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The Parenting Coach: Ain’t Misbehaving

Posted By Karen Young On May 25, 2010 @ 12:02 am In spotlight,The Parenting Coach | 5 Comments

BY GILA BROWN, M.A.

So often parents are faced with kids ‘behaving badly’. Kids talk back, they yell, they kick and scream, and sometimes they even lie. When our children behave in ways we don’t like, our inclination is to make it stop… and fast. However, that instinct is more of a reflection of our needs than those of our kids. Deterrents, such as time-outs, and other punishments, are employed and are often, temporarily, effective.

But, let’s consider our own behavior. Is initiation into adulthood somehow an indicator that we have outgrown misbehaving? We all know enough adults who prove otherwise. The truth is, we all behave ‘badly’ at times. We might curse at someone who cut us off on the freeway. We might snap at someone we love because we’ve had a difficult day. We might pass up an opportunity to be of service to someone else, because we are feeling selfish or slighted. The key, though, is that our behavior is ALWAYS a reflection of how we are feeling. When we feel judged, guilty, angry, alone, attacked, rejected, frustrated or even physically ill, our behavior reflects that. Consider how much more likely we are to do something nice for someone else, when we are feeling really good about ourselves.

Imagine for a moment if, the next time you acted out, someone stepped in to punish you. Let’s imagine that a friend said something that you felt was insulting. Feeling criticized, you found yourself taking it out on your spouse or your kids. What if the behavior police came by and sent you to a corner? What if you were sent to your room without dinner? In what way would that punishment serve to resolve what was going on for you? The answer is that, not only would it not serve you, but it is also likely to exacerbate your hurt feelings, resulting in further disruptive behavior.

These types of traditional punishments tend to serve the adult rather than the child. Sending a disruptive child into a time-out or to their room is akin to sweeping the trash under the rug. Out of sight- out of mind. But, there are consequences to sweeping the kids under the rug.

1. The child’s initial hurt goes unresolved.

2. The child does not feel heard, understood, validated or supported by his parents.

3. The child associates his feelings with his behavior and, when the behavior is labeled as bad, he understands the underlying feelings to be bad, as well. He learns to stifle his emotions in order to avoid further punishment.

4. The punishment causes feelings of rejection that compound the initial hurt.

5. Without a healthy acknowledgement and awareness of how feelings manifest into behaviors, a child does not learn alternatives to express himself more effectively in the future.

6. The parent misses an opportunity to show unconditional love, build trust and become a true ally for the child.

Ultimately, the key is to focus on feelings, not behaviors. When we can help children understand their emotions, when we can validate and support them, they no longer need to act out.

Gila Brown, M.A. is a Child Development Expert and Parent Coach, with over 10 years of teaching experience. She specializes in parenting school-age children with grace, using principles of attachment parenting, positive discipline and effective communication. Visit www.GilaBrown.com to sign up for a free newsletter.

© Gila Brown, 2009

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