I’d like to offer a parenting reframe here around children’s behavior. Rather than your child giving you a hard time, they are having a hard time. You may have heard this before, but take a moment to really think about it and consider this: all behavior is an attempt to meet a need. This goes for adults and children. Thinking about it in this way is so helpful when interacting with your child and when trying to do the emotional work with yourself. If you find yourself stuck repeating a behavior that you’d rather not, get curious about what need that behavior is trying to meet. When you dissect it in this way, it becomes that much easier to find another way to meet that need in a way that actually serves you. So if you take that same idea and apply to your child when they’re behaving in a way that is less than desirable, look past the behavior. See through their eyes. What is going on for them? An example from my own experience: My son can get very obnoxious when he wants to play with his sister. He’ll start taking her toys, hitting her with his blanket, etc. It is soooo easy to get annoyed and show anger towards him. Why can’t he just leave her alone?! But when I look closer, when I take the time to pay attention, I can see that he is doing it in a good spirited way, despite the fact that it’s pissing off his sister. I can see that he really just wants connection, or maybe he wants play. Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out the need under the behavior (this is true for ourselves too). But I know when I get curious and I put myself in his place, I can see that he just doesn’t know a better way to meet that need for connection. He’s not a “bad” kid. So I step in and offer gentle guidance. There is no punishment involved. To punish would be to punish for him acting like a 3 year old…which he is. AND a punishment wouldn’t teach him anything about empathy or meeting his needs. All it would do is shut him down. He might learn to no longer do that behavior, but at what cost? At the cost of developing a deeper understanding about himself, his needs & how to meet them. And at the cost of connection with me. I don’t believe in making a child suffer for going about meeting a need as best they know how. I do believe there is a way to teach him the valuable lessons through peaceful means. Now let’s look at me. If I were to have gotten angry and lost my cool with him, that would have been a less than desirable way to meet my need for peace. I could have shut that shit down. He would have cried because I yelled but hey, he would have stopped bugging his sister. Less than desirable because it didn’t actually create peace. I know you Mamas know how chaotic it can be with little ones. Sometimes you just want everyone to get along, at a reasonable decibel and for the love of all that is holy, give me just 5 freaking mins of not needing me so I can think straight. The beautiful thing about peaceful parenting is that responding to this scenario with calm, gentle guidance is that I create peace in that moment. I source it for myself…and for my children. Had I flipped my lid, I would have not only contributed to the chaos and lack of peace, but I also would have been modeling chaos and a lack of self control for my children…the exact opposite behavior I’m hoping for from my children. AND on top of that, it was a mini moment of connection. It built trust between us & fostered a sense of security. He trusts and feels safe that I am here for him and will do my best to help him get what he needs without making him feel wrong or bad for doing his best.
Written by Peaceful Parenting Coach & Collective Member, Sarah Gimel. You can learn more about Sarah on her Collective page or on her website.