It is easy to react and even feel offended by our children’s comments and behaviors. We instinctively react out of anger to protect our feelings and to preserve our identity as a good parent.
However, when we respond out of anger and frustration to our child’s behaviors, we miss the message they are really trying to send.
Is it easy to do every time? Of course not! We can’t be expected to, because we’re not perfect parents.
But, if we want to have a genuine and responsive connection with our children and hear their true need, we need to dig deeper.
Here are some guidelines to follow in the process of being an emotionally responsive parent:
Be respectful of your child and of yourself. Respect is at the heart of the parent-child relationship. Treating your child with respect and honesty as you interact will help him or her gain a deeper understanding of self, others and the world.
Attempt to remain in control of your emotions and reactions. It’s important to stay in charge of your emotions and the situation. If anger gets the best of you then acknowledge it with your child. “I’m very angry that you drew on your face. Let’s clean it up.”
Let your child know that you are in charge and you are keeping them safe, emotionally and physically. You enter the room and your children are arguing over a block. You come close to them and listen to find out more about the conflict. “I see you both want that rectangular block.” Then your younger child attempts to bite your older child. “You are angry. You want that block. I will not let you bite your brother.” You come between your two children. PAUSE. There is another yellow block. “Maybe one of you can use the other yellow block.” Your younger child attempts to hit her older sibling. “I’m not going to let you hit. It’s time for you to find something else to do. Maybe you can build later.” There are tears and screams, but you continue to help your younger child find something else to do, while acknowledging their strong feelings. You keep both of your children safe in the process.
Acknowledge your child’s strong emotion even if they may seem to be a bit reactionary or over the top in the moment. Sometimes your child will experience a reaction that seems a bit cartoonish. Take a deep breath, PAUSE and realize that this is your child’s reality. Narrate what you see happening while labeling your child’s feelings.
Coach Benjamin Mizrahi. Educator. Learning Specialist. Family Coach. Father. Husband.
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