How to Tame Children’s Dramatic Behavior By Balancing Firmness and Respect

 

What This Is Like from a Parent’s Perspective

 

You know how important it is to be firm as a parent. But whenever you enforce rules or boundaries, kids get so upset!

You tell them that they can’t go to their friend’s house and they throw a fit.

You remind them that they have to take a shower and they act like you’ve asked them to climb Mount Everest.

Getting your kids to do what they’re supposed to do shouldn’t lead to such dramatic emotions and behavior. Yet often seems to.

 

What This Is Like From a Child’s Perspective

 

Children do usually have ideas for how they want to spend their time… and they don’t like to be told that they “have to” do something else.

So when they had it in their mind that they want to spend time with a friend and they’re told they can’t go…

Or when they want to relax and they’re told they must take a shower instead.

They feel disappointed and helpless to do anything about it, and their big emotions come out.

And then they’re told that their behavior is unacceptable and things just get worse…

 

 

How It Usually Goes When

Kids Behave Dramatically

 

Scenario: It’s Julian’s birthday weekend and Julian just had a party. He received many gifts, so Julian’s mom reminded him that he’d have to write  thank you notes. In response, Julian started whining and complaining and doing anything he could to avoid writing the notes.

 

Mom: Julian! What is going on? I told you you’d have to write those thank-you notes.

Julian (whining): Thank-you notes are so STUPID! I don’t want to!

Mom (raising her voice): Julian, you’re acting like a spoiled brat right now. People bought you presents. You have to thank them.

Julian (whining and raising his voice): I don’t want to do it NOW! I’m not going to!

Mom: Oh yes you are, Julian. If you’d started when I first asked, you’d be done by now!

Julian: They’re DUMB and I’m NOT DOING THEM!

He runs away. Julian’s mom doesn’t want to run after him, but she doesn’t know what else to do.

 

How It Could Go Instead When

Kids Behave Dramatically

 

Scenario: It’s Julian’s birthday weekend and Julian just had a party. He received many gifts, so Julian’s mom reminded him that he’d have to write  thank you notes. In response, Julian started whining and complaining and doing anything he could to avoid writing the notes.

 

Mom: Ugh, Julian.

Julian (a little surprised): What?

Mom: You do NOT want to write those thank-you notes.

Julian: NO. They’re stupid.

CALM

Julian’s mom doesn’t like Julian’s negative behavior. But she knows if she focuses on his behavior, she’ll lose her cool and it will take even longer to get him to write the thank-you notes. 

Instead of focusing on Julian’s behavior, she focuses on helping him feel understood so he can act responsibly instead of getting defensive. 

 

Mom: I know! And the rest of the weekend has been so fun! Your party… and all the presents…

Julian: Yeah!

Mom: You don’t want it to end, do you?

Julian (quietly): No.

Mom: It would be so much fun if weekends like these could go on forever.

 

CONNECT

Julian’s mom is spending time in Julian’s world.

When he feels understood and connected with his mom, he will be less resistant when she enforces the boundary. 

 

Julian: Yeah.

Mom (sighs loudly). They do have to end though, Julian. I know it stinks. Really stinks. It’s time to write those thank-you notes now.

Julian: I don’t want to.

Mom: I know it. You wish you could play forever. I’d like that too. And still… It’s time to write the notes. So how can we make this less painful?

Julian: I don’t know.

Mom: I know! As you write the thank-you notes, rate the gift on a scale of 1-10 first. Tell me what you like and don’t like about it. And then write the note.

CORRECT

Despite the fact that Julian clearly doesn’t want to do his thank-you notes, Julian’s mom still reiterates her boundary. 

Then she helps him find strategies that will help him do what he needs to do.  She teaches him how to be successful. 

 

Julian: I guess I can’t tell the person who bought the gift if they got a 1, could I?

Mom (laughs). Unfortunately not.

Julian (smiles). Too bad. (He sighs.) I’ll go get the notes.

 

 

 

How to Make In-the-Moment Parenting Work

 

Though Julian’s mom used Calm, Connect, Correct, proactive deposits will make all of the difference in how this situation plays out in the moment.

If you want to give your child tools to be successful (so they behave less dramatically), remember: 

 

Depositing into CALM

You will not be able to stay calm if

a.) your own biological or emotional “needs accounts” are low (if you feel like no one respects YOU and/or you have no control)

b.) you have the expectation that your children will have the same priorities that you do

When you make sure your own needs are met and you set realistic expectations PROACTIVELY, you are more likely to be able to stay calm. 

 

Depositing into CONNECT

You will be able to connect if

a.) you respect that ALL behavior has a reason and

b.) you understand those reasons (in a case like this, that when you teach children HOW to be successful, they do behave better)

When you become comfortable with the reasons behind behavior PROACTIVELY, you will be able to connect more effectively. 

 

Depositing into CORRECT

You will be able to correct behavior by offering a tool if

a.) You have demonstrated consistently in the past that you mean what you say when you set a boundary like “You still have to act responsibly, even when you don’t feel like it.”

b.) You have made enough deposits into your kids’ emotional needs that setting a boundary doesn’t put them immediately into Yuck.

When you demonstrate that you mean what you say and when you make deposits into your kids’ emotional needs PROACTIVELY, you  will be able to correct behavior more effectively.