Parenting for More Effect – Impart and Implement III: The Why

Written by: Stephen Walters, M.Div., M.A.
Parenting for More Effect – Impart and Implement III: The Why

So far this year, my blogs have been focused on how we can parent for more effect. Specifically, during a time of a pandemic, social distancing, and isolation. Also, generally, as we get closer and closer to “normal times.” Part one focused on the words we need to teach our children. When we can give our children the vocabulary to understand and express themselves, this can prevent a lot of frustration and argument. Part two focused on the need to breathe and how when we take control of our breathing it allows better regulation and focus. Today, I want to take a step back and look at the why.

In the book The Question Behind the Question by John Miller, we learn that questions that seem redundant or unimportant often have a deeper question or concern behind them. I think when we parent, and our kid’s present behavior that we do not appreciate, we need to take the same approach. In fact, in No-Drama Discipline Dr. Daniel Siegal and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson say the first step in helping a child move from undesired behaviors to more positive expressions and actions is to explore why they acted that way.

Now, sometimes we think our children are having a meltdown because they are being a brat. And maybe they are. But maybe they are having a meltdown for some other reason. For example, when you come home from the grocery store and forgot the goldfish, maybe their exaggerated response is not your child just being a brat. Maybe they are starting to be worried that you do not listen to them. Maybe they feel uncared for. Maybe there is insecurity they are trying to express beyond the disappointment of not having goldfish.

Or, as I think about social distancing, many of us are working at home. This may require us to be very busy with work while our children want to play with us. So, when our kids scream at us when we tell them we cannot play a game with them because we have another zoom meeting, maybe the why behind the behavior isn’t just a kid not getting everything they want. Maybe the why behind the screaming is an expression of the burden of feeling disconnected from social interaction and the realization that they will not experience much-needed social connection from their parents.

This is the reason why is so important. When we let our kids know we care about why they are acting out, they are more likely to listen to better ways of communicating their feelings. So, if we put all three parts together, we are giving them words to express how they feel. Then, after encouraging breathing (and participating with them), we can look at the why behind the behavior. This not only allows more connection and less screaming, but it shows our kids that we care. This point of concern allows our kids to feel understood which means our suggestions and support will have more effect!