Happy Valentine’s Day! How Can You Get More Love Out of Your Child?
Posted: February 7, 2019
Sure, she looks all sweet in the photo, but just tell her she can’t have her way, and watch the smile turn into something you just don’t want to witness. Sound familiar?
If it does, you may wonder how you help a child who can be very nice in front of others, but when it comes to being home with your family, is able to wreak havoc at any moment. Luckily, there are some great ways to handle this.
1. Have a heart-to-heart talk, just the two of you. Say, “Honey, it seems like I see such a great girl out in public. Your teachers just love you, you get along with your friends, and you’re so polite to their parents. And then you come home, and it’s all so rough. I hear demanding, yelling, stomping, crying and slamming. Can you tell me what’s going on? Maybe you don’t want to tell me right now, but if you do, I want to listen. If not, I’ll get back to you when you’ve had time to think about it. How about tomorrow at 5?” This gives your daughter time to reflect on what is going on. Maybe she doesn’t even know what her triggers are, but you’ve now respectfully opened the door to her figuring them out.
2. Whether it’s now or later, allow an open-hearted time to just listen. Maybe she’s upset because something happened at school, but she was too embarrassed to talk about it. Maybe she’s mad at you because she feels like you never pay attention to her (even though it seems like that’s all you do!) Maybe she’s not feeling well, or worried about something. It could be one of these or myriad other reasons, but here’s your chance to get to the bottom of the feelings. When the feelings are heard, the upsetting behavior won’t be so necessary. When a child feels seen and heard, she loses the need to get your attention in negative ways.
3. Listen without fixing or correcting. Just reflect. “You feel as if I never pay attention to you, and that makes you really mad.” Even if this is a preposterous thought, let it be. It will take some courage and big resolve not to correct her, but the return on investment of your time and attention will be tremendous. You are not seeking the absolute truth here. You are seeking her truth, whether it seems true to you or not.
4. Apologize if it feels right to you. If you have been too busy to give your daughter the attention she needs, say so. “I’m sorry, Honey. I have been so wrapped up in (work, your siblings’ sports, the house project, my parent’s illness) that I have not been able to talk to you the way I’d like. Let’s make a plan for some one-on-one time this weekend.”
5. If you don’t feel like an apology is warranted, that’s OK. Maybe you’ve given your daughter “the moon” but she still doesn’t seem satisfied. Just probe now, very matter-of-factly. “When I took you to practice last week, that felt like you didn’t have enough attention.” “When I gave you a ride to your friend’s house, you still felt like I wasn’t there for you.” “When I made spaghetti when you asked, it seemed like I still didn’t care.” “When I bought you that top on Saturday, it felt like it wasn’t enough.” Don’t defend your actions, just try to get her to think about reasonable expectations. She may say, “Yeah, you did all those things for me, but I still wanted that new video game.” Now just hang in there. “I hear you. When I didn’t go out and get the game, you felt as if I didn’t really care about you.” “Yeah.” Then just say, “Thank you for telling me how you’re feeling.” No lecture on gratitude, no defenses. What you’re doing here is letting your daughter hear the illogical way her mind is working. This is much more powerful than your telling her, so allow time for it to occur.
6. Just wait a few hours or days. When kids have been out of line, and you give them time to process it, they can “bubble to the surface” with their own insight and apology. Again, this is much more powerful than your mini-lecture on gratitude. The learning is coming from inside the child and her direct experience, which results in a much more effective lesson.
7. Give her heartfelt appreciation for her insight. “When you think about things and come up with your own ideas, I am really impressed! It shows how grown up you’re getting.”
You’ve just avoided a big scene, which may have turned into an even bigger one. You’ve equipped your daughter to think about her own actions without having to say, “Now think about your actions, Young Lady!” We all know how well that works. And you’ve engaged in a type of communication that sets the stage for more openness between you and your child. Win, win, win.
If you would like help with this or any other parenting issue, visit www.parentingmojo.com/parent-coaching, and feel free to call 651-453-0123 or write firstname.lastname@example.org for an appointment.