Why is it that you try so hard to find solutions to your child’s behaviour so that you can be calm, only to find that the solutions don’t work, and you end up being angry again?
This is a common question I get asked by clients doing our 28 Day Tame your Temper Parenting Challenge.
Here’s my answer:
Most of the time, the problem isn’t the solutions causing you the anger, but the self-worth attachment you have to NEEDING the solutions to work.
We live in an instant gratification world where everything is at our fingertips and so often I see parents get attached to the outcome of implementing solutions – expecting immediate results. There’s no flexibility in between the now and the outcome.
When you decide on what solution to try, you get attached to the result you want. You NEED it to reach that outcome for some reason and you make it mean something about you when you can’t.
For example: When we get upset over child behaviour, it’s always because we have personalised it somehow. When you implement a strategy and it doesn’t work, what is the conversation you’re having with yourself?
I’m a shit mother/father? Why can’t I control my child? Everybody is looking at me thinking I’ve got no idea what I’m doing? They don’t love me, respect me, or appreciate me?
In the above, we’ve made their behaviour all about ourselves. That’s what causes the upset.
But when you jump out of the world of you and into the world of your child, here’s what you most likely find:
a) They are still at a developmental stage where logic and reasoning are not active parts of the brain (children under 4); they are learning how to communicate their wants and needs and starting to play around with ways of doing this, including copying other behaviours they see – yours, friends, relatives, siblings etc (school age children); their brain is doing a major rewire where they are not using logic and reasoning a lot of the time to make decisions and there is a lot of hormonal confusion going on, plus they are trying to gain independence and control over their lives in preparation for adulthood (teenagers).
b) Their behaviour is coming from their own interpretations of their life; how they fit in, whether they feel loved, whether they feel accepted, approved of, or over controlled etc.
c) Because they get something out of the behaviour. It either helps them to defend themselves or it gets them what they want.
In all three cases above, the reason behind your child’s behaviour wasn’t even about you. It was about them and how they were perceiving life.
Before you even look at their behaviour, you have to first understand why it’s there in the first place, by understanding where they are at in their brain development, how they’re perceiving the family dynamics (and social dynamics with older children) and what their payoff is. Everyone makes decisions to move towards a better feeling place (pursue pleasure and avoid pain).
So when you look to solutions for an immediate fix before you can get to your better feeling place, it’s bound to cause upset. You’re in conflict with the reality of learning and development of children (and humans for that matter).
It took some time to set up the behaviour, so it can take some time to deconstruct that behaviour and build new habits, and rules of engagement, or it can take time simply for an entirely new phase in development to take effect.
The reality is that some solutions aren’t an immediate fix, especially when it involves the behaviour of someone else and family dynamics.
If you personalise the solutions you are trying out on your kids it suggests to me that you likely hold the belief that you ‘should’ know how to fix/stop/improve behaviour or perhaps you believe you are the one responsible for the outcome of your child’s behaviour (which you can’t be. You can be responsible for what you teach your children about life and a standard you will/won’t accept for their behaviour, but you can’t ever be responsible for another person’s behaviour and choices. That’s their choice based on the circumstances, their brain development and priorities they hold in that moment).
The reality to adopt in your mindset is one of flexibility in some instances. Recognise that repetition and consistency is what helps to shape our children’s beliefs and priorities. You will need flexibility in time frame you place on when you will reach those preferred child behaviours.
You will also need flexibility in expecting a certain outcome from yourself. Sometimes the solutions you try to implement won’t work, and you’ll have to try another one. That’s okay. That’s normal. They reckon that Thomas Edison tried 1000 different times to invent the light bulb before he was successful. Michael Jordon lost 300 games, missed 9000 shots and 26 times he was given the ball to take the winning shot and missed!
Everything in life comes with hit and miss, and way too often we let outcomes define our worth as a parent, instead of just accepting the reality that parenting is not about perfection, but about awareness and adjustment where persistence, learning, tweaking and sticking to our goal, or knowing when to just let it go and pursue another goal, is in order.
Keep your self-worth out of it and keep focusing on where you are right now, where your child is at, what you want for you and your child, and how you can bridge that gap.