The Secret to Navigating Your Child’s Bad Behavior is…“Get curious, not furious.”
When I say it to the parents I coach, especially ones who find themselves distraught after another angry bout with their children, it’s an aha moment.
If you are a parent to a high-spirited child, you know how rewarding it can be to experience their big emotions. They throw their arms around and hug with all their might! Their enthusiasm seems to be limitless around their hobbies and interests. At times, they so passionate about their beliefs. They play hard, love hard and live with endless energy.
And then there is the dark side of parenting kids with big emotions. I know, first hand, this side is hard. It’s when he won’t listen because he’s so caught up in his own world. It’s difficult when she experiences a major meltdown in the middle of the park as you feel other parents giving you the stink eye. It’s frustrating when you try to talk to him, and you feel like you aren’t getting through. It’s disheartening to see her bad mood affect the entire family.
In these situations, a parent often reacts with anger to get through to their child. It’s often an in-the-moment response, fueled by embarrassment, frustration and even desperation. Later, as you replay the events in your head, you regret the yelling and vow to find a better way next time.
Can you relate? If you’re a parent to a high-spirited child, I’m sure your answer is a resounding “yes!”
My number 1 revelation that I’d like to share with you is one that positively changed the dynamic in my home immediately after I implemented it.
Your children, at all times, are just trying to get their needs met.
They are not trying to be bad, mean or disrespectful, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. They are just trying to get what they need. At any given moment, your child might need attention, affection, autonomy or connection.
The secret, when your child is having big emotions of any kind, is to “get curious, not furious” and ask yourself “I wonder what they need?”
See if you can figure it out. Listen, observe, ask, guess and experiment. Stay in the curious mindset.
Ask your child, “what do you need right now?” Encourage your child to ASK for what they need and use words to communicate their feelings rather than screaming, hitting, tantrumming, stomping out of the room or slamming the door.
Maybe your child is hungry and needs a snack. Maybe he needs a break. Maybe she needs some attention from you (undivided attention). Maybe he needs to run around and burn off some energy. Maybe she needs to step away and have some down time.
By getting curious, not furious,” you’re not only proactively searching for the root issue, but you’re not taking their actions personally. This leads to a reduced chance in angry reactions to their bad behavior, and instead puts you on the offense.
Let me say it again – “get curious, not furious.” Look beneath the behavior to their needs and help your child get their needs met. Then later, when their big emotions have calmed down a bit, talk about a new way to ask for what they need when they find themselves in a similar situation next time.
Here are a few questions you can try out:
What did you need in the moment that you weren’t getting?
How can your need be solved next time?
What can Mom and Dad do to help you meet your need?
What are some creative ways you can think of to get your need met in the future?
By doing this, you’re allowing both of you to reflect on the problem and together work toward a plan of action in the future that revolves around honest expression of the situation at hand.