I don’t like myself very much when I can hear my nagging words, my snappy reactions, or my lengthy lectures. It’s easy to default to constant correction or punishments when our kids are misbehaving. The black hole of negative emotions is hard to climb out of if we don’t have other, more positive and effective strategies in place.
A few years ago, I could almost feel the weight of the vortex sucking me in as my short-tempered reactions to my son’s bad behavior fueled the cycle we had been caught in for far too long. We were wilting under the shadows of negativity. Honestly, the cycle is one that some parents can get caught in for months or even years.
Your child misbehaves.
You react in anger or harsh treatment or exasperated frustration.
Child becomes angry with you, hardens their heart, and continues to act out.
And then the cycle continues on and on.
When we get caught up in this kind of pattern of conflict, our children’s hearts do not open to our correction and we become stuck in this ineffective pattern. Sometimes, we need a radically different approach that lightens the mood and reminds us that our kids are, well, kids. Little people who need us to be mature, empathetic, and kind, even during conflict.
PARENTING IN A CYCLONE OF DESTRUCTIVE WORDS AND ACTIONS DOESN'T HAVE TO BECOME YOUR EVERYDAY RESPONSE.
Here are three positive ways to respond to your child's bad behavior that can help you see the light at the end of the tunnel and shift everyones attitudes for the better:
1. MOVE IT OR LOSE IT!
When the storm begins to gain speed, stop and shift from a rigid face-off to healthy movement. Tell your kids that you can see they are getting upset, or making a bad choice but before you talk about it, you both need to let off some of the negative energy mounting. Do ten jumping jacks, march around the living room five times, or circle the backyard for a quick jog. When we take a time out that is focused on body movement, it releases tension in a positive way and both mom and child will be more open to listening to one another so parenting can really take place.
2. GET YOUR SILLY ON!
Occasionally, my son will be sassy or moody and I don’t know why. Instead of being quick to take it personally or punish him, lightening the mood by acting silly can be just the thing to bring his joy back and help me find out what root issue is causing him to act out. Throw on the mask to one of their costumes laying nearby and talk to him like Darth Vader, have a tickle session, or ask him to help you plan a backwards dinner for tonight where you decide to eat dessert first! Some personalities won’t respond well to being silly, but sometimes our own joyful spirits are just what our kids need to pull them out of a funk!
3. SAY IT TO SEE IT!
When I see two of my boys fighting, one thing I like to do is remind them who they are by speaking words of life to them in the middle of the conflict. Sometimes, our kids just need a reminder of who they can be or that we see and believe the best about them. If we say it, we may just begin to see it:
“Oliver, I know that you want to be an example to your younger brother and that you can speak more kindly than this.”
“Quinn, you are my joy-boy. I sure would like to see you being more patient.”
“Oakley. You are a generous boy. I bet you can find a way to share that toy with your brother.”
“I see you are making a poor choice right now but I know you can do better. I’m going to give you a minute to make a right choice. It’s up to you.”
Then step away to give them time to process and make a better choice. If they don’t, you can then follow through with a logical consequence that fits the issue or let them know you will talk about the choice they made a little later. The goal is not to punish, but to teach and train outside of conflict when kids are more receptive to your teaching.
Let’s remember that the parent/child relationship is indeed a relationship. One that thrives on joy and compassion. Remember that developmentally, our children have a long way to go and if we are constantly harsh with them, that relationship will suffer. There’s a time and a place for being all business with our kids but I bet there are plenty of instances when we can lighten up and try some out of the box methods that both teach and tie heart strings.
Parenting in a cyclone of destructive words and actions doesn’t have to become your everyday response. Allow the winds of change to usher you into a much happier exchange and watch your children bloom.
What positive approach works well in your home? What situations are the most challenging for you to approach in a positive way?