What This Is Like from a Parent’s Perspective


It is your job as a parent to set limits and boundaries — to keep your child safe and teach them right from wrong. So when they try to hurt you when you enforce your rules…

…When they hit you because you’ve told them they can’t do something

…When they try to push you when you’ve told them they can’t have something

You lose it! Any type of patience or rational thought goes out the window.

You that behavior is completely unacceptable… and you worry about this type of aggression in other situations, which could lead even more problems.

 

What This Is Like From a Child’s Perspective

 

When children feel powerless — when someone bigger and more powerful is telling them to do something and there is nothing they can do about it — they lash out.

They are filled with a huge energy and take it out on the person they believe is trying to control them.

… They may hit someone who has told them they can’t do something that they want to do.

… They may push someone who has told them they can’t have something that believed they might get.

When they’re not feeling backed into a corner, they would not behave that way. But when they feel out of control, their impulsive instincts kick in and they don’t think straight.

 

 

How It Usually Goes When

Your Child Tries to Hurt You When They Don’t Get Their Way

 

Scenario: Sonya and her mom are playing together when Sonya’s mom tells her that they need to stop playing because she needs to pick up Sonya’s brother.

 

Sonya: No! Don’t go get him!

Mom: Sonya, don’t be silly! I have to pick up your brother.

Sonya: He can stay at his friend’s a little while longer.

Mom: No, he really can’t. He has soccer practice later.

Sonya: I hate that you’re always doing things with HIM!

Mom: Sonya, I just played with you for the last half hour…

Sonya: I don’t want you to go! (She goes over and pushes her mom as hard as she can.)

Mom: SONYA! You DO NOT PUSH ME!

Sonya: You don’t want to be with me! You just want to be with him! (She attempts to push her mom again.)

Mom: SONYA!!! GO TO YOUR ROOM!!! NOW!!

Sonya: NO!! I don’t have to listen to you!!

Mom: YES YOU DO! (She starts to drag Sonya by the arm to her room. She knows she’s going to be late picking up her son and is becoming more and more angry…)

 

How It Could Go Instead When

Your Child Is Upset And You Try to Calm Them Down

 

Scenario: Sonya and her mom are playing together when Sonya’s mom tells her that they need to stop playing because she needs to pick up Sonya’s brother.

Sonya: No! Don’t go get him!

Mom: Sonya, don’t be silly! I have to pick up your brother.

Sonya: He can stay at his friend’s a little while longer.

Mom: No, he really can’t. He has soccer practice later.

Sonya: I hate that you’re always doing things with HIM!

Mom: Sonya, I just played with you for the last half hour…

Sonya: I don’t want you to go! (She goes over and pushes her mom as hard as she can.)

Mom (steps away from Sonya. She pauses, and in a very firm voice): SONYA.

 

CALM

Sonya’s mom is obviously going to be upset when someone tries to hurt her. 

However, she Sonya’s mom can try not to let her emotions control her, especially since that is the lesson she is trying to teach Sonya. 

 

Sonya (attempts to push her again).

Mom (backs away from Sonya). (Firmly): You are really upset right now. You do NOT want me to stop playing with you!

Sonya: NO!! You always get him when we’re playing.

Mom: I want to talk to you about this. And I do NOT let people push me. I’m going to stand over here so I am safe.

Sonya: You just want to leave me!

Mom (doesn’t say anything. She knows Sonya will argue no matter what she says).

Sonya (moves toward her again, aggressively).

Mom: I cannot stay here if you’re going to try to hurt me. (Pauses.) You know what? I’m really upset. I’m need to squeeze something really hard….

Sonya (watches her, but still seems angry).

Mom (squeezes a stuffed animal but doesn’t say anything).

Sonya: That’s so stupid!

Mom (doesn’t respond. She waits while Sonya continues to accuse her of wanting to leave and loving her brother more. She doesn’t engage with Sonya but doesn’t get mad either). (Once Sonya stops accusing her): You really didn’t want to stop playing, did you?

Sonya: NO.

Mom: I get it. We WERE having fun. So you got really angry when I told you I had to go pick up Jack.

CONNECT

Instead of focusing only on how wrong Sonya is (which would put her deeper into Yuck), her mom connects with Sonya so that she feels understood.

She knows that in order to change her behavior, Sonya needs to know that she is safe. 

Sonya: Yeah.

Mom: Yeah, it’s hard to stop when you’re having fun. You know what though? You cannot hurt me or anyone else when you’re really upset. Remember how we talked last time about balling up pieces of paper when you’re upset? And we put that whole pile of paper for you to use?

 

CORRECT

While Sonya’s mom respects how Sonya is feeling, she still insists that Sonya cannot hurt people when she is upset. Then she reminds Sonya that she has tools that she can use to help her act responsibly.

She focuses on being firm while teaching Sonya tools to be successful

 

Sonya (quietly): I forgot.

Mom: What happened instead?

Sonya: I was just so mad…

Mom: Do you like that feeling?

Sonya: I hate it!

Mom: Do you want to learn how to get rid of it?

Sonya: Yeah.

Mom: OK. When you did ball up the paper those few times, you said it helped. So let’s practice doing that again later… and then maybe you’ll remember to do it next time.

Sonya: OK.

Mom: For now, we have to go get your brother… Let’s talk about the game we were playing in the car. What was your favorite part?

Sonya: I really liked it when…

 

 

This Won’t Work Unless…

 

Though Sonya’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 are not aggressive when they don’t get their way), remember: 

 

Depositing into CALM

You will not be able to stay calm if

a.) your own biological or emotional “needs accounts” are low (you won’t have a reserve to draw from and you’ll immediately go into Yuck)

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 a child is aggressive, they must be taught other ways to get out all of their negative energy)

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 cannot hurt me or anyone else.”

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.