In my previous blog, I began to share the importance of understanding children’s unreasonable and illogical behaviors in order to craft a successful response. The first step is starting the process of consulting in order to have children help you to comprehend their perspective while at the same time doing your best to regulate your emotional responsiveness in the face of extremely frustrating behavior. For example, there are many students who fail to complete or even begin assignments during this covid period of remote and in-person instruction. Earning a zero does not motivate them nor does parental threats to take away their beloved electronics which is the gateway to their world. Bettelheim (1988), in his classic, A Good Enough Parent : A Book on Child-Rearing, posits, “If a child who has the requisite abilities to succeed in school [life] nevertheless fails, there must be very powerful reasons at work which cause his failure, reasons which, to the child, are clearly more compelling than the reward for academic success.” He goes on to say, “A good way to start out is with the premise that whatever the child does, he believes-albeit sometimes quite erroneously-that what he is doing, or is about to do, is the best way for him to proceed in the situation in which he finds himself.” However, parents often try to reason when children are behaving unreasonably. “When a child’s behavior is unacceptable, most intelligent (adults) try to reason with him, explaining his errors to him and expounding the superiority of their point of view. Unfortunately, once he’s made up his mind, these well-meant efforts only rarely convince him to change his ways or his mind.”
So, what are parents to do? Punishments seem in order, and, they may, in fact, yield temporary compliance. They may also offer momentary relief for parents in the form of a discharge of their frustration and anger. Yet, they often just breed resentment and a feeling of being misunderstood. A better option is consulting with children in order to understand what kind of emotional communication they need to move forward.
How is this accomplished? It is a delicate operation requiring patience. Parents need to be able to tolerate the feelings induced by their children, and be able to examine them, wiping them clean of their toxic elements and returning to their children an accurately emotional response. Patience is needed because doing all of the above takes time-yet, for parents of a child not doing well in school or in life, Rome is burning!
The first step is regulating emotions so as not to pour gasoline on the fire. This will help to break impasses that result from a deterioration in the parent-child relationship and drain off constructive emotions. Fixing an impasse requires infusing new emotion into the relationship and begins by utilizing emotional communications like joining, mirroring, and object oriented talking, each of which gives children the feeling that they are with someone more like themselves. Children will then like parents more as they perceive them as being more like them. Each will be explained in Consulting, Part 111.