HOW TO RESPOND WHEN YOUR KID ACTS OUT
Posted by Lauren Dack
I WAS THE BEST PARENT BEFORE I HAD KIDS.
I just knew that I was going to do things differently. I was pretty prideful about it, let’s be real. It would not be my kids watching a video on a phone in the restaurant. It wouldn’t be my kids having a tantrum in public. My kids would eat all their vegetables and be polite, contributing members of the family and society as whole.
I’m still holding onto hope that these things will happen for us.
All that to say, it feels a little ridiculous that I would write a blog about parenting. I mean, what do I know? I’ve spent the last four years figuring it out as I go. Reading books, articles, and even a class or two: I desperately want to be the best parent possible and I keep falling short. The problem is that reality is a heck of a lot different than theory.
REALITY IS CHAOTIC, LOUD, AND MESSY. REALITY IS REALLY, REALLY HARD.
Reality is a 1.5-year-old who considers the day wasted if he hasn’t climbed, tackled, and eaten everything in sight. A rambunctious, ridiculously adorable, needing-a-scenery-change-every-20-minutes, thinks-the-word-“no”-is-hilarious, very heavy, very particular, toddler.
Reality is a 4-year-old with sensory processing problems. A sweet, handsome, affectionate, picky, particular child who gets really overwhelmed, really easily and can’t communicate why. It sucks not being understood, and then not having the words to communicate what’s going on inside you. So he has a tantrum, he cries, yells, spits, or hits to get our attention.
So we know he needs something from us. The problem is that I’m angry. I’m confused. I don’t understand, because it doesn’t make sense. It hit me recently that I’m feeling the exact same way he’s feeling: angry, confused, overwhelmed.
LOGIC GOES OUT THE WINDOW WHEN IT COMES TO EMOTIONS.
Logic doesn’t always have a place when it comes to emotions, right? We need emotion to understand emotion. The emotion I’m going back to is love. How do I communicate love to my child through this tantrum?
I took a class recently and learned about relational needs (From the Center for Relational Care-check them out!). The simple principles are life changing. It has transformed my counseling practice, my parenting, and my marriage.
In the class, I suddenly realized I’d been using fear (threats, anger), or manipulation to get my kids to behave. That I’d sometimes withdrawn my love and attention when my child rejected me, or embarrassed me, or disobeyed me. That I was (unconsciously) wanting my kids to meet my needs. My need to be loved, accepted, and respected. All important needs. However, my kids were given to me so I could meet their needs, and not the other way around. If they meet some of my needs (and they do!), that is a blessing and a gift and should never be an expectation.
When your child is doing something you don’t understand or when you don’t know how to respond,
ASK: “WHAT IS HE/SHE NEEDING RIGHT NOW?”
Here are a few examples:
If you are unsure of the need, default to comfort.
I’ve been doing this more and more for my sons. Particularly with my 4-year-old, I’m trying to meet the need first, and discipline (when necessary) after he calms down. Only emotion can understand emotion.
Guess what? It’s working!
Asking my son if he’d like a hug in the middle of a tantrum has helped him calm down much faster. Telling him that I will always love him, even when he says he doesn’t want me, or pushes me away has made him feel safer and more secure. Pointing out the good, encouraging him to keep trying, letting him speak for himself, etc. is shaping my son’s character and heart.
While threats can often get your kids to obey, what will they do when the threat is removed? Will they make the right choices when you’re gone? My hope is that by meeting my kid’s needs first, I can better influence their hearts. Will I take away privileges? Oh yes, without a doubt I want them to understand that our choices have consequences. Do I want my kids to obey and respect authority? Lord, yes. Will my kids continue to test me and disobey? I believe they will. I’ll continue to try my best to be consistent with boundaries, rules, and expectations. I just want all of those things to be soaked in unconditional love.
Heart transformation can only occur within the context of a healthy, secure, and loving relationship. Love first. Your teaching will have more of an impact when you do.
I’m still learning all this, but I’m getting closer every day.
About the Author:
Lauren Dack is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Licensed Professional Counselor. She is wife to Josh and mom to 2 crazy, active, exhausting, beautiful, sweet little boys. She finds purpose and joy in helping folks live their lives more effectively, purposefully, and intimately. Reading is her favorite hobby. Follow her at LaurenDack.com.
4 WAYS TO CONNECT WITH YOUR KID’S TEACHER
Posted by Natalie Kitchen
Do you remember your first grade teacher? I loved mine. I remember how Ms. Parker erased the board from left to right every day and then wrote the new date in the top right hand corner. I also remember how she showed me how to use a ruler because I was sick on the day she taught everyone else. She knelt near my desk and she helped me measure my arm and my folder and my snack.
Now that our oldest is in school, I’m beginning to understand the crazy reality of widening his circle. I know his teachers will spend many of the quality hours of his week guiding and molding him, so I want our partnership with those teachers to be strong.
And because I’ve been a teacher longer than I’ve been a parent, I’m clinging to a few things I hope to remember now that I’m on the other side of the playground fence.
1 – MAKE IT PERSONAL
I know the hardest time to get to know a teacher is when my kid needs help or is in trouble. I want to make it a point to befriend his teachers as soon as possible. Ask them questions about their classroom and their life. Connect with them however I can and as early as I can. Show them that I am interested in them and what they do to love and serve my child every day. That way, when there’s a bump in the road, my relationship is strong enough for honesty and compassion on both sides.
2 – MODEL RESPECT
As our kids grow in their understanding of authority, I know they’ll look to us to learn how to respond when they’re faced with conflict. I feel our disrespect of our child’s teachers will breed their future disrespect of us and other authorities in their life. I want to encourage and model respect, and help them learn from the decisions their teachers make, good and bad.
3 – GIVE
I remember being so touched that a mom randomly brought me new Expo markers that I called her at home to thank her. I want to give my time. My enthusiasm. My old magazines. It doesn’t matter. I know I want to show up and show my kid’s teachers I’m willing to support their every-day, super-tough work.
4 – PRAY
I think I realized how much I like praying on the first day I watched that school bus drive away from our street. Talking to God about my kids’ day is a great way to relieve a lot of anxiety about the things I can’t control . . . and a great way to thank Him for the inevitable and wonderful ways their circles are widening.
What other ways would you add to our list? Let us know in the comments below!
About the Author:
Natalie Kitchen is on the multi-campus preschool team at North Point Ministries, where she serves to equip six area campuses and a network of strategic partners with training and resources. Her love for learning and curriculum is rooted in her experience as a middle and high school classroom teacher. She is married to Britt Kitchen and they have three children: Nolan, Ellie and Ben.