Addressing an Issue After the Fact When a Child Won’t Listen

Member question:

After a nasty interaction how do I address it with my child? She has a hard time with perspective taking and won’t talk about with me later. Instead she avoid it by lashing out again or singing a silly sing etc.

Rachel’s response:

It’s so challenging when you WANT to use “proactive” strategies but your child is resistant! 
I find that the most common reasons that children are resistance (the ROADBLOCKS) are that
…we talk all about why what they did was wrong without showing we care about their point of view
…they have shame about their behavior (that may not even come directly from us)
…the conversation is boring and they tune us out 

With that in mind, here are some tips: 

  • Keep these conversations short and sweet. Have them when they’re already feeling safe –– perhaps after time spent together. (Don’t worry. This conversation CAN go well and won’t ruin that time together.) 
  • When you talk about something that happened, start in your child’s world, not yours. 
    We usually say, “Do you know why I got upset with you? It’s because you…” and that immediately shuts them down. Instead, say, “When that happened, what was it like for you?” Listen to and care about their point of view first. 
  • Then talk about how the situation could have gone differently.
    First ask them what YOU could have done differently. Not only does that teach them to think about how to handle situations better, but if you’re vulnerable, they’re more likely to be vulnerable too. (And admitting you did something wrong IS very vulnerable!) 
    Then ask them if there’s something they could do differently next time. Again, if they’re feeling safe and you’re being open, they’re more likely to be open as well. 
  • If they’re still resistant, use a “side door” strategy: Read books or watch movies about OTHER people who have had similar behaviors. Ask THEM to give advice to a character who is struggling with the same behavior they are. It’s much “safer” for them to advice others than to take advice themselves.