Tamsyn White. Principal Psychologist
It's completely understandable to feel frustrated and overwhelmed when your child is behaving in ways that are the opposite of what you would like, despite your best efforts. Remember that as a parent, it's important to approach these situations with warmth, understanding, and a willingness to learn and grow.
It can be helpful to take a step back and re-evaluate your expectations for your child's behaviour. Remember that all children make mistakes and may exhibit challenging behaviours from time to time. Sometimes as parents we our expectations of our children can fall outside of their abilities - by setting developmentally appropriate expectations, you can help your child feel more confident and supported.
When your child is behaving in challenging ways, it's important to remain calm and respond in a consistent manner. Reacting impulsively or losing your temper can escalate the situation and make it more difficult to address the behaviour. Instead, try to stay calm and firm in your response, and be consistent in your expectations and consequences.
Dr Daniel Siegel, a renowned psychiatrist and author who specialises in child development and neuroscience, has popularised the phrase "connection before correction." This means that before we try to correct or discipline our children, we need to focus on building a strong connection with them.
As parents, we want our children to listen to us, respect our authority, and follow rules. However, in order for children to feel willing to listen to us, they need to feel a strong connection with us first. Connection refers to the quality of the relationship between the parent and the child. This includes trust, understanding, empathy, and communication. We often make the mistake of FIRST correcting a child’s behaviour (by telling them off, punishing them, or trying to immediately make them cease their behaviour), and THEN later try to understand what happened to cause them to behave this way. This makes sense to our adult brains, but is unfortunately in the wrong order for children to be able to make sense of.
When we instead prioritise connection before we provide corrective responses, we are showing our children that we care about them as individuals, that we want to understand them and what’s upsetting them, causing them to experience big emotions and behaviours, and that we are committed to building a strong and positive relationship with them. By doing this, we create an environment where our children feel safe and supported, which can help them regulate their emotions and behaviour.
To put it simply, we need to focus on understanding our children's perspectives, actively listening to them, and showing empathy and compassion towards them. This approach is not only more effective in helping children learn and grow, but also nurtures them to develop into happy, healthy, and resilient individuals.
Remember that parenting is a journey, and it's okay to make mistakes and learn from them. By approaching these situations with warmth, understanding, and a willingness to learn and grow, you can help your child develop positive habits and behaviours over time.
If you're feeling overwhelmed or unsure of how to address your child's behaviour, consider seeking support from Jessica Cleary’s Calm and Connected Parenting online course, or book a consultation with one of our talented and passionate clinicians. We can provide guidance and support in developing effective strategies for addressing challenging behaviours and strengthening your relationship with your child.