I have been wanting to help my kids have a better time together these days. My daughter seems to be convinced that she has the world’s most annoying brother. My little boy thinks his sister hung the moon and all he wants to do is walk like her, talk like her, play with the same stuff and in the same space. I know it is hard for her to have this little hanger-oner lagging behind, especially when she has her friends over, but she has gotten in the habit of showing her annoyance in really aggressive ways, physically and verbally. It just feels bad, for him, for me and for her.
So I started thinking about what I could do to improve the situation. I thought wouldn’t it be fantastic if she could talk to him about her needs and desires, instead of pinching him or, more commonly, scream at him. I have seen a couple of times, when she explains her self to him in a calm and peaceful way, he listens and does what she says. So how could I influence her behavior?
I started talking to her about making decisions about her behavior from a place of what is most important to her – understanding her values and ultimately making choices that make her feel proud. I asked her if screaming at her brother when she got frustrated made her feel good. She said no. I reminded her about the times that talking to him peacefully had worked and then asked her what she could do to make him listen to her, but not to be mean to him. She said that she could be clear and tell him what she needed from him (or not needed!) in a calm voice. I also asked her about how she felt about her brother, had her tap into the love she felt for him and how she is his biggest role model. She started feeling very proud when we talked about how he looks to her for everything and I made her see it was her responsibility to be kind to him. Talking about responsibility was something I knew would resonate with her – she finds a lot of feelings of self worth in being responsible for things in her own life so I knew this would fit right in.
So things have been so different after this talk. Not everyday or when my darling girl is tired or hungry, but as I continue to remind her of our talk and her responsiblity in the relationship with her brother, new habits and ways of being are being integrated, making her happier, her brother for sure a happy camper and leaving mamma with a smile on her face.
Here are the TIPS you can use to positively influence your child’s ability to choose her/his behavior:
1. Find out how the negative behavior is making your child feel. Have your child put words on these feelings.
2. Ask your child how a more positive way of behaving would feel better. If the child is old enough, have him/her come up with alternate ways of showing up in this setting that would both create a more positive outcome and leave her/him feeling proud.
3. Help your child revisit past successes and deep emotional feelings that connect to and support this new positive behavior choice.
4. Connect this new behavior to a value you know your child possesses. Here is a list of common values if you are having trouble putting words on them!
Don’t underestimate your child’s ability for self reflection and insight. Of course all children are different, but I believe this type of discussion is quite assessable for children of many age ranges (simplified for the young ones). I have used this same approach with my 3 year old to curb some not so positive behavior at school with much success. Children enjoy the feeling of mastery from within! Through this process you are teaching them that they have the power,by changing thoughts, perspectives and ways of being, to impact their lives in positive ways. Imagine teaching your child this technique that they can use whenever a decision in their life needs to be made. Start empowering your children today with the right tools for a happy life today!