behavioural series

If you have a child who back talks, is defiant, loses his interest in studies, is rude, closes any form of communications with you, what will you do?

Do you hit your child?
I know, it’s convenient and it’s the fastest way to get him / her to listen to you or carry out the said instructions.

Do you use authority and make sure your child know you are in charge?
Yes, I am the mother, naturally you have to obey me! Whatever I say must be right!

Do you engage in fired bullets back and forth and finally shout out in anger as if your child is your greatest enemy?
How can we not get angry? My voice has to be louder than my child’s because I am THE authority!

I confess. Throughout my 9 years of being a mum, I have done all of the above. It doesn’t take a rude child to trigger these actions from me. It only needs my fatigue, impatience and pride to do all the above.

Recently, I attended a very good parenting talk by Lee Chong Jian 李崇建 (This is NOT a sponsored post) from Taiwan. I have attended his talk last year organized by my children’s school. He teaches me these.

Emotions and communication
As parents, the first thing we need to do is to check our emotions.
Next, when we talk to a child with behavioural problems, we need to be on eye level with the child.
Then, to melt the child’s cold front, we have to reach to his innermost emotions.

How to reach to the innermost emotions of the child?

Just say these words “I understand how you feel…”, and of course, you HAVE to understand how they feel.

You need to understand why the child is behaving this way or that way. If the child seems to be angry or upset, you MUST try to find out why.

Your child has not been cooperative with whatever you ask him or her to do. What should you do?

You imagine yourself as your child and reflect on the scenario taking place before the incident. The scenario can be one that repeats the same everyday. Each day when you come back from work, the first thing you do is to scan through the house and you only have eyes on what is wrong in the house. You see a school bag strewn on the floor and not kept in its place. School shoes and socks scattered in the weirdest corner. You walk further into the house and see that your child is about to touch the computer. Your first words after stepping into the house are:

“Why is your bag on the floor?”
“Why are your shoes and socks not in their proper places?”
“You are on the computer again?”
“Have you done your homework?”
“Didn’t I tell you time and again, you cannot play computer games on weekdays?”
and on and on…

Now, reverse the role from your child’s perspective.

I am the child, I just spent 9 hours in school. I am tired. I rushed to the bathroom to pee immediately after I reached home. I did my homework in school already. Now, I am about to fetch a book from the table to read and my fingers happened to hover over the computer. There my mum starts scolding me. She just assumes I am lazy and thinks that I am going to play computer games. She DOESN’T UNDERSTAND me at all!

And the backtalk starts…

Your child has emotions. If he does not have the chance to release his emotions and obeys you in whatever you say, do you think he will be a happy child? He will suppress all emotions within and obey you because you use authority over him, use a cane to tame him or triumph over a shouting match. When such situations replay over and over again every single day, soon, the child will be an angry child, a child who shuts out all communication with you and closes his heart to you.

When you understand things from your child’s point of view, you will be able to understand why he behaves this way. It is a reaction and a retaliation to your negative attitude towards him. What if your boss treats you this way? What if your spouse returns home from work and treats you this way? You feel sore, don’t you? You feel that he doesn’t understand you.

Check our emotions
Are we transferring our fatigue, stress from work, unhappiness over some issues to our children unknowingly? Before we talk to our children, we should put aside our negative emotions within us and then only can we start talking or even give instructions. With a relaxed body, we are able to transmit the message effectively across to the child because our voice naturally will follow a neutral tone as compared to an agitated tone.

Look the child in the eye
Go down to the child level and look into his eyes when we talk to them. Kneel down if you need to.

Reach into his innermost feelings
“You seem angry. Can you tell me more about it?”
“You are upset that your brother broke your favourite sunglasses. I can understand how you treasure that lovely sunglasses which was your 4th birthday gift.”
“I understand you are unhappy with what Sharon did in school to you.”
“You must be feeling sore about not being chosen for the school team.”
“I know……”
“I understand…….”
“I know……”

Such “I know how you feel” sentences will help you reach into your child’s closed up emotions and open them up like a right key to a lock. Most of the times, your child will start to tear up and let loose his anger, sadness, negative feelings because he FEELS that you understand him. He trusts you and is not afraid or embarrassed to cry out in front of you. He feels secure with you. You just touched that sensitive chord within.

Your child starts to trust you again like how he trusted you when he was a baby. You were once able to pre-empt your baby’s needs and soothe his cries. Remember those days? Over the years, we forgot about how to acknowledge their needs. We forgot how to soothe them. We risk facing a closed up door. We forgot that even though they have grown up, their wants for love and security are still the same.

Each child is a human. A human has emotions. No matter how old we are, deep down we are like a child. We all love to be soothed, understood and be loved.

Today, when you see your child, see him like the newborn that was put into your arms. He needs you to reach out to him and he will reach out to you eventually.

This post first appears on Kids R Simple and is Part 1 of what I have learnt from Lee Chong Jian’s parenting talk as well as my own thoughts. Stay tune for Part 2 – Put down your expectations on your child and Part 3 – Let go, don’t teach your child

Do you have a difficult child or a challenging phase that you are going through with your child? Tell me about it and how, if, you manage to solve the problems.