One of Those Days
It was one of those December days in Minnesota, the ones where a load of snow is dropped onto your driveway and you're the only adult around to tackle it. You can't just ignore it because the snow plow left a mountain that you won't be able to back over without leaving your tailpipe behind. Back when my kids were little and my husband worked crazy pre-Christmas retail hours, I had to shovel if he was going to make it to the garage (yep, no snow blower back then). I often recruited my two boys to give me a hand, but on this particular day, my oldest son refused to get bundled up to go outside. At first I tried to make it sound like an adventure, but he didn't fall for it and before too long I was frustrated and convinced he had morphed into a brat overnight. It escalated and I'm sure I issued some type of threat that got him out the door, compliant and unhappy. Score one for Mom, right? Later that evening, my son had a fever and was down for the count. I felt terrible when I suddenly remembered how my normally happy-go-lucky boy would get difficult when he was getting sick. How could I have forgotten? Kids don't always have the ability to tell us how they're feeling, instead they show us through their behaviors. Ironically, adults do too! We can avoid some regrettable moments like my situation when we learn to pause for a moment when our kids (and spouses 😉) are pushing our buttons and ask ourselves "What's really going on here?". Behavior is attention-getting, like the shiny and colorful wrapping paper on a present. Just like we know to peel back the paper to reveal the true gift inside, it is best not to get so distracted by the outragious behavior that we forget to wonder about what's below the surface of our child's actions. When we take a deep breath and press pause, we increase the likelihood that we'll recognize what they are needing from us.
What would it mean to your family if you were to believe the best of them and then get curious when their best isn't showing up? The pause helps us recall there's something valuable below the surface of their frustrating behavior. The pause leads to less regret. The pause promotes healthy relationships with the ones we care about most.
To learn more about how your child's behavior communicates, check out this video.
-Pamela Zaffke, M.A., LPCC