Parenting is hard. Really hard. It can be a thankless job in which your efforts are very rarely appreciated or recognized (by other adults, let alone your own child!). So, when was the last time your child misbehaved, causing you to feel anger, defeat, or frustration? If you're still reading, I'm guessing it hasn't been too long! Parenting is the most difficult job of all, and it can be easy to take our child's behavior personally. I often hear parents share their feelings of failure or sheer dissappointment regarding their child's behaviors. They wonder why their child is acting this way toward them... and rightly so! Whether you have a toddler who regularly screams "NO!" and "MINE!", or a pre-teen who rolls their eyes at you every chance they get, these behaviors are not only infuriating - they are confusing!
So what are these behaviors about? Why is it so hard to parent at times? First of all, there is no magic wand or one single parenting book to solve the mystery. However, in my experience as a child therapist, I have learned that all behavior is an effort to communicate something. This concept is crucial, so I will repeat myself: All behavior is an effort to communicate something. My point is, your child wants you to know, and understand HOW THEY FEEL. They will do whatever they can to communicate this to you. Instead of your child saying, "Excuse me, Mommy. I am feeling so tired and hungy and irritable, I could really use a hug and some encouragement right about now, along with my snack and nap," you might see a full on raging tantrum. That anger and frustration you feel when they are throwing a tantrum? Chances are they are feeling angry and frustrated too, and are using the skills they have to convey these difficult emotions.
A change in perspective can bring a refreshing element to any parenting approach. The next time your kiddo is spiraling out of control or testing your nerves, remember this: THEY NEED YOU TO FEEL HOW THEY FEEL. Try viewing their behavior through another lens... the lens of a child's world... and see if it makes a difference. A little empathy can go a long way!
- Alison Cotter