WHAT IS YOUR CHILD REALLY TELLING YOU!?
Thank you to all of the mothers, whom allow me into their lives, into their homes, and into their hearts. Thank you for the opportunity to get to know the magnificent, pure beings that are your children.
As we all know kids throw tantrums; they hit, they scream, they yell. They may lie, steal, and manipulate to get their way. Sometimes they may ignore us and go against what we tell them to do. But why is this? Is it because they really want to hurt you?
Is it because they really want to embarrass you in the grocery store? Did they really intend on breaking your favorite vase out of spite and rage? Or maybe you’re just the world’s worst parent? Hm… I’m going to deny all of the above.
I suggest a mind shift: Kids are not calculated and cruel and that their behaviors are not personal attacks to us but instead their way of communicating.
Children’s behaviors tell us something deeper. They invite us, if we accept, to be lead to what is really going on. As a parent it’s important to be mindful and skilled at asking yourself this self –reflection question; “What is she/he really trying to tell me?”
To show the power of this reflective question, let me share a story.
One of the sweetest, most fun seeking, soft spoken kids I get the honor to work with is a 6 year old big brother. Let’s call him J. His mother, a family oriented, young mom meets with me on a regular basis and has been brave enough to open up to me about her confusion on how to help her son and stop his tantrums.
Tantrums. Those outburst of energy that make us parents want to swoop in and either comfort, discipline, or maybe even the opposite and run away leaving the child in the middle of the grocery aisle.
For about a year I have been working with this family on 2 goals: improving parenting skills; and increasing the child’s compliance. Now, let me just note that I am not a fan of “compliance.” It is a form of control that is used to get others to bend to our wishes and commands. So instead of “compliance” or “obedience,” I encourage another mind shift: Let us strive for cooperation.
Most recently, J has been having daily tantrums. The mother has told me that he will throw these tantrums when he doesn’t get his way and the mother tries her best to “get him to relax.” When I ask her what seems to trigger his tantrum she will respond that most of the time he will “ask for something to eat or drink.” When I further investigate, I find out that the child has been given food and something to drink and therefore the mother will do one of two things:
Deny his request with a “No,” remind him that he has already eaten, and no further dialogue other than to send him on his way. Unacknowledged of his true request and frustrated, he “throws a tantrum.”
Or she will bring him something to eat or drink in which the child will then reject it and say something along the lines of “I don’t want that.” J will then point to something “sugary.” (Which the mother does not give into this request. Yay! Smart mommy decision!) Yet again, dissatisfied, he “throws a tantrum.”
**Breathe deeply** (Self –reflection: What do you do when your child throws a tantrum?)
As I sit and listen to this mother, understandably feeling frustrated and confused, I ask her why she thinks he throws the tantrum, either way; if she rejects his request or if she plays into it and tries to appease him.
The mother responds, “Because he wants attention.”
So I continue to ask her, “If he had your attention what would he tell or show you?”
She responds, “That he is hungry.”
So I look into her eyes and ask again, “If you do or you don’t, give him food, he still throws a tantrum. You tell me that he is fed. It doesn’t seem to be about the food. So if he had your attention what would he say or do?”
The mother looks at me puzzled. I then ask her “Why do people eat or drink, if they are not truly hungry?”
It clicks for her…and for me. We finally get what he is trying to say. An ‘aha’ moment!
She looks at me and responds, “He would say that he is bored.”
Now that is something we can actually tackle without food or sugar! So I encouraged her to get silly, fun, creative, spontaneous, mindful of the moment, on the floor. Play! Something most of us adults forget the importance of!
This story is an example of the importance of being mindful. Staying in the present moment, non-judgmentally, with open curiosity towards what our children are really telling us. If we accept the invitation and listen, whole heartedly with genuine curiosity, not only do we build a strong connection with our children, but we allow them to remind us of the beautiful things in life! And what you also want…some of those tantrums become a part of the past.
Practice your own deep breathing the next time your child throws a tantrum. Give him time to cool off…and give that time to yourself as well!
Then ask yourself:
- How can I let my child know I want to hear what they have to say?
- How can I show my child that having feelings (even overwhelming ones) is okay and that I am here to hold a calm space for him, when he loses his own control?
How can I show my child different, healthier ways of expressing her feelings?