"I can't believe you did that!": Handling the moments when our children's behavior
We have all been there. The moment when our kids behavior is mortifying and so embarrassing. Let's say you are at lunch with your friends and their kids. Your friend's children are sitting quietly at the table, with what seems like perfect manners. They are the same age as your children, maybe even a bit younger. Your kids on the other hand, seem out of control, especially in contrast. They are loud, they are energetic, they struggle to sit still, and to top it off they are one small step away from a massive meltdown or tantrum. You feel judged, even if you aren't. You can't wait for this to be over and all you want is to get back in the car and go home. You feel the anger and agitation rising inside you. You feel your anxiety increasing with every passing second. We have all been there. We all have moments when we feel like our children are out of control. We feel like we are losing all control. We start threatening our kids, anything to make them pull it together just until we get out of public. These are the moments in which we tend to be highly reactive. We are embarrassed we feel judged (whether or not we are is irrelevant,...this is how we FEEL), and one of or hot buttons just got pushed. our kids seem out of control and we are feeling ourselves slowly loose control over ourselves too. What now? How do we get out of this situation? How do restore any resemblance of order?
1)Take a breath: That's right...when in doubt breathe. Not only does deep breathing calm us but it creates a moment of pause that can allow us to think before reacting. Take a breath and try to calm yourself. f your kids are struggling to manage themselves, they are not going to get better at this if you join them in the chaos and become highly emotional. I know...easier said than done! Trust me, I know. I too get reactive and have to slow myself down. Sometimes I catch myself and some times I don't. What I can tell you is that when I don't, my kids feed off my own highly reactive energy and don't get any better at calming down. Usually the opposite happens. The situation escalates. 2) Focus on your child: This allows you to do your best at focusing just on your child. Not the other people around, not your friend, just your child. Push away the expectations, and the fact that you are embarrassed and play detective. What does your child need? What is their behavior for? Do they need attention because you are distracted with your friend? Are they hungry? Are they bored? Are they tired? Are they overstimulated and needing to calm down away from the table? Figuring what is driving the behavior will ensure that you are able to meet the need, solve the problem, and help your child switch gears. 3) Realize that all children are different: We as parents get so caught up in comparing ourselves, and our kids, to others. The reality is that we are all different. Kids have varying needs and abilities to handle situations. I think about myself and my sister. She was always the one who could be entertained at a meal with adults. She was better at sitting quietly and just going with the flow. I was the child that was high energy. I liked to move, I liked to wiggle, and I liked stimulation. Neither is better than the other. Just different. So, honor who your child is. Value that. Those traits will help them grow into the amazing unique individuals that they will become. One day those challenging traits will be wonderful assets. That child that argues and debates every rule may become a successful entrepreneur thanks to their ability to think outside of the box, their confidence, and their drive to do things their way. 4) Take a time out (both for you and the child): If you need to remove yourself, or your child from the situation do so. Sometimes we have to take our kids outside so we don't disrupt those around us. Sometimes our child needs a quiet moment to connect with us or to just get away. Offer these options. Maybe a change of scenery is enough to switch gears. Take your own time out to regroup if you can. This will help you stay calm and in control so that you can help your child manage themselves better. 5) Realize that we can never really control our child (ren): We feel like our children's behavior is a reflection on our parenting. This is not necessarily the case. You could be an award winning parent and your child is going to have moments when their behavior is less than ideal. Children are learning. They are learning to manage the world and they are learning to manage themselves. Just because a child is having a meltdown, does not mean the parent id doing anything "wrong" . Your child may have sensory issues that causes them to interact with the world a certain way. Maybe they seek stimulation and are very physical because of this. This has nothing to do with your parenting. The idea that we can control anther human being is a fallacy. While we may think we have control the reality is, our kids can go against our rules, wishes, or expectations at anytime. Often our most challenging parenting moments are power struggles caused by us trying to control our child and our child resisting our control by doing the opposite of what we are asking.
This is where our relationship with our child comes into play. This is where we explore with our child their challenges, their motivations, and their needs. This is where we collaborate with them to problem solve and come up with a solution. This is where we share how their behavior can impact others and that there is a time and a pace for being loud and silly, but this isn't it.
Of course there will be times, when these steps seem too challenging. This takes practice. We all have our buttons that get pushed. Being a self aware parent is necessary. Knowing your buttons is important. Being able to separate yourself from your feelings of embarrassment and being judged is essential.
Find comfort in knowing that EVERY PARENT HAS BEEN HERE! Find comfort in knowing that your child's behavior in any given moment does not reflect on you as a parent. What we should be focusing on is our response to our children in these moments.
The relationship and connection we have with them is a larger reflection of our parenting than any behavior ever could be.
Claudia Glassman is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Registered Play Therapist, and Parenting Coach who offers one on one coaching services. Claudia is passionate about helping parents find joy and gain confidence in their parenting abilities. Her vision is to share her knowledge and bring awareness to the importance of the relationship that we have with our children.