I could have:
“If you don’t stop right now, you’ll be going straight home to your room.”
“Stop acting like a baby”
“How dare you speak to me like that? How dare you be so rude and disobedient?”
“What do you think you’re doing? Everyone is watching you”
“Why can’t you be more like your brother?”
When we look for short-term compliance we miss the bigger picture. What is driving the behaviour? How can I help my child now and in the future?
I instead took a moment to try to understand what was really going on with her. I came at it from a place of compassion, empathy and understanding.
And you know what, as soon as I had her in the car and we were driving away, she broke down in tears.
“I had the worst day ever!” she sobbed.
“My best friend didn’t sit next to me at lunch and I had no one to play with at break time.”
She had held her upset in all day in front of her friends and teachers and she needed to let it all out. She was exhausted and she couldn’t handle her emotions anymore. They came out in full force and I was the recipient because she knew that with me it was ok to let go, that I would understand.
Now, what would have happened if I had used the usual roadblocks to communication?
I would imagine it would have gotten into a whole night of power struggles and fighting. I bet I would not have found out what was really going on, my daughter would not have felt safe to let out her emotions, and it would have come out in another way, with bad behaviour all evening. She would have learnt that mummy couldn’t handle her upsets that I would only want to be with her if she was emotionally regulated.
We didn’t go to the sweet shop, I did not give in to her demands. We went home.
I can say,
“When you speak to mummy like that it makes it hard for me to understand you.”
“I don’t like being spoken to like that.”
“Let’s get into the car, we are going home.”
No shame, drama, bribes, threats or power struggles.
When we stay calm it is a lot easier for us to stay emotionally regulated and it helps our children to calm down too. We do not need to join them in their emotional storm. We need to stay calm so they can join us.
My daughter knows that she doesn’t have to hide her emotions from me and that no matter what, I am there for her. I help her to calm down and I know for sure her brain is growing stronger and more able to self-calm in the future.
I want to teach my children that all emotions are OK and I want to know how they feel.
I really don’t need to have a child having a tantrum in the street, who does?! However looking at the bigger picture instead of trying to control the moment we are building better skills for our children that will last a lifetime.
She is learning about her strong emotions and how to handle them. I would rather have a few tantrums in public if I know my daughter will be able to handle herself emotionally for the rest of her life. Her brain is actually changing shape with every step she takes in regulating her emotions. Time after time after time, her brain is developing strong connections. She is not just behaving because she is told off if she doesn’t comply.
And we are building a relationship built on trust, understanding, empathy and connection. That is where the true influence lies.