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Is your daughter’s kindergarten teacher sending home notes about her behavior, calling you at work, or (yikes) trying to schedule a parent-teacher meeting? If so, then I can imagine that life at home right now feels pretty serious. You’re doing your best to teach your child and trying everything you know to do as a “good” parent. You’re following all the appropriate steps, you:

  • Talk about the problems at school, grilling your daughter for all the details in order to make sense of the situation;
  • Use logic to reason with her so she can see her mistakes;
  • Talk about feelings – your daughter’s, your own, and those of her peers and teacher;
  • Come to an agreement on how your daughter will behave tomorrow and end with a sense of understanding.

However…the next day at school it happens all over again. All the patience, time, and energy you spent with your daughter seem to be for nothing. This time when you review the day with her, you aren’t as controlled or contained, and you say, “I will not allow my child to continue this behavior!” Sound familiar? Then read on.

It’s true that part of your job as Parent is to teach your child so she develops good behavior and social skills, but sometimes we adults have misinformation on how to do this in a “good” way. Luckily, no one is to blame for this (nope, not you, your child or her teacher).
Kids who hit others at school are expressing a message other than simply, “I don’t like you; get away from me.” It can be an emotional message (I’m frustrated), an internal message (I’m tired) and/or a sensory message (It’s too loud in here). When we understand what your child is expressing we can truly correct the core of the problem.
One of the “jobs” of children is to develop a strong sense of “we” to balance out the perspective of their usual “me.” When children have good perspective taking skills they’re able to get along well at school and make friends. “I already know this – that’s what I’m doing!,” you might think. If so, you’re on the right track! However, children require less logic and more experiential learning. Unfortunately for us, we mostly know to teach “we” by sitting children down and logically explaining all sides of a situation.

So how do I bring in experiential learning? Experiential learning is in-the-moment teaching. For example, if your child accidentally drops a gallon of milk, spilling it all over, the best way to use this experience as learning is to comment on her emotions. You could say, “Oh no – all the milk spilled; I can tell you’re upset right now!” By labeling your child’s emotions it regulates the stress chemistry in her brain and gives her access to the words she needs to describe how she feels inside. The trick here is to stay silent after acknowledging her emotion so that her brain has a chance to integrate first her emotions and then come up with a solution. It’s tempting, and sometimes easier in the short-term, to react in anger and/or punish your child immediately for her mistake. This is called the “easy-hard” solution, meaning you react in a way that’s easy but over time your relationship and her development become strained. Giving her as many opportunities as possible to label her emotions at home and come up with a solution will pave the way for success at school. Putting the time and effort in on the front end is the hard-easy solution, meaning it’s hard at first but it ultimately makes life easier and better for your child and your family.

Give yourself permission to try this technique, called “name it to tame it” (from Dr Daniel Siegel’s book The Whole Brain Child). This works great for children who:

[list style=”list-img2″]Primarily react with anger;[/list] [list style=”list-img2″]Blame others for their mistakes;[/list] [list style=”list-img2″]Use hitting as a problem-solving technique.[/list]

You’ll be helping your child’s brain to integrate and become flexible in responding to problem situations. Plus you’ll rest easy when the tension has finally released.

Want more personalized strategies like these? Call/email us today to schedule your private parenting consultation at 651-705-6665 / Relief@mad2glad.com

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