The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways
One of the first things I tell most parents that I work with is that behavior is a communication, and that understanding the message in a child’s behavior is incredibly helpful for changing those behaviors. To put it another way, something is behind or underneath unwanted behavior; triggering or motivating or strengthening it. Those hidden drivers are usually unmet needs of some variety. When parents can identify what those unmet needs are, they typically find that those underlying needs are needs they want to support. In other words: the behaviors are unwanted, but the needs driving those behaviors are understandable!
Children who are acting in unloving ways are likely to themselves be feeling unloved, unwanted, not valuable, incapable, powerless, or hurt. (*) The response those children need isn’t greater control, or bigger punishments, they need understanding, compassion, and support for their growth. LOVE.
How should a parent respond to these ‘unloving’ behaviors? That’s a more complicated topic than this blog post can tackle, but here’s a little basic information. A sustainable and effective response will include: staying calm and compassionate ourselves, not taking obnoxious (or even mean) behaviors personally, plenty of self-care for the parent/caregiver, working to understand the drivers of unwanted behaviors, identifying patterns and triggers, modifying the environment to prevent problem situations and support positive ones, and using circle-back conversations to provide information/support for learning, growing, and healing.
Can you spot the need for love in a child’s unloving behaviors today?
(*) And, it’s worth mentioning, physical states are deeply influential: hunger, thirst, tiredness, and overstimulation can all stimulate crummy behavior.
(**) I googled for the origin of this quote. I didn’t really find anything definitive, but one source said that it was the words of a teacher quoted by Russell Barkley (ADHD expert.) Anyway, kudos to that teacher, whomever they may be. :^)
Sign up for my FREE parenting newsletter, chock full of helpful knowledge, useful tips and tools, plus exclusive discounts on new courses and webinars. As a bonus for subscribing, get an immediate PDF download of my
Top 5 Tips for Better Behavior
I believe family is the foundation of who we are as people and as a culture, and helping improve family lives is my calling and my passion. My top priority is helping you manage behavior more effectively while preserving your parent-child relationship, either with one-on-one coaching or through my online offerings.