Move toward, not away.
When your child misbehaves, is unkind, has an attitude or simply has a moment of defiance, how do you know what do to next?
Seems simple, “you discipline them right?’ Well, yes, maybe, no, it depends.
How do we react in a way that promotes comfort and safety, attachment relationship and brain development?
First, let’s remind ourselves that no matter what the struggle is in your family and your child’s life, developmentally there are reason in each stage that a child or youth will act out, push against authority or try to assert their independence. This is normal, typical and even healthy. It does not mean we do not react or have a game plan how to help our child, but we can also relax. Some of what is happening has been dealing with since the dawn of time, in all families, and with all kinds of kid and parents.
A two year old tests out his, NO muscle- all good for learning that he is separate and has autonomy but there is also a safe structure to contain his anger.
An eight year old, hides her homework- a way to test out what happens if she tries to skirt her responsibility. Wouldn’t you rather she learn this now than as a teen where the consequences will be much greater?
A teen rejects the plan to go to college to take a year long road trip with his friends. You see the big picture view, the teen needs to assert his young adult independence.
All of these scenarios can be tough moments for parents and even tougher if you and a partnering parent or ex handles it differently than you do (we will talk about how to hande that in another post).
You care about your child and want to guide them in the best life for themselves. Sometimes when we feel challenged, our ability to remain calm and take another’s point of view can escalate the situation and miss the target if increased relationship. When we react in a way that promotes the attunement and resonance between two brains in relationship, as discussed earlier, you reaction will build relationship and trust in themselves as well as in you. Practicing the skills of being present without an agenda, hearing their perspective, taking their perspective, reflecting and acting to problems solve instills strength and confidence in their ability to navigate their world, at any age.
How does this look? Well, discipline has at its root, “to teach.” Some parenting beliefs see discipline as punishment or consequences we set up for bad behavior. We are avoiding that.
Discipline as consequence and punishment moves us away. We send the child into a time out, we take away privileges etc. I am not saying there is not a place for consequences. In fact, children do need to understand structure and limits as this promotes safety- the core of everything we build on . However, consequences would best follow a relational strategy of moving IN, towards the child through attuning and resonance.
Moving in -rupture and repair at the core. As an integrated parent, we seek to promote health, growth, insight and behavior change from the inside out as much as possible. Reflective abilities to examine and decide on a new path; that is what we want for our child and for ourselves. SO getting down on a child’s level, hearing their pain and giving them a voice without arguing the point while emotions are high. Remember, no one can hear or problem solve in the middle of emotional crisis. The brain has completely different priorities in that moment. We must work to bring that stressed out brain to a more peaceful place through mirror breathing, being close and comforting, quiet voice, simple statements, being on their level and guiding the energy. After the emotions have reduced, then it is time for problem-solving and discussion.
Kristine Clay Copyright 2015