Try this. Next time you’re feeling frustrated by your child’s misbehavior, name the behavior that’s driving you crazy…and then RENAME it with a positive term. For example, if your child is being STUBBORN, you could think, “Boy, he certainly has PERSISTENCE!” Or if your child is ignoring your directions and doing things her way, you might observe, “She’s such an independent thinker!” When you shift from describing the behavior in negative language to positive, notice what happens to your own emotional state. You might catch a wry smile creeping around the corners of your mouth. You might even start to think, “Yeah, that’s a great quality! She gets that from me!”
Children’s challenging behaviors are frequently the immature version of a life skill that we want them to grow. Our job as parents is to nurture those seedlings so they grow into appropriate, mature behaviors. Once you’ve named the positive quality that your child is demonstrating signs of, you’re ready to activate Teaching Parent Mode.
Teaching Parent Mode requires being willing to devote time to the issue that’s causing a problem. DO IT BECAUSE I SAID SO and DO WHATEVER YOU WANT, are tempting strategies sometimes, but they don’t teach kids skills that will serve them well out there in the world. Taking time to problem-solve, teach, and follow through with kindness and firmness, will result in children who start to use more mature behaviors!
Teaching Parent Mode also means setting aside your own emotions over the issue, so that you can solve the problem. Start by taking a few deep breaths. Then ask yourself three questions:
- Is it necessary for my child to do what I have requested NOW?
- Does it have to be done MY WAY?
- How can I teach him appropriate ways to handle this conflict so he’s using good behavior instead of bad?
If your child is old enough, problem solve together when you’re both calm. Discuss what the problem was and how you could work together to keep it from happening again. (Your answers to questions 1 and 2 will impact the solutions you’re willing to live with.) Write the plan down or determine how you will remind each other of the plan the next time the subject comes up.
If your child is too young for that kind of thinking, use distraction and redirection. (You CAN’T do this, but you CAN do this!)
Reframing your negative description of your child’s behavior will cause you to react to him differently. If you are thinking, “You really know your own mind!” as opposed to, “You are so stubborn!” your child will sense the difference in how you see him, and this will impact how he sees himself and how he responds to you. He may ignore Nagging/Lecturing Parent, but he will hear and learn from Teaching Parent. Eventually, you will be able to observe his mature, appropriate behaviors and say, truthfully, “Yup, he got those from me!”