There are so many problems when it comes to parenting, aren’t there?
The ones I hear about most are:
Children’s eating habits and mealtimes. People wonder why their children are picky eaters or what they can tempt them with.
Morning routines and getting out of the door on time. This is another huge sticking point for many people, especially working parents.
Sleeping, bedtimes or other sleep related issues also comes high up on the list, including being afraid of the dark or not settling in their own room.
Unwanted behaviour, temper tantrums and ‘Teenagers’ are all topics that spring regularly to mind or are discussed in many parenting forums! In fact, they are, more often than not, the whole subject content in some.
It can be a minefield!
You may not like to hear this, but if you are having constant battles or arguments with your children, it’s probably you who needs to change, not them!
All behaviour is a means of communication and beneath every behaviour is an unmet need.
Children are born selfish.
Yes, you heard me right, they really are!
They need to be selfish, to make sure they get their needs met.
As an infant they can’t yet ask for or negotiate for what they want. And until they are much more developed, they can’t use logic either.
We call it the ‘All about me stage’.
Are we being reasonable in what we expect of our children - and of ourselves?
Bringing up children is all about showing them how to be and what to do in a variety of situations. We need to teach them. They need Rules and Boundaries—without these children lose their way. They don’t know what to expect. They feel more secure if they know what behaviour is acceptable and what is not. They need clear Rules and consistent Consequences.
But they need the Rules and Consequences to be delivered with love, understanding and kindness.
Talking about the reasons for both Rules and Consequences helps children understand why they need to follow rules. And this must be done using age appropriate language and explanation.
But talking and reasoning with children about why they can’t have or do something when they are not yet logical thinkers and are still focussed on their own needs is usually a waste of time and effort.
I call it digging yourself a hole!
Role Modelling is essential. Children learn from us. They will copy us. So, if we want our children to be fair, gentle and well-behaved then, guess what? We need to be fair, gentle and well-behaved. And to do this we need to be consistent and above all to stay calm.
Be Cool, Calm, Consistent and Very Patient.
I know, it is really hard to do this - especially if you are tired or at the end of your tether. But believe me it will work much more quickly if you really can be very calm, strong and consistent. Talk quietly, don’t raise your voice. The quieter you are - the quieter your children will be in order to hear what you are saying - I learned this as a primary teacher facing a class of 32 noisy 10-year olds!
“But I am doing all these things”, I hear some of you saying! “And It’s still not working!”
That is because most parents get drawn into conflict with their children at some point. Sometimes a lot of the time. We think it is because our children are misbehaving.
But they aren’t misbehaving. They are communicating a need.
And here is where the problem lies.
When children or young people are communicating a need, probably in the only way they know how, by either shouting, crying or displaying unwanted behaviour of some kind. And what do we, as parents, often do?
We take it personally!
And when we take it personally, we react!
In other words, what we’re really doing is taking our child’s behaviour and looking at it as a personal attack upon us! Then we react, as anyone would, to the personal attack.
But this is reacting in the same way as your child! Are you forgetting that they are in the ‘All about me’ stage?
They aren’t doing this to annoy you. They probably don’t even realise it does annoy. But they will react to your disappointment, to your frustration and to your feelings of hurt.
Do you recognise any of these feelings? Have you ever said or thought any of these things?
“Why are you doing this to me?
“What have I ever done to deserve this?”
“I’m at the end of my tether!”
“You’re really getting on my nerves!”
Well, if you have, then that is really all about YOU not all about the child at all.
Children have very low tolerance levels for frustration, anger, disappointment and fear. They don’t yet have a fully developed brain, they don’t have the knowledge, experience or skills that we as adults do. Because of this, their problem-solving skills in emotional situations are very poor, if they exist yet at all.
When we as parents personalise the unwanted behaviour, we perceive it to be directed at us. This usually leads to arguing with our children. If we do take it personally, we get hurt or upset. Then we react.
And there really is nothing at all to be gained from reacting in this way. We need to avoid power struggles and fights whenever we can.
And remember, none of this is a personal attack on you. This is about the child wanting or needing something.
So, the ‘Secret Ingredient’ to parenting is Don’t Take it Personally.
It isn’t about you! It’s about them.
And the only way you are going to change a child’s behaviour in these circumstances is to change your own.