On my facebook page I post regular reminders to help parents out. One day I suggested that rather than getting mad at our children for being difficult or inconvenient, we should try to see the world through their eyes. I suggested that behind every challenging behaviour was an unmet need, and that when we understand those needs, challenging behaviour becomes more understandable, and it also becomes easier to work through.
Shortly after my post, I received an email from a mum who had a beautiful story to tell.
You did what?
This is what she shared:
I walked downstairs into my lounge room and saw my 4 year-old son surrounded by clothes. Then it dawned on me. The clothes baskets that I had left on the floor – the ones that held 4 loads of washing and ironing I’d just completed – were now empty. He was standing in the middle of the clothes, picking each item up and throwing it into the air. As he threw the clothing, he burst out laughing. So did his 18 month-old brother, who was watching the destruction of my washing like it was entertainment.
I was just about to blast him. I knew all the things I wanted to say. And once I’d said it, he was going straight to time out.
But then… I remembered you saying I should try to see the world through his eyes. I paused. In my eyes he was being a brat, intent on demolishing all of my hard work. But in his eyes, perhaps he was something else.
Mustering all my self-control I quietly and calmly asked him, “What are you doing with all of that washing and ironing?”
He turned around when he heard my voice, smiled, and said, “Hi Mum.” It was like nothing had happened. I asked him again. Then he gave me this sweet explanation:
“You were asleep upstairs, and Josh (his little brother) was getting upset and I was scared he would wake you up. I started throwing things and it made him happy so you could sleep.”
If we are honest with ourselves, most of us will admit that we get things wrong from time to time when it comes to parenting and our children. We get mad at a child for losing her shoes, and then realise we put them outside after we washed them. Or we get cross at a child for not doing what we asked only to find out he was doing something for his dad, or his brother, or for someone else.
It may be one of the hardest things for us to learn to do as a parent. We are always operating on our agenda and we expect our children to fall into line and step with us. While there are times when children do inexplicable, unexplainable things with nasty motives, those situations are typically rare. Even in those instances, a deep unmet need may be the driver of the challenging behaviour.
When we pause and make a point of trying to understand, we will usually find that our children are amazing people who really do want to do the right thing. They just need us to let go of our agenda, see the world through their eyes, and look for ways we can help them.