Behavior Problems Child Development Limit Setting Parental Stress Parenting Tools

When kids misbehave, don’t blame them for your reaction!

When kids misbehave, don’t blame them for your reaction!

You are at a restaurant with your closest friend and Carson your 7 year old son. Carson starts to misbehave. First, he tries to get up and leave. You bring him back. Then he starts to scream and bang his fork and spoon. It is embarrassing and it is disturbing your conversation with your friend and other diners sitting nearby. Carson asks for your phone to watch a video. At first you refuse. Carson keeps up the demand for the phone.

Fortunately you are prepared. You take out paper and crayons. That does not work. You then take out a few favorite little toys. That does not work. Now you are annoyed at him. But finally, with a sigh of resignation you hand Carson your cell phone to watch a video. That immediately quiets him.

Uh-oh, now you feel guilty and defeated. You have been told not to allow too much screen time.

Then you reflect and eventually decide it’s OK. Here is your reflective thought process…..

You recognize you can’t both talk to your friend and pay attention to your child. You must choose. You realize your child is not being difficult. It is the situation that is difficult for your child. He’s probably bored and having a hard time sitting there for so long, so he is just trying to get your attention. You also reflect on the reason for your behavior. It might be your friend really needs you today to talk about a problem she is having, so you want to give her your full attention.  Or it could be you need to just have time to relax with your friend and have a break from your child.

The scene here is a restaurant. But similar misbehavior can happen anywhere– in the car, in the supermarket, when visiting relatives or when you have an important phone call.

What should you have done? There is no right answer. Choosing to give your phone or not give your phone are both fine options. In other words, it depends.

Reflective Parenting gives you choices. Choose what is going to work best for you, for your child and for the situation.

But no matter what you choose to do, the point is to be honest with yourself. Take responsibility for your actions and your reasons for taking those actions.

Here is what I mean. Often a parent’s choices are based more on the parent’s needs and feelings than on their child’s. In such cases your role is to recognize that what you are doing is about you and not about your child.

The benefit of being honest
is that you can turn a situation like giving in about the cell phone into a reflective learning experience for your child.

  • At the restaurant you might say, “I know it is not good for you to watch too many videos, but in this situation, I can’t pay attention to you, because I want to talk to my friend.”
  • In the car you might say, “I am having a really hard time focusing on my driving while the two of you argue in the back seat. That’s why I am going to give you my cell phone to watch a video. I don’t like to give you my phone just to have you be quiet in the car. But this time I’m doing it to keep me calm.”

Wow! What a gift to your child. This kind of reflective language with your child is critical to your child’s social and emotional development.

Here is what your child will learn

  • Feelings, needs and thoughts determine people’s actions
  • People often do things because they feel divided and conflicted
  • Other people usually respond more to their own inner mental states than to what you are doing or saying
  • If you role model being reflective with your child, they will be reflective with others

What happens when parents are not honest and do not ‘own’ their motivations and feelings? The outcome is that parents then tend to put the blame on their child. A common example is a parent who is disappointed in themselves for giving in too easily about the phone. They might blame their child by saying, “Why can’t you just entertain yourself! Why do you always make me give you my phone!”

The beauty of Reflective Parenting is it reduces the shame and defensiveness that parents can feel. It recognizes we are all human. We all have weaknesses and vulnerabilities. We all act in ways we don’t want to and are not always proud of.

What Reflective Parenting encourages you to do in situations like these is to step up, own it and make clear that it as your issue and not your child’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to do when kids misbehave? Turn it into a reflective lesson for your child and you.

 

 

You are at a restaurant with your closest friend and your 7yr. old son. He starts to misbehave. First, he tries to get up and leave. You bring him back. Then he starts to scream. It is embarrassing and it is disturbing your conversation with your friends and other diners sitting nearby. Fortunately, you are prepared. You take out paper and crayons. That does not work. You then take out a few favorite little toys. That does not work. Finally, you hand him your cell phone to watch a video. That quiets him. You have been told not to allow too much screen time. So, you feel a little guilty about it. However, you decide it’s OK. You are reflective. You realize your child is not being difficult. You recognize it is the situation that is difficult for your child. You know the reason for your child’s behavior is because he is bored and it is hard for a child to sit still for long periods of time. You know your child is just trying to get your attention. You also reflect on the reason for your behavior. Possibly your friend really needs you today. She is having a problem, so you need to give her your full attention.  Or it could be you need it. You need to just have time to relax with your friend and have a break from your child.

 

The scene here is a restaurant. But similar misbehavior can happen anywhere- in the car, when visiting relatives or when you have an important phone call. One thing I love about reflective parenting is that it is an all-purpose tool for any kind of situation.
Another thing I love about reflective parenting, is it gives you choices. You can choose what is going to work best for you, for your child and for the situation.

 

But no matter what the behavior or the situation, and no matter what you choose to do, the point is to be honest with yourself. Own it! Take responsibility for your actions and your reasons for taking those actions.

 

Here is what I mean. Often a parent’s choices are really based on the parent’s needs and the parent’s feelings rather than on whatever is going on for their child- what the child is doing or why? Your role is to recognize that what you are doing is about you and not about your child.

 

You may notice you feel a little disappointed in your child. You may wish your child could self-entertain with crayons or a toy. You may feel a bit disappointed in yourself, for ‘giving in’ about giving your child your phone. When parents do not ‘own’ their motivations and feelings, they tend to put the blame on their child. “Why can’t you just entertain yourself! Why do you always make me give you my phone!” Giving your child your phone even when your best instincts tell you not to give in, won’t harm your child. It only harms your child if you attribute your reasons to some fault with your child. ‘You are too demanding’ or ‘You are too needy’ or ‘You are too manipulative.’
The benefit of being honest is that you can turn a situation like handing the cell phone over as a last resort, into a reflective learning experience for your child. For example, you might say, “I know it is not good for you to watch too many videos, but in this situation, I am having a hard time paying enough attention to you, because I want to talk to my friend.” Or you might say, “I am having a really hard time focusing on my driving while the two of you in the back seat are arguing. That’s why I am going to give you my cell phone to watch a video. I don’t generally like to give you my phone just to have you be quieter in the car. But this time I need it.” Wow what a gift to your child. This is how they learn that people often do things because they feel divided and conflicted. It is critical for their social and emotional development for your child to learn that feelings, needs and thoughts determine people’s actions and to appreciate how others respond to their inner mental states. Remember Reflective Parenting is not just about understanding your child, and understanding yourself, it is also about role modeling being reflective.

The beauty of Reflective Parenting is that it embraces real parents. We are all human. We all act in ways we don’t want to and are not always proud of. But what Reflective Parenting encourages you to do is to step up and accept your weakness and let your child know they are your weaknesses, not your child’s.

 

 

About

About

As a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, I have been in private practice for over 35 years, with a special interest in parents and couples.

Calendar

November 16, 2017
  • Reflect to Connect: The What, Why and How of Relationship Building With Your Child November 16, 2017 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm PS1 Pluralistic School 1225 Broadway , CA 90404, Santa Monica, CA, 90004

    Reflect to Connect: The What, Why and How of Relationship Building With Your Child: Regina Pally will talk about her book, ‘The Reflective Parent: How to do less and relate more with your kids’ at PS1, Pluralistic School. 

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