It was Saturday. My husband, who had been working late all week was really excited for the weekend, being able to do one of his favourite things in the world – spending time with his family. So we discussed about where we could go and what to do. It was decided that we go out for lunch and then bowling.
We started to get ready but my daughter Am, was being particularly difficult with taking a shower, and choosing appropriate clothes to go out. I gave her choices so that we could get on with it and leave the house. But she continued with really, really challenging behaviours.
We got in the car and got buckled up with our seat belts – but she refused to wear it. Lots of power struggle there.
We got to the mall to have lunch – she said she was sleepy and she wanted to lean on her dad while walking. Then she said she couldn’t walk. Then it was her just walking at snail like speed. Then it was because she was feeling too cold to walk and needed to be carried.
You can imagine how frustrating this was for us. I was already so annoyed, and on the verge of raising my voice.
Finally, we got to the restaurant after looking through some options. We were at a new mall, so we were not familiar with the eating places there.
When we walked in, she pinched her nose, saying that it was smelly. That she didn’t like that restaurant, and that she was not hungry.
The whole time, we were ignoring her because it was just more convenient that way at that point in time.
After we ordered our food, I knew that this was a good time to use an Aware Parenting tool – setting loving limits with connection.
I told my husband that I was going to bring her out of the restaurant away from people so that she could have a good cry.
I carried her, and found a spot that was private enough. People could still see us, but we were far away enough from them.
I squatted down to her level, held her hand and said, “I see that you are very upset and you are not happy being out. Can you please tell me what’s wrong?”
She said that she didn’t want to go out in the first place. She just wanted to stay home. But no one listened to her.
Then she burst out crying.
“I hear you, sayang, you didn’t want to go out, you wanted to stay home but nobody was listening to what you wanted.”, mirroring her words.
She nodded and cried harder.
“I’m so sorry we didn’t listen to you. We should have asked what you wanted. But we are already out right now, and we are about to have our lunch so that we could go bowling after this.”
I wiped her tears, and hugged her. I gave her a few minutes and then she started to calm down.
I asked, “Are you ready to go back in there now? I’m hungry, I’m sure you are too.”
She said, “But it’s smelly…”
I said, “Yes, there’s smell in there.. everyone can smell it, I can smell it, Ayah can smell it, Kakak can smell it but we are just ignoring it. Shall we go back there now?”
She said okay. So I carried her again, told her I loved her and gave her a big hug. She returned the hug and said she loved me too.
Once we sat down, she gave a big smile and started telling her jokes. It was an instant switch from her challenging behaviour earlier, to being her jovial self.
She ate her food all by herself, even had second helping and then bowling was super duper fun.
For that, I am so thankful to learn this tool from Aware Parenting. We managed to get to the cause of the challenging behaviour and solved it peacefully and respectfully. Thank goodness I stayed patient and didn’t raise my voice at her. That would have gone very bad.
Can you relate to those challenging behaviours in your child? Maybe you face different degree of challenging behaviour, but we all go through it as parents.
I thought I’d give you a checklist of what to do when you are in that situation and you don’t want to resort to yelling or using power-over approach, that you might regret later.
In Am’s situation, she had feelings of powerlessness and unmet needs. Nobody listened or gave her a choice to go out that day. She tried to tell us but we didn’t really listen. So she tried to tell us through challenging behaviours.
Children don’t act out this way to purposely be difficult or manipulative. There is usually and underlying reason to cause such behaviours.
Here are practical steps that you can take instead of yelling at your child:
☐ Ask her what’s going on, from a place of empathy and wanting to understand what she’s experiencing.
☐ Does she have a need that’s not being met and needs to be attended to? Attend to the need.
☐ Give her the information she needs to make her own choice.
☐ If need be, state the limit calmly and firmly, addressing the behavior but being fully accepting of her feelings, without shaming, punishing or in any way feel bad about herself.
☐ If she’s upset, empathise with her. Allow her the space and give permission to feel what she’s feeling.
☐Your empathy and listening to what’s important to her, is going to help her truly feel that you‘re on her team.
☐ If your child is already super upset and in a full blown meltdown, ride out the situation as best you can, offering your calm presence and physical closeness, and then talk with her about it once it’s passed, addressing the behaviour and discussing what she could have done instead so you’re both prepared the next time.
2 general guidelines to always keep in mind when your children misbehave are to:
1) Address the root cause of the behaviour instead of the symptom and
2) Make sure the way you respond to the behaviour will get you the long term result you want and not going for a quick fix – like bribing or threatening
Click here to download the Cheat Sheet in PDF so that you can print it out and stick it on your fridge for a quick reminder when you are in the thick of your child’s offtrack behaviour.
I hope that was helpful!
Do you have your own ways to calmly solve your child’s challenging behaviour? I’d love to hear from you!