With this mindset, every time our children show us challenging behaviors we view them with curiosity. As an emotional coach for our kids, looking beneath their behaviors takes the sting out of it as well. It then becomes a puzzle we can try to solve. A few examples come to mind.
Imagine you went to your teenager daughter after school to check in on her homework. It turned ugly and you argued. Outwardly, her behavior seemed selfish and rude but after reflecting you wondered what was really going on. A short time later you approached her and acknowledged she seemed upset. You then asked her what she needed from you as a parent. After some discussion, you learned that she has a lot of homework but is organized and on top of it. When you came to check on her plans to complete it all, she interpreted it as you not believing she was responsible and she lashed out. You then learned that she needs you to trust her more and check in less.
Without you as the parent considering what your child needed that situation could have festered and severed your relationship bit by bit. You, with good intentions would continue to check in and ask about her homework and plans to get it done, while she would likely argue and behave rudely because she wouldn’t feel trusted to accomplish things. Over a long time, she might create a limiting belief about herself like, “I’m not trustworthy” or “I’m not capable.”
This works for younger children too. Say your toddler sees a puppy and grabs its tail. Instead of yelling “no” or smacking his hand away you stopped and became curious. Did your child do that to hurt the dog? Probably not. As a toddler he is learning about the world around him and everything is new. Based on that information, what might he be needing? He is likely, curious and needing to see what this creature is all about. Think about a tail from his perspective, its moving back and forth just begging him to play with it. The realization that pulling the tail could hurt the dog is not something he will be aware of. Scolding him for doing this could have negative consequences such as developing fear. That fear can may grow and cause him to not feel safe to continue to explore and learn about his environment. As he grows he may start having negative beliefs about himself like, “I do everything wrong” or “I can’t be successful.” Obviously if we scold our kids from time to time it isn’t as big of a deal but what I am referring to is if you react this way consistently it’s likely there will be negative fallout in the end. Stating what you believe your toddler may be needing and also pointing out that it could hurt the puppy helps your child feel safe, understood and teaches a valuable lesson.