The Tuned-In Parent
Tuned-In Parents know that the way their child feels affects the way she behaves, and that feelings are often the root cause of bad behaviour. Strong feelings can be confusing, stressful and so inconvenient. Tuned-In Parents are brilliant at helping their child process difficult feelings so she can cope with them.
When their child is behaving badly or being defiant, Tuned-In Parents assume there’s a good reason for it, even if they don’t know exactly what it is. So before telling her off, they listen. They know that by acknowledging her feelings she will be able to unburden herself, and better behaviour will follow.
This holds true no matter what the feeling is. Whether it’s jealousy – ‘That’s my toy’, resentment – ‘Stop ordering me around‘, fear – ‘I can’t do this‘, sadness – ‘No-one likes me’, or anger – ‘I hate you.’
Telling her to stop fussing and behave will get you nowhere. Pretending her feelings aren’t there won’t help her either. Instead listen and try to understand.
My son came home from school in a foul mood. When I told him to cheer up, he threw down his schoolbag and told me to shut up. I didn’t like his tone, but I knew there had to be a reason for it.
Instead of shouting at him, I said, ‘This isn’t like you. I can see you are upset. I bet something happened today at school.’
Suddenly it all poured out. Two boys had picked on him at lunch and told him they were going to beat him up. He was so upset he had a lump in his throat and couldn’t eat. Then, because he was hungry, he felt ill all afternoon.
If I had punished him straight away, I might never have found out. But by being sympathetic I got an apology. Even more important, I could help him.
When your child knows you understand her, it can make her feel secure and more connected to you.