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Kids Misbehaving

A Cure For the Common Bad Attitude

Nothing in parenting remains the same from day to day — nothing except the presence of feelings! Feelings are part of life, part of being a child, and definitely part of parenting. Because your child is growing quickly, her feelings change from one moment to the next. That means your parenting solutions have to change, too.

Keep reading.

First-Time Experiences

Every day your child is having what I call "first-time experiences." She finds herself in new situations with no real experience or wisdom to deal with them. She isn't being "bad," she just isn't sure what to do. All she knows is she's been told she's wrong, and that frustrates her and causes big feelings.

Today's parents are having first-time experiences, too. An adult's life revolves around the fast pace of technology. Living at warp speed can cause you to feel overwhelmed from the minute you get up to the minute you go to sleep, and that can cause frustration and big feelings, too.

When both parent and child are frustrated and filled with big feelings, reactions occur. Both can resort to yelling, punishing, and threats to try to manage those feelings.

I know you've felt it, the longing for a better way to handle situations like these. You intuitively know there is one, but you don't have time to search for it. My tip today is a place to start; a place to go to when you find yourself headed toward reacting with anger to life's daily pressure, to big feelings, or to your child's behavior.

The Root of Misbehavior

Many parents answered Lisa A.'s Circle of Moms post, "9-year-olds and attitudes," in which she asks for advice on dealing with her son's "stomping, talking back, and constantly arguing." I'm not sure there's just one answer that works for all children, of all ages, but this tip is a good place to begin:

When a child misbehaves, or cops an attitude, most parents tend to deal with the child's behavior or the attitude that was produced. But those things are actually the end result.

What parents have forgotten is that each bit of misbehavior or attitude has its roots in feelings that have gone unnoticed, unchecked, or unacknowledged. Unacknowledged or unexpressed feelings grow and grow until they blossom into misbehavior or an attitude. So what's a parent to do?

Rewinding the Video

A good place to begin is to "rewind the video." No matter what's happened. You'll need to take a breath and imagine that you've rewound the video to the beginning of the situation that has occurred. Now begin to ask your child some questions about what she was feeling at the beginning of the situation, before the incident occurred. The questions need to be asked in a genuine, loving, and calm way, and then the parent needs to be silent and wait for the child to answer.

When a child is asked a question that's followed by silence, the pressure for someone to speak fills the room. If you say anything instead of being calm and silent you run the risk of igniting a reaction. However, if you remain calm and loving, whatever it was that went unexpressed, and that led to the misbehavior or attitude problem, usually comes rolling out.

You want to ask questions like, "What didn't you say?" or "What was your heart feeling?" or "What made you mad?" and then stay silent and calm until your child tells you what's at the root of the behavior.

Since you now remember that your child is simply having a first-time experience you'll find you're more willing to teach what needs to be learned about the situation, rather than reflexively yelling, punishing, or threatening.

There's another benefit to going silent after you've asked a question: silence tends to keep you calm, which helps neutralize any frustration or reactions you were about to have.

In this fast-paced world where things change from one minute to the next, this is a tip that will help resolve feelings — even if the feelings change five times during the conversation.

Sharon Silver is a parenting educator and the founder of Proactive Parenting. She's also the author of Stop Reacting and Start Responding: 108 Ways to Discipline Consciously and Become the Parent You Want to Be.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

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