Do you feel helpless and exhausted reacting to your kids all the time?
“How many times do I have to ask you to...unload the dishwasher, do your homework, clean your room, stop fighting with your brother, ect.) ?!”
“I’ve had it, we are going home!”
“I am going to pull this car over if you don’t stop fighting!”
Do the statements above sound familiar? As a child and family counselor, one of the main things that I have noticed in my work is that parents are often reacting to their child's behaviors instead of responding to them. This can be an overwhelming and exhausting pattern, feeling like you are constantly policing your children’s behaviors.
One of the hardest things for parents to understand is that children are constantly learning new ways to express themselves and what a parent perceives as a disrespectful behavior could be a cry for help. The answer I have found is taking back control and responding to your child, instead of reacting to them.
Responding vs. Reacting
REACTING is driven by emotions - your child hasn’t done his homework after you have asked him repeatedly to get off his phone and focus in - he doesn’t make a move and continues to play his game so, you react to him.
“I have asked you 3 times to get off your phone and do your homework! You are so lazy! No more phone for a week! Do I really have to stay on top of you every day?”
He gets up, leaves the room and slams the door to his room, the remainder of the night is tense as you feel angry, disrespected and hopeless - when will this get better?
Reacting to children's behavior make parents feel as though their kids are always in control, and as a parent you are playing catch up. I also find that many parents are not reacting in the way they would like to in those moments; they come into my office ashamed of their melt downs, but unsure how to do anything else. This is where responding to your child’s behaviors comes in handy.
RESPONDING is driven by the idea of seeking connection- same child has not done his homework and continues to sit on the couch playing on his phone.
“Hey bud, what’s up? I noticed that you don’t seem to want to do your homework today, is there something I can help you with?”
“School is stupid and I don’t want to do homework it’s too hard and I don’t get it.”
This gives you an opportunity to respond to your child in a way that connects you.
All of this sounds logical and should be easy to implement right? Not easy, but doable! This process takes patience and practice, but in the long term, you will be showing up as the parent you want to be, and in the process you will build a strong connection with your child while teaching emotional intelligence.
*Breathe*Respond Don’t React*