The way we respond to our children when their behavior does not meet our expectations matters.
Let me say that again. The way we respond to our children when their behavior does not meet our expectations matters. Notice what comes first?
As a society, we have been conditioned to react to children’s behavior. To shut it down or put an end to it. To rein them in. We get messages all the time that we, the parents, should be in control, that we should be controlling our kids. No one wants to be the parent of an “out of control” kid, we think.
We equate “out of control” with so many other negatives. Problem. Failure. Outcast. All of those labels that we desperately want to shield our children from.
It’s time we get really clear on what our endgame is here. Do we want our children to be obedient to authority? What about when that authority is the cool kid in their class? This is why peer pressure is such a real concern. This is why so many of us as adults are such die hard people pleasers. We have learned to comply and not ruffle any feathers.
Is this the future we want for our children, or do we actually want our kids to think for themselves, speak up for their rights, set boundaries, have emotionally healthy relationships, and have the confidence to make change in the world?
The way we respond to our children matters. I shared this image on Instagram recently. If it seems a little harsh, know that within an hour of posting, I received a response from a fellow parenting coach with the following screenshots. This is still something being pushed on parents.
Train your children. Get them under control. You are in charge.
“It works!” they say, “The tantrums will stop!”
Again, consider your endgame. Consider your motivation.
I’m not saying that you should be cool with everything your child does. I’m simply saying put your child, not the behavior, first. Figure out what the behavior is actually communicating, and help your child with that.
If they are hitting, help create a safe distance between them and whomever they are hitting, and connect to your child’s emotion. Help them through it. Listen to them and help them express themselves. Save any explanations about the problem with hitting until they have calmed down and can actually hear you. When they’re ready, you’ll likely find that you get more traction by offering them tools to express themselves that don’t involve hitting than you will by imposing a consequence. Help them start to see when they need space and encourage them to articulate that. Give them specific words they can use to solve their problem. Be their coach and help them define their game plan.
This approach may take longer, but the long term benefits are immeasurable.
Keeping that endgame in mind
So many of the challenges we face as parents of highly sensitive children share a common root cause: overstimulation. Overstimulation can present in so many different ways – some are obvious, others aren’t as clear. If you are uncertain about the root of your child’s emotions or behaviors, take a look at my free guide to overstimulation. Enter your email below and I’ll send a copy straight to your inbox.