Aha! Parenting Blog

Practical solutions for real parenting problems

Is Your Child Getting Lost in Translation?

"All communication is either an SOS or a care package." -- Kelly Bryson

Today we're exploring the sixth commitment from 10 Commitments that Will Make You a More Inspired Parent -- and a Happier Person in 2010!:

Commit to looking for the needs behind your child’s behavior.

Your kid has a reason for whatever he’s doing that displeases you. It might not be what you consider a good reason, but he has a reason, and it’s what’s motivating his behavior. 

If yelling at him about his behavior were going to change it, that would have worked already, right?  Berating, nagging, and criticizing actually add to the problem by making him defensive. Only by addressing the underlying need can we participate in the solution and change our child’s behavior. 

Does that mean you shouldn't get annoyed?  You probably can't avoid it, if you're human.  But it's possible to transform your annoyance, which will make you more effective in redirecting your child's behavior. 

How? By remembering that your kid is just trying to meet legitimate human needs, like the rest of us -- except in an immature way (because, by definition, a child is an immature human). By seeing all "misbehavior" as an SOS.

What kinds of needs are we talking about?  Attention, self-determination, food, sleep, physical activity, physical affection, love, power (everyone needs to feel like they can have an impact on their world!).  All the needs that motivate all humans. But often what lies behind our kids' most irritating behaviors are these questions: 

  • "Do you love me?"
  • "Do you see me?"
  • "Do you know how much I need you?"
  • "Can I be wholly myself and still be acceptable to you?"

Kids who don't have to fight to get their needs met mature faster, so their needs are expressed with more maturity. And parents who address kids’ needs pre-emptively by noticing problem areas (“Hmm….looks like she wants to choose her own clothes, even if they don’t match!”) are rewarded with kids who cooperate.

And, miracle of miracles, you'll start to get Care Packages -- your child responding to YOUR needs -- among those SOS behaviors.

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