Understanding why children react the way they do can be as problematic as understanding the mysteries of the universe at times. One moment your child is engrossed and pleased with a particular activity, the next she hates it and acts like she’s being tortured the minute you try to get her involved.
Children change their minds at the drop of a hat and have meltdowns due to a number of different reasons. However, if your child has suddenly stopped liking something that she previously has loved, there might be more to the story. Getting to the bottom of it might take time and there will likely be a lot of frustration. Here are the “Do’s and Don’ts” of helping your child process her feelings and understanding her behavior.
Don’t assume you know the story. There is always more to the story than it seems on the surface. It is very easy to look at a situation your child is faced with and come to your own conclusion. Try to control your urge to make a judgment call until you hear the entire story.
Don’t accuse or blame your child of doing something wrong. Even if you believe your child has some fault in the situation, blaming her for the situation is counterproductive. If she was at fault, she will learn more from the situation if she comes to this conclusion on her own. Never shame your child, especially in front of others.
Don’t assume your child is innocent in the situation. While you don’t want to openly blame your child for a wrongdoing, you also don’t want to ignore her actions when they are misguided. Sometimes it is difficult for a parent or close caregiver to accept that the child they have raised would do something hurtful to others. However, even the most well behaved and kind child can suffer from lapses in judgment.
Don’t step in to “fix” the problem. After the root issue is discovered you will likely know how best to solve the problem. Work to control this impulse. It might be simple for you to step in and solve this seemingly simple problem, however your child will learn nothing if you do.
Do allow the child to be upset. When you love your child, you don’t want to see her upset. It can be very hard to sit by and watch someone you love hurt. However, crying and being angry are a necessary part of the healing process. Stay close and remain calm while your child is upset, but don’t try to stop the emotion from surfacing.
Do really listen. Seems simple enough, right? Real listening involves more than just your ears. It involves what you see, the past experiences you have with the child and all the compassion you can find. In order to really listen to your child, you need to give her your time and be focused on her.
Do ask questions in a non-judgmental way. Once your child is done talking, this is your chance to ask questions to clarify the experience. These questions should not suggest anything; they should be simple and open ended. What happened then? How did you respond? What did he say? How did that make you feel? How do you think he felt?
Do help her resolve the problem with as little interference as possible. As your child discusses the issue, and you ask clarifying questions, there will likely be an obvious resolution. Avoid telling her what she should do or doing it for her by talking to the other child or the child’s parents. Instead, help your child come up with several possible solutions to the dilemma. The more you do for her, the less she learns from the experience for the next she’s time faced with a similar situation. For younger children, it might be a good idea to alert teachers or other caregivers to the situation if you feel the topic might come up.
Helping your child through a difficult situation can take time, but it is well worth the effort. When children are not allowed to release the frustration and the emotional pain they feel, other problems will begin to surface. Dealing with those behaviors will always take longer than helping your child work through her problems.