Children, like all human beings, behave better when they feel good about themselves and the world around them. As a social species, we all need to be seen, heard, understood, loved, and connected. When those needs are met – when our hearts are content – we all do better.
Think about a few times when you weren't on your best behavior. Maybe you yelled at your children or said some hurtful words to your partner. Chances are, one or more of those needs weren't being met for you at that time. As parents, we can proactively foster good behavior by being intentional about seeing, hearing, understanding, loving, and connecting with our kids.
Stop and See
Take some time every day to really look at your child. Notice her trying to do things on her own. Notice how he shared a toy with his sibling. Comment on what it is that you see.
“I saw you give your truck to your friend to play with. That was so kind.”
“I love the outfit your picked out for yourself today! What nice colors!”
We are so quick to see and comment on what they do wrong. If we can get into the habit of being just as quick at seeing and commenting on what they do well, we will see them blossom.
Children chatter all day long, and believe me, I know sometimes you just want to tune them out. Their latest video game achievement or another rendition of “Let It Go” isn't the most exciting for us to hear, but it's important to them. Take the time to hear what they have to say, because you'll really want to be in the loop in a few years, and you want them to know you'll listen.
It can be oh-so tempting to brush off a child's seemingly over-the-top emotional waves. “It's not that big of a deal!” or “There's no reason to cry about it!” are common responses, especially when the trigger of their upset seems so trivial to us, like the wrong sippy cup. I think we are afraid of creating little drama kings and queens if we show empathy for big feelings that well up over small matters. But, the truth is that the feelings are going to well up either way, and while we don't have to change the cup, we can at least let them know we understand those feelings - because certainly we have felt them too at some point. In fact, talking about them is a great way to teach emotional intelligence.
Speak Their Language
Have you heard of the Five Love Languages for Children? They are physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, and acts of service. While all of these communicate love to every child (really every human!), each person has a primary love language, one in particular that really speaks love to them. Once you know their primary love language, you can make adjustments to fill your child's love tank. For example, my oldest son's primary love language is words of affirmation, closely followed by quality time. With that knowledge I was able to put more intention into affirming words and finding ways for us to spend one-on-one time together, which really improved our connection.
Make Connection Top Priority
Connection is the parenting key. Connecting with your child engages the upper brain where reasoning, logic, and empathy take place. The result is a better behaved child, who wants to please you because you're so close. Looking for ways to connect? Read this article for 10 ways to connect with your child.
If poor behavior is a problem, take the one month challenge. Commit to seeing, hearing, understanding, showing love, and connecting with your child every day for one month. I think you'll be amazed at the positive changes you see!
As seen at Creative Child Magazine