Sometimes it’s hard to see things from a kid’s perspective and stay in the supportive role that’s needed for positive guidance. When we’re tired, stressed, overwhelmed, frustrated, impatient, or whatever emotion is keeping us from being our best selves, we sometimes see a child’s challenging behavior as personal, on purpose, unjustified, or just over the top. Reminding yourself regularly of these five things will help caregivers stay in the caring mindset.
1. We’re all trying to get our needs met. Kids aren’t the only ones who act inappropriately, blow past limits and boundaries, and struggle with big emotions. We all do because at our core, we’re all trying to get our needs met, and even as adults, we often don’t do that in an effective way. Every one of us has broken the speed limit because we wanted to get somewhere faster, been sarcastic to cover up our vulnerability, lashed out at others when big emotions overwhelmed us, or otherwise acted inappropriately trying to fulfill a need. If we struggle with this, imagine how hard it is for our kids.
2. People do better when they feel better. Jane Nelsen of Positive Discipline often says, “Kids do better when they feel better.” That’s true for adults too. If you were displaying an inappropriate behavior, what would motivate you to change; someone you cared about isolating you “to think about it” or saying “It looks like you’re having a hard time and feeling a little sad. Let me sit with you for a bit and if you want to share, I’m here to listen.”
3. No one is perfect. We support friends and family when they have a bad day, are struggling with big emotions, or make mistakes and we want them to support us in the same ways. Sometimes we need to manage our expectations for kids and realize just because they know better, they can’t always do better.
4. There’s a huge learning curve for new skills, especially emotion-based ones. As adults, we have a fully developed brain to help us learn and hone new skills like taking responsibility for our actions, controlling our impulses, and sharing our thoughts and feelings respectfully. And it’s still hard! Imagine how steep the learning curve is for kids.
5. Progress isn’t linear. There are many areas of our lives where we take two steps forward and one step back. Or we keep circling the same lesson, a bit wiser every time but still having to relearn parts of the lesson over and over again before it actually sticks. The same thing happens for kids.
Use these reminders as touchstones to help you hold space for kids as they navigate the everyday challenges of life. They’ll remind you to be gentle, kind, compassionate, and loving.