“She was fine until you arrived.” “He doesn’t act that way with me.” “You must be too easy on him.” “I just don’t let him get away with it.” Ever find yourself silently screaming wondering why your child behaves for others and falls apart the minute you walk in the door? Are you an unfit parent? Are you a failure? Or, do these comments signify that you are doing a GREAT job!
When your child experiences a meltdown or stomps his feet in protest if you ask him to do something – which he just did earlier for someone else – it’s easy to feel like you should just throw in the towel and find your child a different parent! Lynn and I would like to offer you another perspective.
It is NORMAL for children to throw tantrums, refuse to cooperate and fiercely object to requests to do things they do not wish to do.
It does NOT mean you are a failure, it simply signifies your child is practicing new skills and he’s not quite proficient yet. And because you have formed a strong bond with him he feels most comfortable practicing with you!
So next time you hear one of those excruciatingly grating comments, rather than taking it personally or as an affront to your ability as a parent smash that pang of guilt. Instead switch your reaction from your heart to your head. Doing so will allow you to step back and recognize in awe that your child has been using the skills that YOU taught him. But now exhausted from the strain of all this work he feels comfortable falling apart with you – his safe haven. Soon you’ll teach him to hold it together five minutes longer so you can get him in the car before it happens, but that will come later.
When you look at behavior as “developing skills” rather than intentional acts to drive you wild it is so much easier to keep your cool.
Instead of being frustrated by his actions you can appreciate how he’s thinking, or figuring out what will happen or striving to express his emotions. You will recognize that he’s learned some of the skills to do so appropriately and is continuing to work on others. This then allows you to step in and calmly teach – this way, not that way honey – let’s try that again!
This is how the emotion coach thinks. She recognizes that a child who throws the puzzle against the wall in frustration is not an ill-mannered little monster, but has not yet learned how to express frustration without destroying things. It is a skill that can be taught.
You as her parent and emotion coach are not powerless. She’s not “bad.” She just isn’t adept yet.
When you think this way you begin to recognize that every situation provides an opportunity for teaching. When your child fails to finish his assignment on time you won’t feel defeated or worry that you are raising a procrastinator, an intractable character flaw. Those negative thoughts will be replaced with the recognition that he is simply lacking the knowledge or the ability to execute time management skills.
But you can teach him!
Even when your child throws a whopping, ear splitting fit as an emotion coach you’ll understand he is working on self-control. From this perspective you can even see his progress. He is now able to keep it together if he’s well rested. Or, in busy public situations he’s coping for up to an hour. It used to be a mere 30 minutes. And even when he does lose it he’s beginning to recover much more quickly.
Your chest will swell with pride as you revel in the awareness that your daughter is practicing how to assert herself when she insists, “You can’t make me!”
It is evident a few lessons in “tact” are still needed, but it is clearly apparent that when she’s 16 and her peers suggest she skip school she will have the confidence to assert strong boundaries and firmly say, “No!”
And when the teacher refers to your child as “stubborn” because he refused to jump into the pool on the first day of lessons instead of flushing in embarrassment you’ll celebrate his caution knowing that as he grows older he will not be impulsive. You will simply need to teach him that rather than shouting and kicking to make his point, to ask, “May I please have a minute to watch first?”
It’s true, it’s not easy to be an emotion coach and just like your child you are still practicing those skills every day. Sometimes you are quite competent, other days it’s more of a struggle.
But when you allow yourself to be an emotion coach and see behavior as a reflection of developing skills your own confidence soars.
You realize you can get information to assist you. You can find supportive people to help you practice. In fact you can get those things right here from this blog as we continue to link behavior issues with skills to be learned. We’ll even break them down into manageable steps so you can celebrate your progress.
So next time someone jabs you with a pointed comment or your confidence as a parent has dropped into a deep freeze of self-loathing, remind yourself, you are an emotion coach.
You are teaching skills, which means that sometimes your child, who is still learning, will fall apart. That’s NORMAL!
Progress not perfection is our goal.