When a kid acts in ways we would prefer they don’t
we can look at this as an obstacle
or we can choose to look at it as an opportunity.
This is not a common view of course.
Most people see kids as a problem to be solved.
They are rude, disobedient and need to be trained
They must be taught manners and respect.
Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.
They are trying to control you, manipulate you and just get your attention.
When we experience “bad” behaviour from kids the feelings adults usually have are
anger, hurt, frustration, defiance
and a desire to regain control of the situation,
which also means control of our kids.
Regaining Control “By Any Means Necessary!”
The common response to these feelings
is to use some sort of punishment to accomplish the control.
The punishment might be mild or severe,
such as commanding, yelling, removal of privileges,
time outs, grounding, spanking or any variation of these.
The goal being that the child changes how they behave
from what they’re doing to what we want them to be doing.
We’re Not Teaching Them To Think
This approach doesn’t actually teach them to think about their behaviour.
It doesn’t teach them to self-regulate.
It doesn’t teach them an understanding of why a behaviour might be appropriate or inappropriate.
Their Motivation is to Avoid Pain
Instead it teaches them to behave in a certain way to avoid pain.
It’s not only the pain of the punishment they want to avoid,
but more importantly the pain of not being accepted and approved by their parents.
And Acceptance and Approval equal Love to the young mind and heart.
YOU may know that you love them in those moments when they’re being punished,
but they are not feeling it and that’s what counts.
They Want to Always Feel Our Love
So they end up learning to behave in ways so that they do not lose our love!
This is a selfish, pain based and even neurotic motivation.
It’s not based on wanting to be the best, kindest and most loving person they can.
If we can change how we respond to them and offer them
Unconditional acceptance and love in difficult times
Then they no longer feel the need to manipulate for our affection
And they can think about and choose the kind of person they want to be.
Yes even small children can be motivated by love and acceptance in this way.
Punishment Damages Your Relationship
The other problem is that when they experience these moments of lack of love
it creates a separation between parent and child.
It makes them trust us less,
it makes them feel less safe with us,
it makes them want to hide their true selves from us
and teaches them that in order to be acceptable to us
they have to lie and put on a false personality.
The other approach would be to use
supported by a foundation of love.
How does this all relate to controlling ourselves?
When we have a strong negative reaction to our children’s behaviour
it prevents us from connecting with them in the moment.
Connecting with them helps us to listen deeply
to the underlying causes of what is happening
We can feel and express empathy
and respond more profoundly to their needs.
We will be more able to respond with something that will
teach a deep lesson rather than simply control their behaviour.
A More Conscious Reaction Produces a Deeper Relationship
It also helps to create a stronger bond of love,
trust and support with our children.
For they know they are loved the same no matter how they behave.
They know we are a safe place to be themselves.
And don’t we want our kids to be their most authentic with us?
Don’t we want them to trust us and be open with us?
Every time we are harsh with them we drive them further from us.
They need to protect themselves.
There is certainly enough harshness in the world
that they must protect themselves from.
Let us not be yet another source of harshness.
Instead let us be the safe foundation of love
that they know they can always rely upon.
Choose a Different Reaction
Can we learn to access a different reaction in those heated moments.
This is not a short and easy process.
It requires looking at ourselves honestly and deeply.
To acknowledge our reactions and work at changing them.
To give ourselves love and acceptance for how we react
and at the same time be vigilant at changing our thoughts and words.
We Must Work At Healing Our Past
So much of our anger and desire to control (rather than collaborate)
comes from our own childhood.
When we can face that fact it becomes easier to choose a different way with our kids.
There are many healing modalities available to us.
It’s useful to find what works for you
and spend dedicated time in healing your inner wounds and trauma.
Because that stuff leaks out all over the place and especially onto our kids.
It’s a generational cycle.
It’s no one’s fault really.
And WE have the ability to change that cycle
from one of pain and separation
to one of healing, joy, bonding and love.
I can tell you that I’ve done my best to parent this way for the last 18 years.
And in all that time I have not had one fight or one argument with my daughter.
I know that seems crazy and unrealistic.
That’s only because we have been led to believe
that fighting with our kids is normal and inevitable. It’s not!
1) cooperation is preferable and more effective than control
2) our own emotions and reactions cause us to choose control rather than communication
3) We can change these reactions by being conscious and aware on a moment by moment basis
4) and by doing inner healing of our own past pains and trauma so that we don’t pass that pain to the next generation.
Certainly this is a harder path than trying to control our kids,
but honestly it is a much more fulfilling one
And in the end it’s actually much easier
for we create a home of peace and harmony
rather than struggle and disconnection.
I hope this helps.