This post is part of a series documenting everyday respectful parenting moments. Reading real life parenting examples inspires me. I also find it helpful to look back on situations and think about what went well or what didn’t. Maybe you will too!
“GIVE IT BAAAAAAAAACCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKK!!!!!!”
A scream from the back of the car. Very loud in an enclosed space, which instantly irritates me and makes it harder to stay calm.
“No, I’m not giving it back!”
“It’s MINE! You took it from me! Mum, she took my ribbon!”
These moments are frustrating and I just want to tell her ‘give the ribbon back right now!’ so I internally adjust my perspective. ‘All behaviour is communication, they need my help right now not my judgement and control, they are capable of working this out with my support’, I tell myself.
Me: “She took your ribbon and you really want it back?”
“No! I’m not giving it back!”
Me: “Who does the ribbon belong to?”
Me: “But you don’t want to give it back to her?”
Me: “Are you feeling angry?”
No response (which I take to mean I’m right).
“I really want it back!! It’s mine!! It’s not fair!” (crying now)
Me: “You’re really upset. You really want your ribbon back”
“I had it first and it’s mine”
Me: “The ribbon belongs to her. Would you be able to pass it back?”
“NO! I don’t want to!”
Me: “You’re upset?”
“No! I’m not upset”
Me: “You sound angry and frustrated”
“It’s just….when we were at the pool she kept on pushing me in the water and I wanted her to stop but she wouldn’t stop!”
Me: “You’re feeling frustrated about something that happened at the pool earlier?”
“She just kept pushing me! Even when I was trying to get away from her.”
“Well you didn’t say stop!”
“Well I didn’t feel like saying stop. But I was OBVIOUSLY trying to get away from you so you should know that I didn’t like it!”
“Well I didn’t know! You didn’t say stop!”
“Well it was obvious!”
“But the other day we were playing that game at the pool and we were both pushing and you liked it so how would I know today you wouldn’t like it?”
“Well I was trying to get away!”
Me: “It sounds like you both had different ideas about what was happening. You wanted her to stop, but she thought you were just playing. I wonder what you could do in the future to make sure this doesn’t happen again?”
“I don’t know. Maybe say stop?”
Me: “You could be sure to say stop so she knows you’re not enjoying the game?”
“We could check if we want to play?”
Me: “You could ask if the other person wants to play before you start.”
“Can I have my ribbon back now?”
Me: “She would really like her ribbon back”
If I had of let my frustration take over and demanded she give her the ribbon back RIGHT NOW, I would have missed something important here. Miss 5 had something she needed to resolve but didn’t know how to bring it up now that the moment had passed. So she showed me. She snatched something off her sister because she was angry with her. To me it was seemingly out of nowhere, having not witnessed the pool incident. But it’s my job to figure out the ‘why’s’ instead of reacting to the behaviour. It’s my job to show them more effective and appropriate ways of dealing with these situations. I can’t do that if I just get mad!
If you listen carefully, there is always a message being communicated through your child’s behaviour. And it is SUCH a gift when they feel safe enough to express it to you. You get to know and understand them that little bit better, and they learn that they can always confide in you. Sibling fights can be frustrating and hard to deal with, but when you respond calmly everyone benefits and connections deepen.
“Children don’t ‘mis’behave. They behave, either positively or negatively, to communicate. Small children communicate through their behavior because that is the only method of communication they have. Even when they become verbal, though, they still aren’t able to articulate big feelings and subtle problems well verbally, so as parents it’s our role to ‘listen between the lines’ of our children’s behavior to discern the need being communicated.”
– L.R. Knost