How to deal with children with behavioural problems (Part 1) – Reach out to your child’s innermost emotions

behavioural series

If you have a child who back talks, is defiant, loses his interest in studies, is rude, closes any form of communications with you, what will you do?

Do you hit your child?
I know, it’s convenient and it’s the fastest way to get him / her to listen to you or carry out the said instructions.

Do you use authority and make sure your child know you are in charge?
Yes, I am the mother, naturally you have to obey me! Whatever I say must be right!

Do you engage in fired bullets back and forth and finally shout out in anger as if your child is your greatest enemy?
How can we not get angry? My voice has to be louder than my child’s because I am THE authority!

I confess. Throughout my 9 years of being a mum, I have done all of the above. It doesn’t take a rude child to trigger these actions from me. It only needs my fatigue, impatience and pride to do all the above.

Recently, I attended a very good parenting talk by Lee Chong Jian 李崇建 (This is NOT a sponsored post) from Taiwan. I have attended his talk last year organized by my children’s school. He teaches me these.

Emotions and communication
As parents, the first thing we need to do is to check our emotions.
Next, when we talk to a child with behavioural problems, we need to be on eye level with the child.
Then, to melt the child’s cold front, we have to reach to his innermost emotions.

How to reach to the innermost emotions of the child?

Just say these words “I understand how you feel…”, and of course, you HAVE to understand how they feel.

You need to understand why the child is behaving this way or that way. If the child seems to be angry or upset, you MUST try to find out why.

Your child has not been cooperative with whatever you ask him or her to do. What should you do?

You imagine yourself as your child and reflect on the scenario taking place before the incident. The scenario can be one that repeats the same everyday. Each day when you come back from work, the first thing you do is to scan through the house and you only have eyes on what is wrong in the house. You see a school bag strewn on the floor and not kept in its place. School shoes and socks scattered in the weirdest corner. You walk further into the house and see that your child is about to touch the computer. Your first words after stepping into the house are:

“Why is your bag on the floor?”
“Why are your shoes and socks not in their proper places?”
“You are on the computer again?”
“Have you done your homework?”
“Didn’t I tell you time and again, you cannot play computer games on weekdays?”
and on and on…

Now, reverse the role from your child’s perspective.

I am the child, I just spent 9 hours in school. I am tired. I rushed to the bathroom to pee immediately after I reached home. I did my homework in school already. Now, I am about to fetch a book from the table to read and my fingers happened to hover over the computer. There my mum starts scolding me. She just assumes I am lazy and thinks that I am going to play computer games. She DOESN’T UNDERSTAND me at all!

And the backtalk starts…

Your child has emotions. If he does not have the chance to release his emotions and obeys you in whatever you say, do you think he will be a happy child? He will suppress all emotions within and obey you because you use authority over him, use a cane to tame him or triumph over a shouting match. When such situations replay over and over again every single day, soon, the child will be an angry child, a child who shuts out all communication with you and closes his heart to you.

When you understand things from your child’s point of view, you will be able to understand why he behaves this way. It is a reaction and a retaliation to your negative attitude towards him. What if your boss treats you this way? What if your spouse returns home from work and treats you this way? You feel sore, don’t you? You feel that he doesn’t understand you.

Check our emotions
Are we transferring our fatigue, stress from work, unhappiness over some issues to our children unknowingly? Before we talk to our children, we should put aside our negative emotions within us and then only can we start talking or even give instructions. With a relaxed body, we are able to transmit the message effectively across to the child because our voice naturally will follow a neutral tone as compared to an agitated tone.

Look the child in the eye
Go down to the child level and look into his eyes when we talk to them. Kneel down if you need to.

Reach into his innermost feelings
“You seem angry. Can you tell me more about it?”
“You are upset that your brother broke your favourite sunglasses. I can understand how you treasure that lovely sunglasses which was your 4th birthday gift.”
“I understand you are unhappy with what Sharon did in school to you.”
“You must be feeling sore about not being chosen for the school team.”
“I know……”
“I understand…….”
“I know……”

Such “I know how you feel” sentences will help you reach into your child’s closed up emotions and open them up like a right key to a lock. Most of the times, your child will start to tear up and let loose his anger, sadness, negative feelings because he FEELS that you understand him. He trusts you and is not afraid or embarrassed to cry out in front of you. He feels secure with you. You just touched that sensitive chord within.

Your child starts to trust you again like how he trusted you when he was a baby. You were once able to pre-empt your baby’s needs and soothe his cries. Remember those days? Over the years, we forgot about how to acknowledge their needs. We forgot how to soothe them. We risk facing a closed up door. We forgot that even though they have grown up, their wants for love and security are still the same.

Each child is a human. A human has emotions. No matter how old we are, deep down we are like a child. We all love to be soothed, understood and be loved.

Today, when you see your child, see him like the newborn that was put into your arms. He needs you to reach out to him and he will reach out to you eventually.

This post first appears on Kids R Simple and is Part 1 of what I have learnt from Lee Chong Jian’s parenting talk as well as my own thoughts. Stay tune for Part 2 – Put down your expectations on your child and Part 3 – Let go, don’t teach your child

Do you have a difficult child or a challenging phase that you are going through with your child? Tell me about it and how, if, you manage to solve the problems.

27 thoughts on “How to deal with children with behavioural problems (Part 1) – Reach out to your child’s innermost emotions

  1. Wow, these were all great tips. The part about seeing things from the child’s view was convicting! I will be thinking more about my behavior towards z now. Thanks Christy for sharingn

  2. Really good tips and reminders, Christy! Often it’s easy to “let it go (let it gooooo)” when you’re so harried with so many things to do and so many kids! I agree that when you can make things fun instead of nagging, kids are so much more cooperative! But sometimes they really seem to need a firm or raised voice before they will stop.that.whining. Or maybe it’s just that they are looking for attention and I don’t have the time and patience to figure out how to best handle it?

    • Haha – let it gooooo!

      I do agree there seems to be a time and place for a firm voice. I was using mine on Tuesday when P was overtired and just not in control of himself. It seems to me there’s no point trying to talk to him then – he can’t focus to listen and think, he really needs to just get on with each task and get himself into bed as early as possible! Of course any other solutions are welcome…

      When he’s well rested I agree a more balanced approach can work wonders.

      • And.. I wonder if it’s a boy thing too?? That if you use your calm voice it sometimes doesn’t seem to register??

        Let’s see if Christy has any suggestions!

      • It’s not a boy’s thing I can assure you Edlyn 🙂 It’s regardless of gender and age. Your child can be in his teens and can be a girl, he or she may still not listen to calm voice. I am no expert here. But I gather if we start to improve our relationship with our children such that when they reach tweens or teens, we’ll be their BFF, using calm voice will work most times. We cannot expect all the time 🙂

      • Right! It’s the same for me too. When I am overly tired, my hubby does this on me haha! He took over and instruct me to sleep. Anyway, the constant struggle with kids being uncooperative is an everyday thing. It all has to do with how they feel, what emotions they have such that repetitive instructions just do not go into their heads. That’s when a routine, habit, time-table works, and coupled with some flexibility from the parents.

        On this post series, I think it is more of touching on topics with the older kids when they really start to get defiant. But then kids nowadays mature young, we start to see such behaviour earlier. Just before it gets out of control, I think Lee’s way of teaching is good to prevent future teens problems.

    • Edlyn, thanks! I do agree. Sometimes I feel so tired, but so do my school going kids. What I have learnt here is kids’ emotions are real. Lay down rules for the repeated instructions part. Check our own emotions and reach out to understand our child’s emotions and acknowledge their feelings so as to connect with them. With this, behavioural problems will start to get lesser and easier to manage because we’ll understand why the child behaves this way which could be a built up of negative emotions that are not acknowledged for a long time. The core part is to UNDERSTAND the child’s feelings.

  3. Great tips, I think this will be a very handy series! Thanks for the timely reminder, Christy. I have been telling myself to think twice, or thrice, before reacting to the kids with a reprimanding tone or authoritative voice. I agree gender doesn’t matter, because my girl can seriously challenge my limits and has started to backtalk too. Well, we all learn phase by phase, one step at a time, right?

    • Thanks Summer! You have a calm voice with your kids which I cannot do as well. Angel does listen to you most times and I think it boils down to good parenting. Yes, totally agree we learn phase by phase. Each phase is a challenge.

  4. I’m always guilty of not keeping my emotions in check. And then it becomes a battlefield with a tired mom and a grouchy kid. Your post is a refresher and reminder for me to keep my emotions and hers in balance. 🙂

  5. This is a wonderful posting. I have experienced both scenarios with my stepkids- times that my anger/impatience have gotten the best of me and times when I have allowed them the time/space to express whatever it is they are feeling. The second scenario goes WAY better for each of us 🙂

    • I am sure you do use positive phrasings! You must use humour too since you always do that in your blog! Each child has his own set of challenges for us and I think that’s a normal growing up phase. Life is never smooth sailing with kids and that makes us stronger, doesn’t it?

  6. These are very useful tips. It’s such a great reminder that kids have emotions too. Sometimes we adults forget that, especially when we’re overwhelmed by stress and fatigue. Somehow, my eldest bears the brunt of most of my parenting mistakes. I’m not sure if it’s because he’s the eldest and we expect more from him? I’m constantly reminding myself that I am the adult, they are the kids. I have to be the mature one here. It’s hard sometimes and I’ve failed many times! Looking forward to more of such tips!

  7. It’s a good posting! I believe that given the children our love and understanding their emotional, these will make our families more healthy and happy. After listening to the seminar, I try to control my emotion toward my children, it work for them! It’s better to nag or shout at them everyday. So I believe that try to understand them will make it success.

  8. Pingback: How to deal with children with behavioural problems (Part 2) – Put down your expectations on your child | Kids "R" Simple

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