Your child comes home with ‘the face’….you know the one….the one that signals trouble. It says “don’t talk to me…don’t even look at me”. This face triggers your own stress reaction because you have been down this road before.
Wouldn’t you like to have a new response to “the face” that results in progress rather than a repeat of past rounds of tantrums, punishment and a strong desire to run away to a tropical island?
It is easy to believe that children are aggravating or pushing boundaries for no reason other than that they can. The first important principle we work with is the idea that children are programmed to seek the approval of the adults around them. From infancy, babies and children are hardwired to be relational and to respond to caregivers in ways that build connections. If that is not happening, we need to work toward identifying what is interrupting this process.
Under normal circumstances, when children encounter a consistent limit, they learn to work within the boundary. What are some reasons children persist with unacceptable behavior? Sometimes the answer is that we are sending mixed messages that are interrupting the lessons we are trying to teach. If we’re honest, we can admit that when we are tired or stressed or in a particularly good mood, our reactions are different.
Sometimes we are simply too frustrated to calmly engage our children. Often we mistakenly believe that engaging in supportive conversation will somehow reward the very behavior we are trying to extinguish. We have seen over and over that when parents begin asking the question, “What is happening with my child that would explain his/her behavior?” children will provide the answer. The problem is often that we are not asking the question because we assume that this is a behavior problem rather than an emotional or brain process problem.
Very often the answer lies in challenges the children are dealing with. Everyone says that children do not come with a manual. While this is true, it can also be said that a working knowledge of brain development can help us make sense of what sometimes feels like random, intentional behavior. It is important to know that all brains are constantly creating new connections that allow us to function in new ways. It only makes sense that children have had fewer experiences and, therefore, have fewer brain connections to draw from as they react to life. Watch this video for a great description of what it looks like to discipline with brain science in mind.
Dr. Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, PhD have written several books designed to help us to parent with these principles in mind. These books are designed to educate parents about the importance of brain integration which allows us to connect all parts of our brain giving us more opportunities to respond to experiences effectively. The Whole Brain Child begins the process of educating us on the basic principles. The Whole Brain Child Workbook uses practical exercises and worksheets to teach Whole Brain Child ideas. No Drama Discipline provides more specific intervention strategies as well as the reason why they work.
These are effective strategies for all children....and most adults. However, sometimes there are added struggles that make even these approaches slow to work.