the lines of, “That makes me feel a little better. Thank you for saying sorry.”
This may sound like a “no-brainer,” but really… how often do you do follow this simple formula? You may just be surprised at how your child responds. I remember the first time I let my young son witness my tears… he was in shock!! For so long I had hidden my emotions for fear I might upset him! That was a turning point for me. It may be for you too.
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