As parents rushing from one responsibility to another, we see ourselves rushing to find resolutions to our children’s problems. Or we are quick to dole out consequences for unruly behavior. We just want to be done with the issue. We need to close a tab in our brain. However, I am a firm believer that our children deserve more.
We need to step back and first figure out the big feelings that are causing those behaviors. The bad attitude is our cue that something is going on inside. A good plumber will not just put a band-aid on a leaky faucet. He will get on his hands and knees to find out the root cause of the leak and fix that.
Similarly, we need to address the underlying feelings first. Strong feelings don’t just magically go away. If they are not recognized, they get collected and one day they erupt. It is always useful for parents to try and empathize how they would feel if an authority figure (like a boss for instance) disregarded their feelings.
Here are a few DON’TS when it comes to your child’s feelings:
- Do not deny the child’s experience by saying things like, “Oh it’s no big deal.”
- Do not provide a logical or philosophical explanation like “life is so unfair.”
- Do not start giving advice.
- Do not ask too many questions.
- Do not defend the other party.
- Do not pity the child.
- Do not rush to provide a resolution.
Rather, what we should be doing is:
- Do listen to your child with your undivided attention. Yes, please put your phones down.
- Acknowledge their feelings. “I can see you had a rough day,” is so much more comforting than, “Stop crying and get ready for homework right now.”
- Give those big feelings a name. “I can see you felt discouraged or angry or unappreciated by your coach today.”
These might seem like common sense things to say – but ask yourself honestly how many times you have been able to provide your child with this much time to validate their feelings. This is a priceless investment as it is deeply comforting for the child, and they believe they can trust this parent. This opens the gateways of communication and builds the cornerstone of a healthy relationship.
So. the next time your child gets off the bus in a crabby mood, don’t ignore or brush aside their feelings. Take a deep breath, put your phones away, and dig a little deeper, get curious to see what caused the outburst. It will take a little patience and practice for both you and your child. But the outcome will be worth it.
Do let me know in the comments if you try this.