Parenting today can be challenging with our children exposed to various information at their finger tips. But more and more parents are becoming aware of being mindful at home and their parenting methods. We speak to Racheal Kwacz a Child and Family Development Specialist, to find out how parents today can be compassionate and respectful towards their kids at home.
The Weekly : What are the three steps parents can take in order to remain compassionate when a child does something wrong?
Racheal: When dealing with the problem, the first step is just to take a deep breath and find your inner zen. When you’re in an airplane watching the safety procedure demonstration, they tell you to put your oxygen mask on first before attending to others in your care. That’s exactly what you need to do – put your own oxygen mask on first. Doing this enables you to “prepare” yourself to respond to the situation more calmly. Time and time again we see that children respond more to non-verbal cues than verbal ones. If you are telling your child to “calm down” but your body language and tone of voice display anxiety, frustration and tension…which cues do you think the child is going to react to?
The second step is to listen. Listen and really try to understand the root cause of the problem and supposed “wrong” behaviour. Ask yourself why they are reacting the way they are reacting? If they are lying, is it because they feel like they can’t tell you the truth? If they are hitting, is it because they feel backed into a corner and don’t know the words to tell you “I need help”?
Most of our anxieties and frustrations as parents comes from not being able to understand the cause of their behaviour, and when we worry that our little one’s behaviour somehow reflects our failure as parents to educate or keep them safe. You need to take yourself out of the equation and that’s when you really find yourself being able to be empathetic and compassionate towards the struggles face by your little one. Put yourself in their shoes and you will be better able to respond as a parent.
The last step, is just to really see all their tantrums and difficult behaviour as a cry for help. A lot of the time, we have incredibly high expectations of our little ones. We feel like “they should know better” or “they are doing this to get attention”. You may not be wrong in thinking that way, but from now on I want you to look at the “attention-seeking” outburst in a different way: “Mama, I’m having a hard time regulating my feelings or actions. I don’t know what to do. I am frustrated. I am acting out because I need help from you. Please help me.”
Imagine if you responded to that cry for help with empathy and compassion, instead of trying to dismiss or punish it. Imagine our little ones feeling seen and heard. Recall all those moments of frustration you faced with your colleagues, your bosses, spouses or friends. We tend to get so upset and frustrated when trying to ask for help, be understood and seen and trusted to do the right thing. Often we have a hard time figuring it out. But imagine now if they had said, “I see you. I hear you and I am here with you. Let’s figure this out together.” What a different world it would be not only for our little ones, but also for ourselves.