When our kids act out, there’s something we tend to forget. We see the hitting, the biting, the screaming, the refusal to cooperate, the tantrums, and the acts of defiance. We react by putting them in time-out, by separating the kids, by wrestling them to get their coat on…but in those moments, we forget the most important thing.
We forget that there’s a REASON BEHIND THEIR BEHAVIOUR.
There’s a reason they act out.
We may not understand it, and we may not be easily able to identify it, but it’s there.
The hitting, biting, and tantrums, are symptoms of an underlying issue. They are symptoms of what’s going on inside your child.
It’s a symptom of your child hurting inside, feeling threatened, out of control, overwhelmed, tired, hungry.
But we tend to forget this in the moment.
We want the hitting to stop. We want them to stop the tantrum and be happy. We want them to cooperate all the time.
So in the moment, we just want it to stop.
We react by separating FIGHTING SIBLINGS, by allowing them to go without a coat, by putting them in time-out, or by yelling because we don’t know what else to do.
We fail to remember that there’s hurt inside, that there are feelings bubbling out from below the surface.
To us, they’re just screaming over a coat but to them, they’re screaming because they’re sick and tired of someone telling them what to do all the time. Or they’re in the middle of having a great time and how dare you interrupt their fun.
It’s important for us to remember that there are layers to behavior. There’s what we see on the surface: the symptom – the hitting, biting, screaming, tantrums. And there’s something we can’t see under the surface: THE PAINFUL FEELING INSIDE.
If we only treat the symptom, it won’t be effective. Sure, you may see the behaviour stop, but you’ll see those hurt feelings come out in other ways. Or worse, they’ll stuff it down deep inside and it will linger there until it comes up.
It will always come up. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. Maybe not for years. But it will come up.
It’s our responsibility as parents to recognize the layers.
Each layer needs to be dealt with. The layers don’t have to be dealt with altogether or all at the same moment. But each layer is important. Each layer makes up the behaviour.
When each layer is dealt with, the behavior will subside because you’re treating the root cause.
Keep this in mind as you’re dealing with behavior. Start to notice and acknowledge that there’s more than meets the eye.
As it becomes easier to notice this, you will start to understand why your child ACTS THE WAY HE DOES.
You will find more compassion in your heart and more patience than you knew you had because the pieces of the puzzle start fitting together and you begin to make sense of the behavior. And, that’s a beautiful thing to learn to do as a parent.
This post originally appeared on Think, Feel, Decide.