When I was training to be a psychotherapist, I was lucky to be working with some of the top therapists in New York. What I learned early on became the foundation of my parenting philosophy and has helped me in so many situations. I hope it can help you too! Ready, here it is: When your kids don’t act right, they don’t feel right. It’s simple and profound and it’s true for kids of all ages – adults too.
When your kids are whiny, cranky, throwing tantrums, overly clingy, etc… you can be sure there is an underlying reason for their behavior. The reasons can be as simple as they need a high protein, complex carbohydrate snack! My kids are 19 and 15 and when their blood sugar drops my husband and I have to run for cover (no joke). Or it can be something at school or someone in their social group that is upsetting them. My point is, there is always a reason for the misbehavior and until they can talk about it, or somehow process it, they will most likely act out their feelings in a negative way.
So once you buy into all that, the way to begin helping your kids feel right so they act right is to accept their feelings no matter what! This is where it gets tricky because as parents we often don’t realize that we deny our children’s feelings. Unless I am truly being mindful of my words, I am guilty of this as well. How often do we find ourselves saying things to our kids like:
- “Oh come on, you don’t really mean that”.
- “There is no reason for you to be angry about that!”
- “It’s freezing outside, how could you possibly be hot?”
If I say to Daisy, “How dare you be so cranky after I just drove you and all your friends to the mall”, we would definitely be fighting. However, what if I said ” hmmm, you seem pretty upset”, I’d have a better chance of her processing her feelings and eventually letting me know she needs to eat.
It seems harmless enough, however, if we deny their feelings too often, it can enrage them and teach them not to trust their feelings. Some kids will feel like they can’t tell you how they truly feel and just clam up or tell you what you want to hear. On the flip side of that, when we can accept whatever emotion they are having you, will begin to notice:
1. An improvement in behavior and communications.
2. Fewer conflicts between you and your child.
3. And an increase in their abilities to process how they feel all on their own.
How To Accept Their Feelings:
- Listen with your full attention. And I mean really listen.
- Acknowledge their feelings with short words like “Oh” and “I see”. This is one of those instances where less is more and listen for what they say next.
- Give their feelings a name.
- Empathize with how they are feeling.
This technique is a great way to get your kids to talk to you more openly. I would LOVE to hear your experiences so please share your thoughts. I promise to accept all of your feelings about the subject 😉
CEO Say Please Inc., MSW,
Quick Update: So after I posted this, I was with my daughter and had a perfect opportunity to accept her feelings about a particular situation with Lacrosse. Let’s just say, I blew it! We did not fight or argue, but I could see she was frustrated and I didn’t realize what I had done until this morning over coffee with my husband. So when my daughter came downstairs for breakfast, I revisited the subject. I brought some empathy to the conversation and it made all the difference in the world! That’s another brilliant thing I learned in Social Work School: No ones perfect and you can always go back and make it right.