I’ve made no secret here on the blog that my eldest daughter is a terrible sleeper, and often presents us with very challenging behaviour. My hubby and I have read numerous books, blogs and websites over the years in the hope of becoming better parents. In the hope that the knowledge they impart will put us ahead of the game, and enable us to deal with the tough bits without ending up completely broken.
I’m not going to bang on about the obvious, we all know that shouting at the kids is bad and losing our cool makes their behaviour worse. I wrote a post a while back about eradicating negative parenting behaviour, which you might find useful if you are struggling with these things.
Today I’m going to share with you three useful, important tools that I feel are essential ace cards for us to have.
Eye Contact and Appropriate Physical Contact
I recently read the the book How to Really Love your Child by Ross Campbell. In it he talks about a child’s emotional needs being akin to a petrol tank in a car, and how we need to fill their emotional tanks up when they start running empty. By talking to them at the same time as doing a million and one other things, we are giving our the kids the message that they aren’t important. By downing tools, looking them in the eye and giving their arm a gentle pat while having a chat, they walk away from us feeling loved.
This makes so much sense to me, but also made me feel more than a little sad. I realised that I had fallen into bad habits, and was rarely getting down to their level when I was speaking to them. Worse still, he says if you are pretty much only giving eye contact to tell them off, it could do lasting damage to their self-esteem. I’ve definitely been guilty of that in the past, and have been making a concerted effort to rectify this since reading the book. The great thing about small children is that negative parenting behaviour is very quickly forgotten once we parents start turning things around.
I read about reflective listening for the first time in Miriam Chachamu’s How to Calm a Challenging Child a few years back. This is all about truly listening to what our kids are saying – not trying to enforce our opinions onto them, not trying to solve their problems for them, just listening to them and letting them know we have listened.
It might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s actually much harder than you would think (well it certainly was for me at first anyway). It’s all about just sitting with them, letting them talk, and validating their feelings with simple generic phrases such as the examples below.
– ‘I can imagine you felt really upset when X left you out today’.
– ‘I can understand why you are feeling angry about that’.
– ‘You must be very disappointed that you didn’t get an invite to X’s birthday party’.
This is all about honing in on the positive side of your child’s behaviour, no matter how much of a challenge they are being. I’m a huge believer that when it comes to parenting we should choose our battles carefully. It can be so easy to fall into the negative cycle trap – which goes a little something like this:
Child is misbehaving – parent tells child off, maybe gives them a time out, or starts taking their things away – child sulks and parent gets angry – parent starts nagging the child – everyone gets cross and a full scale meltdown ensues.
I don’t think we should ignore all our kids naughtiness, and tell them they are being wonderful anyway because that would be lying, but there comes a point where you do have to let some stuff just slide. We have a zero tolerance policy on violence in our house, but Hubby and I are learning to ignore a lot of the smaller grievances and squabbles. By not giving them any airtime they are soon forgotten.
I find the absolute best remedy for our family is to take eldest out of the equation, calm her down and give her some attention (eye contact, physical contact, listen to what’s troubling her). Of course this is all so much easier said than done, and orchestrating that one on one time can be impossible when I’m on my own. Writing this post has made it sound like an absolute piece of cake, that I have completely nailed, which trust me is not the case. We have dramas and meltdowns daily – some days I’m cucumber cool about them, and others not so much.
Just like everyone else, I’m learning as I go along…