I imagine that even Kate Middleton (the Duchess of Cambridge in England’s monarchy) will experience her son, Prince George, throwing temper tantrums when he doesn’t get his way or is asked to do something he doesn’t want to do. The prince, despite his royal heritage and training in comportment, might even be bossy with other children his age.
Do you sometimes feel like you’ve tried everything, and aren’t sure if your child will ever attain self-control? Being a parent is challenging; when you have a strong-willed child it can be a source of serious stress and conflict. Here are some suggestions to help:
It’s been said that before you can change a behavior, you must first be aware of it. Next time your children become inflexible and trigger your negative emotions, notice your body sensations, your feelings, and your thoughts.
What is your reaction? How do your children react to your words and emotional state? You could keep a log for a week regarding your interaction with your children when it seems communication between you has gone amiss. As you look back at previous incidents, what could you have said or done to make things go more smoothly?
Can you become mindful of your breathing and slow it down? Slow your thought process and take deep breaths before you try to correct the behavior? Are you aware of your children’s fears and reactions?
Besides helping yourself, you can help your children become aware of their feelings and body signals as well. When the time is right and they are at ease, help them become aware of their own emotions. Play the “my body feels” game. You can say: “When I feel angry, my face feels really warm, what about you, Jimmy?” Let your child respond. Your child could say, “When I feel angry, my hands feel like ripping things!” Take a turn focusing on that particular feeling and then switch to another feeling.
Model the behavior for your children throughout the day. Be mindful of your thoughts, feelings, and behavior. When appropriate, verbalize your feelings and body signals and encourage your children to follow suit.
Acknowledge Their Feelings.
One of the first steps to prevent an emotional disaster is to acknowledge and validate your children’s feelings. Show empathy. Help them know you understand how they feel. Normally, when your children wish to do something that is against the rules, we simply say, “No, Jimmy, please don’t do that.”
Acknowledging and validating someone’s feelings is the first step in successful communication. For example, if Susie wants to spend the night at her friend’s house and you don’t want her to do that because grandma is coming to visit that weekend, don’t just state the reasons. First, validate and acknowledge her desire to spend the night at her friend’s house. Put yourself in her position. If you were Susie, what would it be like when you immediately hear, “No, you can’t”? Can she feel that you understand her disappointment? Then tell her why she cannot spend the night, then validate her again.
When your children are scared, you will need to validate and comfort them in some way. Do you know what it takes to comfort your children? A hug, a pat on the back? Or maybe an understanding smile?
If your three-year-old decides he wants to color the living room walls, you can quickly acknowledge the situation and his feelings, then provide alternatives. In this case, “Joey, walls are not for coloring, but look, here is a coloring book and here is some paper for you to color and write on if you’d like.”
When your children are older, brainstorm together to come up with alternatives to the situation at hand. This will help them feel empowered and more positive about the options.
Your children can come up with solutions and learn to problem-solve when you provide those opportunities. When parents constantly rescue their children and provide solutions to their troubles, they enable them and hinder their initiative and creativity.
When we think we have figured our children out, they seem to surprise us and take us for a loop. We may try our best to be patient, but some days we just don’t seem to get along with anyone! Let’s remember that we are their role models, so if we want them to learn to be flexible, they need to see us do that as well. In various life situations, do they notice that we are able to roll with the punches? Are you modeling flexibility for them?
What would you like your children to remember about you? What will they say about you at your funeral? Will they have fun memories or will they remember you were always correcting them and never accepted them for who they were? What kind of relationship do you have with them now? Is there anything you can change to improve it? Even the Duchess of Cambridge will have to answer these questions.
Focus on the positives, be forgiving, creative and playful.