Taking things off her or stopping her doing something she loves hasn’t worked. Speaking to her calmly about her behaviour and what’s going on hasn’t helped at all. Even getting her grandmother to speak with her hasn’t made the slightest difference!! Where am I going wrong and what do I do??
Everything ends up with her screaming and throwing herself around the room daily. No matter how calm we are with her or who tries to calmly speak to her, it’s always the same. I’m so frustrated and worried this will continue when we go home. It’s making me so upset especially that when we are at home she is such a loving and caring child, but when away it’s like she is a totally different person?? Has anyone else ever experienced this? Is it because she is away from her home? I’m so worried about her and desperately want to go down the right path as a solution. I can’t believe that she is happy, and her behaviour is really getting to everyone at the moment. Thanks in advance!!!!”
I feel for you, you’re on holiday with your family and what was supposed to be a peaceful family holiday has had you dealing with your daughter’s upsetting behaviour and putting a huge strain on your family time. If you guys are anything like me and my family, I bet you were arguing over the best way to deal with her behaviour which in itself would, of course, add to your own frustrations.
As adults, we tend to see behaviour as either good or bad. So we put judgments on our child’s behaviour. In this case, your daughter being ungrateful and generally awful.
On top of her behaviour is a fear that it will continue when you get home. So, it’s perfectly natural that you would try everything you know to control your daughter’s behaviour and shut it down.
If we look at her actions as a choice and that she chooses to act the way she does, then, of course, we would use the model of “Doing to” our child.- because we think she needs motivation to change her behaviour. So by using punishments to control her behaviour, by taking favourite toys away, by stopping her doing things she loves or by talking to her and telling her off, we think that she would be motivated enough to change her ways.
As you noticed by example, these reactions do not work and more likely to escalate her behaviour. As you said, “There are long tantrums and everything ends up in her screaming and throwing herself around the room daily. No matter how calm we are with her or who tries to calmly speak to her, it’s always the same.”
So, you now find yourself in power struggles and stressed out, that makes you and your daughter more miserable.
So, what can we do?
The first step is always to calm the situation down, For many years struggling with my own daughter’s reactive behaviour, I didn’t know that my well-meaning reactions were actually causing more stress and prolonging her reactive outbursts.
Using the 3-step coaching model I teach, “The Language of Listening® “The first premise is “All behaviour is communication.” And children will keep communicating until the feel heard.
So, as with your daughter, she is literally acting out, just like a game of charades, her upsets and her own frustrations.
As parents, we can often feel that if we acknowledge her wants or wishes we are somehow agreeing to her behaviour.
All behaviour is driven by healthy needs. Not all behaviour is healthy.
In The Language of Listening® the first step we promote is “CONNECTION” Our children feel connected when we validate their wants and needs.
The CONNECTION step is so important, and you can often see your child move from “out-of-control” behaviour straight into sadness and right into your arms for comfort.
When we don’t make the effort to truly connect, we use reactionary statements such as:
“How many times do I have to tell you. We ARE going to the beach, get used to it, you can’t always have what you want, it’s not about you, you know!”
“We just can’t go swimming, stop acting spoilt, you know we can go tomorrow.”
Making the effort to use Connection Step type of statements demonstrate that you “get it” and will better validate her point of view or wants:
- “You really want to choose what we do today”,
- “You don’t want to do that”
- “You’re so mad, you don’t want to go to the beach. You don’t want to get all sandy and you just hate that!
- “No wonder you’re feeling sad, you really wanted to go swimming and now it’s too late. I’d be mad too if I didn’t get to do what I wanted”
(Note, You don’t need to change your boundary by acknowledging her. You can still go to the beach and you don’t need to take her swimming.)
You will find that once your daughter feels validated, her need to feel understood will not have to escalate into more disruptive behaviour to try and prove to you how she really feels.
Here’s another pitfall we can easily fall into. I like to call it:
“Don’t poke the bear!”
When your daughter is upset, however silly you find it, It’s not the time to judge her behaviour, ask questions, teach, try to fix or get her to do anything.
Examples of what not to say.
- Calm down
- What’s the matter? How’re you feeling?
- You know now isn’t the time for swimming, the pool will close soon and its nearly time for dinner.
- Don’t you speak to me like that, you’re just sounding disrespectful and rude and I won’t speak to you till you calm down.
- You know, we could just go and get ice-cream instead.
The next step to helping her change her ownbehaviour is understanding what is driving her behaviour.
Behind ALL behaviour is a valid need for connection, experience and power.
The three basic needs for growth
- EXPERIENCE: Mastery of the physical body through experiential and sensory exploration
- CONNECTION: Feeling noticed, understood, validated, loved and sense of importance and belonging
- POWER: Feeling confident, in control of self, able to make an impact on the world.
To understand HOW her behaviour makes sense, start by asking yourself. “Why would my gorgeous daughter act this way? What is she trying to tell me?”
This helps you stay out of judgement and move towards compassion and connection.
Her acting out in this way suggests that she is feeling a great deal of powerlessness and disconnection. Kids live in the moment and see the world very differently to us, leading to big frustrations.
Strong-willed children have a strong need for predictability and control over their environment and a huge need to feel understood and connected. Feeling a sense of powerlessness over her environment leads her to be more demanding and controlling of you and your boundaries to try to get her need for power to be met.
She can feel the family’s frustrations at her behaviour which furthers the lack of connection and understanding, which then drives her need for even more power.
She feels misunderstood and doesn’t feel confident in her new environment. Now, start to think about what you can do to support her and have her needs met that will work for the whole family.
By understanding this you can move to the realising that your daughter isn’t being difficult and awful, she’s just struggling to get her needs met.