Part 2: What to do Instead of Yelling?
As promised, here’s part 2. Yesterday, a mom on Facebook noticed that I used the word suffer. I knew what I meant to say in my head, but my fingers typed suffer, and I didn’t catch it. Please forgive the slip. Also, this is a long post filled with solutions, so grab a beverage and have a read!
Tomorrow is our first Q&A, so make sure to check your inbox, the blog or FB!
Step two: Feelings
Many parents say, “I don’t have time to connect, I just want her to behave!”
I think this quote from Pam Leo says it all.
“Either we spend time meeting children’s emotional needs by filling their cup with love or we spend time dealing with the behaviors caused from the unmet needs. Either way we spend the time.”
Some parents say, “We talk about feelings all the time, and I praise her when she expresses them.” Praise doesn’t fill a child up inside the way connecting does. A lot of parents say “good job” all day long, but it doesn’t change behavior, and this article shares why.
In order for connecting can do the psychological job of filling a child up from the inside out, you [the adult] needs to:
The mere acting of stopping an auto-reaction brings awareness to how you’re really feeling inside.
Deep breathing creates a healthy distance between you and the
auto-reacting that usually happens.
Focus on what’s happening in the moment.
When you’re focused, your body language and facial expression reflects that you’re truly listening.
Be silent and let your child talk.
Doing that stops you from jumping to conclusions, filling in the blanks for
your child, or engaging in a power struggle. If silence upsets your child, simply reduce your words instead.
Active connecting has a magical quality to it.
When a child sees that you stop what you’re doing to hear them, they feel
important and safe. Their body stands taller, and they become far more
willing to listen. When a child feels safe and heard, connecting helps to reveal the emotions that motivated the behavior.
Most of all, connecting allows you to see the big picture, to see things as they are, not the illusion of how you wished things would be.
Here’s an example.
Sammy is playing outside. Mom hears a car horn honk and runs outside to
make sure that Sammy is okay. Mom finds Sammy in the street, and is about to yell, then stops and applies the mindful steps.
What Do I Believe: Mom was about to yell, then realized that her mom
used to scream, “what’s wrong with you!” from the kitchen window anytime she and her siblings went close to the edge of the lawn. Mom remembered that she always obeyed her mom when she yelled because she thought she could stop whatever was wrong with her, and the yelling would stop, too.
This memory helped mom discover an unconscious belief she had about
parenting. Mom believed that yelling will cause a child to obey, and she
unconsciously gets angry with Sammy when he doesn’t obey. Once mom found that belief, she found it easier to teach than punish, or yell.
Connecting: Mom can see from the look on Sammy’s face that he’s scared.
Typically, when Sammy gets into mischief he argues and defends his behavior, which keeps him emotional and unable to retain anything mom would say.
Mom decides to empathize with Sammy before talking, and says,
“Sweetie did that horn scare you? It scared me. I think I need a hug before
we talk any further. Would you mind giving me a hug?”
Step #1, what do I believe, brings unconscious beliefs into the light and removes the emotional blocks that leads to reacting.
Step #2, connecting, opens the door to love, empathy and support without rescuing or trying to change what’s happened.
Step #3, resolving a situation? Read on.
Step three: Mindful Questions
Yesterday’s post included some basic questions to ask. Today, I want to include the type of teaching questions that work better than timeout.
These days we’re all hyperaware of feelings, and that’s a good thing.
However, a problem is created when parents’ correct behavior without helping a child shift from being emotional to thinking more logically, first.
It’s a psychological fact that when you yell, threaten, shame, or punish, your child shifts his/her focus from listening and learning, to focusing on the fact that you’ve yelled at him/her.
Your yelling and/or punitive corrections cause fear, anxiety, confusion, and/or anger. Those emotions consume a child’s focus, when they should be listening and learning instead. The key is to shift a child’s focus from thinking emotionally, to thinking more logically. You do that by asking questions.
Not just any question works here, you need to use soul-ution questions.
I saw that term on the web and fell in love.
These questions guide a child to:
• uncover their responsibility in a situation.
• understand the impact their behavior has had on others.
• explore different resolutions in order to make a truly apology.
What do the questions sound like?
Before asking your child any questions, begin by asking yourself:
1. What’s my goal here? To stop behavior, at any cost? Or to teach my
2. What do I think my child needs to learn from this?
You’re the expert on your child. Only you know what his/her true
temperament is. Listen to your guts. Does your child need to learn
respect? Kindness? Responsibility? Whatever skills they need to learn,
make sure to craft some questions to address the lacking life skills.
3. Will my questions address the cause of this issue, or simply address
the behavior, which is the outcome of an unmet need?
4. What limits and expectations do I have for resolving this?
Are they realistic?
Here are some questions to ask your child.
I’ve included the questions from part one, in case you didn’t see it,
plus added some new ones.
• What do you think I’m going to say now?
• What were you feeling when this happened?
• Do you think you were being kind, safe, or respectful?
• How, and what, do you think your sister was feeling?
• What did you think would happen?
• What were you trying to do? What were you trying to tell her?
• What did U learn from that?
• What will you be doing differently so that never happens again?
• What will you remember most from this experience?
• Tell me what we have agreed on here?
Are those questions really enough to change behavior?
Behavior changes when the blanks are filled in. Having them think things
through as you ask them the questions, helps them fill in the blanks so they can learn.
How you’re supposed to know if this works?
James Lehman says it perfectly, “You’ll know it’s working because he’s
being held accountable. Accountability gives you the best chance for change.”
Being honest and mindful with kids when correcting behavior makes them feel respected, which in turn causes them to respect you. They feel strong, resilient, empowered, and capable, and ready to take on the challenges we all face in this world. And, I think that’s what you want!
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Now, go hug your kids!