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How to Connect Even When Correcting Your Child's Behavior

How to Stay Connected When You Correct Your Child's Behavior

I live in a big city and every day witness people being curt and mean and yelling at each other. It's as if no one cares how others are feeling anymore. Every time I hear it, I get sad.

When spouses/partners, parents and kids, or strangers on the street are angry and no resolution occurs, the injured party walks away feeling isolated and alone. The connection is lost. That lost connection causes people to remain angry and spread their anger from one person or situation to another. It’s the kick-the-dog syndrome.

How can we reconnect again?

Keep reading.

Connecting Even When Correcting Your Child's Behavior 

As Circle of Moms member M. Ola says in response to a question posed by another mom, "the [kids] need to know that you are there to support them . . . they don't believe that when you appear not be listening." In other words, if you connect to your child before you correct his behavior, your child is much more likely to be willing to listen to you and far less likely to raise the "I'm not listening barrier," to tune you out, or to argue with you.


You might be thinking, "Oh no, not another touchy-feely way to parent. I handle my kids the way my parents handled me, and I turned out just fine!"

Stop and think about your childhood for a moment. When you were being yelled at and punished, weren't you desperately trying to tell your parents your side of the story? Connecting gives your child a chance to explain how he saw the situation unfold, which allows you to spot any holes in his understanding. This is how a real parent-child connection is created.

Simply asking him why he did something wrong as you're yelling and punishing doesn't produce the same results. Your child misses information about the impact of his behavior and the other choices he could have made instead. Teaching requires that he solve the problem with your support. This gives him firsthand experience and inspires him to make better choices next time.

There are two concepts to keep in mind when correcting your child: using the word "how" and active listening.

1. Starting With "How" Questions

As long as you don't just ask one question before launching an "I'll tell you where you went wrong" lecture, beginning with a "how" question rather than a "why" question will encourage connection with your child. Ask things like:

"How upset are you?"

"How did her words make you feel?"

"On a scale of 1-10, how mad are you?"

"How do you think you should have handled this?"

"How are you feeling now?"

2. Active Listening

Wikipedia says, "Active listening is a communication technique that requires the listener to feed back what they hear . . . [leaving] little room for assumption or interpretation." Using active listening assures your child that he's been heard.

An example would be: "You said Sally said mean things to you, so you hit her, right?"

3. Correcting Using the Word "What"

Now it's time to shift from connecting to correcting. To do that, begin sentences with the word "what."

"What are the rules in our house when you hit a friend?"

"What are you supposed to do instead?"

"What will you be doing now to fix his hurt feelings?"

"What else happens in our house when we hurt someone's feelings or body?"

It helps if you post a list on your refrigerator of your family's rules and what happens when the rules aren't followed. That allows you to supportively walk your child over to the list as you ask questions that begin with "what." Asking questions and using natural consequences to repair the damage requires a child to think and learn from his choices.

When the words "what" and "how" are used as part of the correction process, they help fill the needs of both parent and child by steering each of them away from anger. The child feels connected and heard, which further reduces power struggles. And the parent can truly teach his child what he needs to know without relying on reactions and punishment.

When families connect as they correct behavior, they're creating new habits that naturally show up in the workplace and in their daily interactions with others. Then hopefully, the pervasive anger we're experiencing in society will begin to shift as well.

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.

Image Source: Thinkstock
CoMMember13610333935103 CoMMember13610333935103 4 years
Thanks for the article, very useful information that I can put into practice, but I have another question...what if the other friend does say mean things to your 5 yr old son, how should he react to that in order to be able to defend himself and stand for his self-respect without hitting? This is probably out of the main context of the article but somehow related
PamDunn PamDunn 4 years
@ christina re: 2 year old correction. Some behavior isn't always acceptable, such as "your bring you child into a mall and they are running everywhere, not holding your hand, and generally overstimulated" There is a way to correct this and help them learn self control and it isn't through being wishy washy. You pick up your child, bring him/her to the car (child may be screaming) and tell them in a gentle but stern "I mean business voice" No hold hands, no mall, no listening, no mall. Everytime my 2 year old acts up like that I correct it, even repeatedly. If we go for a walk and she cant stop running, int he stroller she goes until she has calmed down and then she can walk again. You would be amazed at how much they understand at this age and what you can teach them. my kid responds pretty fast to all of this, and looks at me with respect, walks nicely, holds hands and when she starts hopping I know she's about to show me some unruly behavior. At the moment I ask myself, am I up for some behavioral correcting and teaching or should we exit the building? If you can, pick the teaching... it will help you mold a very obedient child.
PamDunn PamDunn 4 years
I'm sure most parents already do this, I know I do, almost all day long. Sill, I also realize getting angry is also a natural feeling to have and it's important to remember that its healthy to show your kids once in a while that their behavior or non-listening can have the natural consequence of "making mom mad', and thus having to deal with a raised voice of "I mean business". It also demonstrates what you do with your anger, and if your doing it right, they will mirror that.
CoMMember13641777989211364178298 CoMMember13641777989211364178298 4 years
This is a top suggestion for me for parents of younger children, under 12 or 13. For teenagers who are determined to challenge the rules, it may be challenging for both parent and teen to accept the new protocol, but positive interaction like this is certainly worth a try. I'll be implementing this in our home, as the anger level has escalated and I believe it's blocking real communication between my daughter and myself.
SharonSilver SharonSilver 4 years
CristinaMcNac First you have to identify whether the behavior your child is exhibiting is age appropriate or not. Tantrums are not something that should be punished. A tantrum is a natural way to communicate I'm overwhelmed, frustrated, angry and don't know what those emotions are or how to stop them. Tantrums are also about the inability to choose. Suppose a child saw a favorite toy and saw mom standing in the room. She wants mom, and she wants the toy. Because she can't decide how to have both she melts down into a tantrum. Tantrums need a mom or dad to come close and silently reassure a child. However, when a two-year old throws a toy, you want her to know that's not okay. Proactive Parenting's audio, "Gentle No's for Toddlers" has many ways to communicate No in a loving way, to many to write about here. Check it out and I hope this helps.
RituAnand1363954947 RituAnand1363954947 4 years
Very useful article....for parents to read
PeggyHarperLee PeggyHarperLee 4 years
CristinaMcNac, for two year olds it's more about re-directing and keeping him active and on a schedule. You're right, you can't reason with him, so the schedule makes him feel secure because he knows what to expect. When he is acting up, remind him of the behavior you expect and redirect him. It will take consistency before he gets the picture that you are in charge. You sound like a loving mother, so continue to shower him with kisses and hugs too!
CristinaMcNac CristinaMcNac 4 years
how do u correct a two year olds behavior? he still only knows a few words....
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