Hi moms! Thank you for tuning in today. I think you will get a lot out of this episode.
You know, a while ago I talked about my 3 C’s of Successful Parenting? Well, I feel like what I’m going to talk to you about today goes hand-in-hand with those 3 C’s. Not only do we need to be consistently doing the 3 C’s Method but we also need to figure out why our children are misbehaving.
Mothers who understand their children’s behaviors and misbehaviors are in a much better position to influence their children. There are several ways to explain a child’s behavior. Some people believe behavior is mainly the result of heredity or as I like to call it, nature. I do believe that children are born with certain temperament traits, but the fact that they are born with certain personality traits and behaviors has never been proven.
Others believe behavior depends on environmental influences or nurture as I refer to it–the people and events surrounding the child. I do believe this is part of it. This nurture mixed with the temperament from nature, but that still doesn’t explain it all.
There is also a common belief that children go through stages at certain ages which predict behavior. Like when people say the “terrible twos”, or “All pre-schoolers do that.” Or you hear, “Don’t worry, he’s just going through a stage” or “She’ll grow out of it.” And although it’s true that children seem to have stages when they react especially oppositional to us, this should not be used as a reason for accepting inappropriate behavior.
And have you noticed that sometimes we even use boy and girl stereotypes with our behavior expectations for our children? Sometimes we might just expect that girls will be cooperative and boys will be more rebellious or lazy. We might reward girls for being mother’s helpers and maybe not even think to expect boys to be as helpful. We need to be aware of what we are just accepting as natural behaviors.
I really want to emphasize that there is considerable power in expectation and also in labels that we give our kids.
I learned this the hard way with one of my kids, and I was thinking the other day that this challenge with parenting my oldest is a big contributor as to why I feel driven to help other moms. If I had known some of these things and made some little tweaks with other things, I don’t think I would have had as many challenges with him, and I think we would have an even better relationship than we do now that he’s grown up and on his own.
The expectations we have for our kids are powerful, and when they don’t meet them it’s important that we don’t label them. We just keep our expectations high and always clearly defined, and then continue to parent them with firmness and kindness as they keep trying to reach that expectation.
Let me tell you more of what I’m talking about…So school was a challenge for my child, not because he wasn’t smart, he is very smart–he’s my kid that tested into the gifted and talented program when he was in 2nd grade– but he didn’t meet mine or the teacher’s expectations. Mainly with not doing his work or even doing it and forgetting to turn it in, which is hard for my organized brain to understand, but his brain just is wired a little differently. So being my first child and me being an educator, I was completely frustrated with him constantly even though it wasn’t said straight out to him because I knew I shouldn’t give him a label (I learned that in all my child development classes), but I did in fact label him.
Kids, once again, like I always say, are brilliant. You don’t have to say it straight out at all for them to know exactly what you’re thinking. I like to call it subconscious labeling–that’s what I was doing.
So, for example, if you’re concerned that your son might have same gender attraction because he has some effeminate qualities you never need to say it, he already knows you’re concerned about it and might start wondering if you might be right.
Or if you feel like your middle school girl is boy crazy and you worry that she is going to be promiscuous in high school, she already knows you’ve labeled her with this concern and she might not feel like trying to be anything otherwise because it might just be easier to give up and become what you already think she is going to become.
Have you ever been mislabeled? That is one of the things that hurts me the most is when I am mislabeled and misunderstood by somebody who just doesn’t understand me or my intentions. So we just need to be really careful that we’re not doing this to our own children.
My son knew very early on that I figured he must just be incapable of getting good grades when it came to school. He let that mean that his laziness in the school department was acceptable. And honestly, I think that I did lower my expectations for him and I shouldn’t have.
So I want you to just ask yourself if you are subconsciously labeling your child with something. This awareness that you’re doing this is the first step to changing it, and then the second step is try to redirect those thoughts, whenever you’re having them, into more positive thoughts.
Instead of just accepting my son as someone who doesn’t do well in school and letting him know that I think that, I wish I would’ve completely shifted my thoughts to something like, “he is so bright and intelligent and he’s got this.” And then I could just figure out other things I could do to help him, like maybe we sit down and go through his backpack more often until I’ve taught him enough that he can do that by himself every day.
I was so busy being frustrated and labeling him in my mind that I didn’t really spend much constructive time trying to figure out what I could do to help him. I just wish I would’ve kept my thoughts so much more positive, so even if he was down on himself, he knew that I wasn’t thinking those negative things and that I wasn’t ever going to give up on him.
I wish I had done so many things differently. I wish I hadn’t been so authoritarian with him, I wish I hadn’t used so much punishment, and had let natural and logical consequences teach him how to make better decisions for himself. But I mainly wish that when it came to his behavior with school, I hadn’t expected it accepted it, or even considered it normal. I wish I would’ve spent less time being frustrated and trying to figure out the next punishment for him and more time filling his love cup or his emotional cup, like we talked about in Episode 8.
When your child is running on low or empty with their emotional cup, he is going to frantically ask, “Do you love me?” No matter how old your child is, your child will ask this question through his behavior. He doesn’t come straight out and ask, “Do you love me?” his behavior is asking “do you love me?” And how we answer that question will determine a lot about his behavior, since the main cause of the behavior is an empty emotional cup. We mistakenly think that our child should earn our affection and our attention with good behavior. But that’s not how they’re built. If we think that, we will keep being frustrated.
A child will continually, and I mean always, test your love by his behavior. He is asking, “Do you love me?” And if you respond, “Yes I love you,” and then fill his love cup that will bring him so much comfort and make it unnecessary for him to keep testing your love.
So let’s try to shift our thinking away from, “My child should earn my love by having good behavior,” to something like “Maybe my misbehaving child is desperately asking, “Do you love me?” And also ask, “What does my child need? What exactly does this misbehavior mean?”
These small tweaks to your parenting are so crucial. These mindset shifts are so important.
So next week, we will delve deeper into understanding the main reasons why our children misbehave. Understanding the “why” behind their behavior will make us much more effective parents.
And remember: unconditional love does not mean unconditional acceptance of bad behavior. Keep explaining your expectations; keep being sure there are natural and logical consequences for their poor choices; and most of all keep being consistent.