If you find yourself repeatedly dealing with or disciplining the same behaviors with your child, you are caught in a circle.
Behaviors are the outcome, not the source of a problem.
I would encourage you to ask yourself these two questions when you are struggling in a situation with your child.
Am I currently addressing a behavior (action or outcome) or the problem to be solved (cause or source)? and, what is my child having difficulty doing at this moment?
This is a non-exhaustive list of difficulties that children may have:
Difficulty getting ready in the morning or at bedtime.
Difficulty with other transitions such as coming indoors from playing outside.
Difficulty listening or following directions.
Difficulty playing safely or nicely.
Difficulty staying out of sibling’s belongings or bedroom.
Difficulty following the rules.
Difficulty managing emotions.
Difficulty being flexible or seeing another point of view.
Difficulty sharing space.
And the list goes on.
When you communicate with your child about the difficulty they are having, rather than the behavior they are demonstrating, you should see a marked difference in their response to you.
“I see you are having difficulty getting your teeth brushed. What can we do about that?”
“It seems difficult for you to follow the rules at the pool today. Let work together on that, or we just might need to stop for today and try to practice this again next time.”
“Keeping your hands to yourself is hard right now. Let’s take a break and find some extra space and something your hands can use to get that energy out.”
Yes, kids can misbehave on purpose, and that is where consequences that fit the behavior choice would apply. However, the consequence would work and the behavior should stop.
With underlying difficulties that mimic behavior, we need to be more compassionate in our approach. Let’s support kids by letting them know we realize that they are having difficulty with something, and work together on better ways to manage whatever the source of the problem may be.
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