There is an extensive amount of parenting advice out there. If you Google a simple parenting question like, "How do I get my child to sleep in their bed overnight", you will be met with over 64 million search results. We highlight some very simple and easy-to-use methods to really tune into what your child is communicating through their behaviour.
There is an extensive amount of parenting advice out there. From the moment that you announce that Baby is on the way, people start offering parenting advice based on what worked for their child. If you Google a simple parenting question like, "How do I get my child to sleep in their bed overnight", you will be met with over 64 million search results. Some of these recommendations will work for one child and not another, some have research to support them, and others rely on trial and error. All of this information can be overwhelming and how do you know where to start?
Knowing the right way to respond can become even more overwhelming when your child is pushing boundaries and testing limits. Parents will often react to the behaviour automatically based on their emotional response, and this can lead to more frustration for both the parent and child. Below we add to the abundance of parenting advice with the goal of helping parents tune into what their child’s behaviour is communicating. Every child is different and having an understanding of the purpose behind a behaviour can give you valuable information for a more effective response.
Before you respond to your child’s behaviour take a few moments to consider these three points:
1. Be curious:
- Ask yourself what might be going on for your child at that moment, for example, did they have a bad sleep? Are they unwell? Do they always get a bit cranky in the afternoons?
- Did the behaviour serve a purpose or communicate a need for your child? Was the outcome of your child’s behaviour (e.g., more attention from you, getting to play with the other child’s toy, getting some space from something upsetting)?
- Does your child currently have the skills to express these needs more appropriately?
2. Consider your goals:
- What you want your child to learn from your response (e.g., to share, ask for help, have more self-control)?
- What skills do they need to reduce the chance of this behaviour happening again? Consider your child’s developmental stage and current ability.
3. How and when to respond:
- Does your child need more time or affection before you address the behaviour? Help your child to feel calm before responding to the behaviour.
- Consider your child’s characteristics, what will help them understand what you are trying to teach them?
- Take a moment to consider how you are feeling, do you need more time before responding? If you are still processing your response to the behaviour, give yourself some more time before responding.
With more and more parenting research showing the importance of responding to a child’s emotion when reacting to challenging behaviours, we recommend taking some time to try these strategies in your own home. Just remember that to be able to tune into your kids, you will also need to learn to tune into your own needs. Often parents can find it hard to make this a priority, if that sounds like you see our blog on the importance of self-care for some tips.
Beam Registered Psychologist
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