Here’s a big issue we come across quite often as parents – when your child starts directing anger at you or is disrespectful. What do you do?
The short answer is it all depends on the age of your child, however, here are a couple of options you might find useful.
The main thing to remember is when our kids have an overwhelm of emotion, not to take it personally. You are a safe person and often the closest person to your child. So, we need to acknowledge that whilst our child is having big emotions, they do not always have consistent skills in expressing these in respectful appropriate ways. The best way we can help them is use these outbursts as teachable moments.
Option 1 – Empathy and Connection
One of the quickest ways to our child to be receptive and be ready to learn is through empathy and connection. So even though they might be saying mean things and being disrespectful you can simply say:
‘Wow you seem really angry at me.’
‘I can see you’re really upset. How can I help?’
When you respond with connection and empathy, you help regulate their reactivity. Naming the emotion helps our kids feel heard and you are being available to their needs. I know most parents want to say ‘you can’t talk to me like that!’ which is actually counterproductive because they actually can and they just did. So option one is to go with connection and empathy. Then address the behaviour once they are calm. ‘That’s not how we talk to each other in this family, so how could you say that differently next time?’
Option 2 – The Redo
When your child comes in with the pedal on, you can encourage them to think about how they communicate by introducing a pause. You can say:
‘Wait, wait, wait – let’s start over and please communicate with me in a more respectful way’.
It’s kind of like a do over. They might not even realise what they are doing, so you’re asking them to think and start over, in a respectful way.
Option 3 – Boundary Setting
Boundary setting is so powerful because when you set a boundary as a parent you are teaching your child how to set boundaries for themselves. You can say:
‘I don’t let anybody talk to me like that. I can see you’re really upset right now and I don’t let anybody talk to me that way so I can either help you calm down.’
OR if you have a teenager
‘Now doesn’t seem like the best time to communicate. So I’m going to be in the kitchen so let’s take some time and I’m ready to listen to you once it can be a respectful conversation. And let me know if you need help in the meantime.’
So, we are still available, however, we are holding a boundary in the meantime about how we allow ourselves to be treated.
Remember you are a safe person – so your child is going to have explosions of emotion more with you than any other person. Also when they are younger those big feelings really get in the way of them pausing and being thoughtful about how they are communicating. Just know that kids typically get better at communicating as development unfolds.
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