By Leslie Larsen, LCSW
Summertime is a great time to reconnect with your children!
As I hit the trail for a quick jog I was engrossed in the beauty of Colorado at this time of year. For several moments I was flooded with visualizations of children and parents playing together. Suddenly I hear a boy yelling from inside his house and I am brought back to the present moment. Although I did not hang around long enough to hear all the details, I think I caught a drift of what was happening. He was mad! This event reminds me that summertime is filled with joys and difficulties.
Last week when talking with one of my dear friends on the phone, she told me, “I have really been struggling with my kids this last week.” She went on to say the other day she had taken off work and made plans to take the kids to the city pool, however they ended up staying home all day instead. When I asked her what happened she told me, “My daughter starting throwing a fit and it was one of those fits that just kept going. Just when I thought it was almost over she would escalate again and then my son joined in, so I had two kids throwing fits.” She went on to say, “I was so upset and exhausted after all that I told them we were staying home.” She continued by saying, “I feel so frustrated. Sometimes I look back on a day with my kids and I struggle to remember anything other than the yelling and tantrums.” In her voice I could hear her deep desire for more connectivity with my kids, so I asked her about it. She replied, “Yes, I want to feel a greater sense of connectivity with my children and I don’t know where to begin.” (Thanks Amy for allowing me to share the details of our conversation).
Perhaps some of you are feeling the same way. How do we increase connectivity with our children?
Here are a few tips I’ve taken from the work of Heather T. Forbes, LCSW renowned author and expert on parenting, from a love-based paradigm:
Try looking at all negative behaviors (i.e. kicking and screaming) as a form of communication.
Forbes reminds us, “Emotions do not simply disappear. If feelings are not released and acknowledged, they are stored and become part of our physical make-up… feelings that become stored and “stuffed” become activators for negative behaviors.”
Encourage your children to express their emotions.
Forbes encourages parents to get to the core of the behavior by helping the child verbally express his/her emotions. She explains that when toddlers are throwing their toys or teenagers are throwing their backpack across the room it isn’t really about the toy or the backpack. She encourages parents to take a moment to help the child identify and name the emotion underneath the behavior. Forbes recommends, “Starting by modeling basic feeling words to your child. Keep it simple. Even the youngest of children can learn to say, I’m mad!”
Responding vs Reacting
Forbes describes responding as “being open to meeting your children in their hearts and helping them understand the overload of feelings that are driving the behaviors.” This sounds lovely and how do we do it? Forbes recommends staying present with your child when s/he is displaying negative behaviors. She encourages us to reassure the child that you are really listening and you love them unconditionally. Responding also includes waiting until your child has calmed down before engaging them in a conversation about alternative behaviors.
As your children learn to respond back to you through the parent-child relationship, they won’t have the need to communicate through negative behaviors anymore. You’ll both have more energy for each other, building a relationship that will last a lifetime.
To find out more about the Beyond Consequences parenting approach or to purchase a copy of one of this author’s book, please visit www.beyondconsequences.com