I hate it when my children behave badly. In my fantasy existence, they never would.
It is hard not to perceive it as wholly a bad thing and something to be eradicated, sorted, diverted, somehow made to stop.
Shouting at them to “JUST STOP IT” doesn’t work though. I’ve tried, more times than I would like to admit to.
On my better days, I recognise that behaviour that I might label as ‘bad’ is just their way of trying to solve a problem. My job then is to work out what problem it is that they are trying to solve and see if I can be of assistance.
For example, my teenager is banging about the house, he’s bored, he doesn’t want help with the homework that he’s stuck on, apparently there’s never anything decent to eat in the house, and it is all our fault because we live in the country rather than in the village. I can feel my anger rising at the way that he talks to me and how he dampens the atmosphere of wherever he slumps himself. However, if I pause, and look at him, I can see that he is unhappy. Really unhappy. Sure, the way that he is making certain that we all share in his unhappiness is not pleasant, but if I can refrain from reacting to that, and respond to his sadness instead, I might actually help him.
Teenagers can not always be easy to reach. Each parent seeks to learn how best to weave through the prickles or the gloominess, to reach the child within. Everyone, no matter what age, feels better for feeling like someone cares enough to notice. Finding the right tone and the right words is not always easy – but better to try than to withdraw from them.
What could you do, or say, differently next time your child’s behaviour offends you – if you asked yourself ‘what problem is s/he trying to solve by behaving like this’?
And next time you behave in a way you regret, what if you were to ask yourself: – what problem was I trying to solve – and how could I have solved it differently?
A small change can make a big difference…