Frustration, Screaming, Aggressive Behavior – When Kids Aren’t Functioning Well

Our kids’ behavior can be mystifying, aggravating, worrying, and sometimes even infuriating. While the answers for resolving our concerns tend to be specific and unique to each particular situation, there are also general themes that can guide us. Janet explores one such theme in this week’s episode and explains how it applies to 3 different situations parents have written to her about.

Transcript of “Frustration, Screaming, Aggressive Behavior – When Kids Aren’t Functioning Well”

Hi, this is Janet Lansbury. Welcome to Unruffled.

Today I thought I would share a little about my actual process in recording these podcasts, how I decide what to talk about. And often it’s very obvious, I’ll read a note that a parent sent to me in emails or in messages and it resonates as something that I know a lot of parents would relate to. Or I have an idea in my head based on a lot of experience working with parents, knowing that this is a topic that a lot of people think about and wonder about, so I’ll take a stab at it myself. Or I’ll have an exchange somewhere, maybe on one of my social media pages, that sparks my interest and sounds like something that could help other people.

This time I thought I should catch up on responding to some of my emails. Actually, it’s not really catching up, I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to catch up! But I thought I would take a stab at going through them one by one, the recent ones. And something interesting happened. The first one that I was reading, I got a feeling about, just an instinct about what could be missing here for this parent that could help them. And then most of the notes that I read after that, I started seeing them through this same lens that I’m going to talk about. And with this lens on, this idea I had about how I could help, I could see how it applied in every subsequent note. Even though they’re all totally different: different details, different age children, really different issues on the outside. But I could see how, if not the only answer, one of the answers to all of these was this idea that I had about the first one. I’ll talk about that first and then I’ll read the first note.

The idea I had was the issue of—and I think we can all relate to this—sitting on feelings. We’re sitting on feelings. Maybe we’re not looking at them ourselves and understanding them, so they tend to drive us in all these directions that we don’t want to go in and that aren’t helpful to us. They’re there and they’re not really being expressed or shared or we’re not feeling safe about them. Because of that, they have this power that they wouldn’t have if we were able to safely release them. It’s a human issue that I can certainly relate to, and I hope it’ll make more sense when I get into some of these notes.

Here’s the first one:

My three-and-a-half-year-old daughter has what I would call extremely low frustration tolerance. This is a new thing over the past couple of months. For example, she likes to help unload the dishwasher, but if something gets stuck, she screams. She might hit me or call me stupid. I usually say something like, “Oh, that bowl looks tricky to get out. Would you like some help?” But this is usually met with angry yelling. I’ll physically stop her from hitting me and usually ignore the name-calling, though that hasn’t seemed to deter her at all. Or another example from today: she wanted to do a puzzle, dumped it out, immediately started yelling that it was too hard, and kicked the pieces all over the room and started to dump all her toys out in protest of the hardness of the puzzle. It’s like this all day long.

Some background information: We moved houses about six months ago. She hasn’t napped at home since then, but she naps at daycare during the weekdays. Over the past months, her bedtime has consistently gotten worse. We go through her bedtime routine of brushing teeth, PJs, stories, tuck in, but now she doesn’t stay in her bed and sometimes plays quietly by herself until way too late, 10:00 p.m. Often she doesn’t stay in her room and will start trying to interact with her dad and I. We gave up trying to gently but firmly usher her back to her room because she just says no and requires picking up, and then immediately and angrily comes out of her room again. So we now just try to be as boring as possible, quietly fold laundry and do other boring household chores, and tell her that if she wants to be covered, she can. None of this is really helping the situation. I mention it here because not only is it a problem, but also I think chronic lack of sleep may be contributing to her low frustration tolerance.

Help, please!

Reading this, I got this image of this little girl sitting on feelings. When we’re sitting on feelings, we can’t go to sleep, right? It’s really hard. I can’t do it when I’m angry about something or scared about something. And also it can flare out of us in these random situations. Little frustrations, like something’s not quite working right the way we want it to. Boom! We flash. And with children, it usually is those two emotions that I just mentioned. It’s usually one or both of them: fear and anger. And anger is often a secondary emotion that stems from fear.

It sounds like these parents are being so kind and caring and just trying to help her, and they’re obviously genuinely concerned. My advice would be to help her to vent these feelings. And it probably is about moving houses and not sleeping, this parent is absolutely right. That is going to make everything harder. It makes us much more sensitive, it’s much harder to contain our feelings. But in this case, like I said, the answer is for her to not continue trying to contain her feelings so much.

There are two ways that we can help children to share these feelings that they’re sitting on, that are doing all this destructive stuff. I mean, not irreparable damage that we have to worry about as parents, that we’ve done something wrong. But it’s not healthy in there. It’s not helping her sleep, it’s not helping her handle challenges. We don’t function well when we’re sitting on feelings.

So the two ways that I recommend are first, when your child is not doing these behaviors—and I believe in this for children of all ages—when you are having one-on-one peaceful time together or happy time together, I would bring up these situations that, for anyone, would create feelings. I’m saying I can relate to sitting on feelings, how it makes it impossible to sleep, impossible to function well, it’s distracting. Now imagine you’re a child and it’s almost impossible for you to even connect, Oh, we moved houses, so everything feels scary and different and rocky. They’re not even able to put that together. They’re also not as able as we are to identify what they’re feeling. They just feel it, right? They can’t put a name to it, they need us to help them do that.

We help them not by deciding you’re feeling this, but by exploring with them in this way I’m suggesting. In a quiet moment, not one of the behaviors happening, when you’re feeling peaceful and contented together, bring up: “We moved houses. Everything you knew, all these rooms you were used to, this neighborhood you were used to, everything’s changed. And that feels really strange sometimes. It can be scary and it can feel like you’ve lost all these things that you were used to. That was the only life you ever knew, and now you’ve got this place where you sleep and this window that you look out of.” Going into those kinds of details to help your child know that, Oh, this could be something I’m feeling, and it’s okay for me to feel like that. My parent is giving me permission to have whatever feeling I’m having.

If it’s a situation where we don’t know what our child’s feelings may be related to, then we want to even more openly explore with them: “Sometimes it seems like when you’re trying to do something and it doesn’t work, you get so mad. You want to throw things. What do you think that might be that’s making you feel like that?” Open up these conversations. Not that you’re going to get all the answers from your child, but it’s the gesture that gives our child so much relief and helps them feel freer to vent things out. Probably not in that moment, but maybe at some point later with us. They don’t have that sense of fear and judgment on top of what they’re already feeling. And it is typical for us to put that sense of fear and judgment out there. We don’t mean to be judgmental and scary towards our children, but it happens, right?

It’s hard for us to remember that what may have impacted us has impacted our child many times more. It can be overwhelming to our child. We’re feeling stressed because we had to do this move and we’re trying to get back into our rhythm, but our child is just completely underwater. They don’t have a context for what a move is supposed to feel like, like we do. They don’t know that, Oh, it feels rough for a while and then you get used to it and then you’re fine. They don’t know any of that. They don’t know any of that, and they don’t have the ability to self-regulate that we do.

In this case, I believe this is about the move that initially caused her to not be able to take a nap at home. She’s feeling unsettled. We can help by opening up conversations for her to vent the feelings. That’s the first way to help a child who is stuck sitting on feelings.

The second way to help is harder for us, because it’s really hard for us to see beyond behaviors when the behavior is in our face or right there in front of us. Really hard to see beyond it. We’re not going to do it a lot of the time, that’s okay. What matters is that we can be as aware as possible. Then as soon as possible afterwards, when we’re not in that triggering moment, we will hopefully see it a bit clearer. And this idea I was talking about in last week’s podcast could really help: practicing this in your head. Practicing the movie of seeing your child doing these behaviors and seeing them differently. Giving yourself that safe rehearsal time by just imagining, just daydreaming about it.

So let’s say she gets frustrated about the dishwasher. Something got stuck and she’s screaming. Wow. Is she really screaming about a dishwasher? Probably not. She probably just opened the tea kettle and is letting some of that steam out about the move. She’s letting some of those feelings she’s been sitting on out. But we probably won’t see that right away. In this case, the parent was so kind, she said, “Oh, that bowl looks tricky to get out. Would you like some help?” when her child is screaming. And that’s hard to do, right? To feel calm when your child is acting like that. So that’s lovely if you can do that.

I would just add there my suggestion, which is to welcome the feelings as they come. This is the second way to help. So the first way is exploring them when we’re not in that situation, when we’re one-on-one with our child. The second way is welcoming the feelings as they come, as much as we can, as soon as we can after it’s happened. “That’s so frustrating when things get stuck! That makes you so mad sometimes!” Instead of trying to move her through that, see this as an opportunity for her to let it out, helping her feel safe to do that by agreeing with her right to feel what she feels.

And agreeing with it—this is what I also call “acknowledging”—I think somebody said you want at least 30% of the same intensity that your child is showing you. So if we very serenely say, “Oh, that’s frustrating, isn’t it, when that happens,” and our child is screaming, that can feel like a disconnected response to our child. They don’t really see me here. They’re not really accepting me here. They’re just trying to say the right thing. And this is the hard, nuanced part of this, that’s a lot easier to show than to tell about, but having that intensity with them. Not that I’m upset too about the stuck silverware, but, “Ah, that’s so frustrating!” Matching by 30% her level, so that my child feels like I am really seeing them and willing to welcome them to feel that and connect with that. Challenging, but this is what I recommend trying to go for. It does get easier with practice, like everything else that we do as parents.

The parent says when she asks, “Would you like some help?”, “this is usually met with angry yelling. I’ll physically stop her from hitting me and usually ignore the name-calling, though that hasn’t seemed to deter her at all.” So, physically stopping from hitting: yes. Ignoring the name-calling: ignoring can feel to a child like the opposite of feeling seen. And I know it’s hard to take the name-calling, especially the older children get, the more they impulsively tend to zero in on those words that we’ve shown them have hurt us to make that impact. And I’m going to be honest, I have that feeling inside me even as an adult when I’m scared or angry, that I just want to lash out. I try not to, but I relate to the feeling and that helps me see beyond it. In children, especially, not so much adults. But in my children and other people’s children, I can see that. That in a way, whatever the name-calling is, we’ve kind of set it up by the first time they ever explored that word, we reacted. So now they’re hooked on it. Not that we did anything wrong, of course, but that’s where it’s coming from. And it’s just something they say in a fit of emotion, and it’s that fit of emotion that we want to come all the way out so that our child isn’t sitting on it anymore.

So what I would try to say there or do there is, maybe when she’s yelling, I’m saying, “Wow, you say those words when you’re mad, right? You don’t like it when this stuff gets stuck, and that makes you say all kinds of things to me that you don’t mean. I know.” That attitude. I’m ignoring the meanness of that, but I’m not ignoring where you’ve gone here. I’m not ignoring this feeling that’s blasting out of you. That I want you to keep sharing. I believe this is why nothing is deterring her, that she’s still feeling a bit stifled and confused about what’s going on with her. Not understanding that it’s very valid for her to feel a lot of strong feelings about having to leave your house.

In regard to her sleeping, I wish I had a magic wand to make her suddenly fall asleep. But getting these feelings out during the day, and all these opportunities that are being presented to her that she’s using as opportunities, unconsciously, that’s how to clear the decks for nighttime. The parent said “she immediately angrily comes out of her room again.” So that’s an opportunity right there, if she’s still sitting on something at bedtime and we want her to be able to go to sleep and function well all around. “So you don’t like it when we say it’s bedtime and we’re done,” trying to welcome that feeling, even.

Okay, so using this lens of sitting on feelings, here’s another one:

I’m totally losing my mind and would like your help. I’m getting very frustrated lately with my son’s slacker behavior. Today in his online class I totally lost it and yelled at him for absolutely slacking. He’s having online classes due to rain and while doing his work, he was doing it with no interest and making a lot of mistakes. He was not participating in the sessions, being very quiet. I know he can do better and he has amazing focus and loves learning, but I don’t know what’s happening for these past couple months. I feel so guilty for yelling, but after seeing other children doing so well, I completely lost it.

I would like your advice as to what to do in such scenarios where I know his capabilities, but he seems to be slacking, not focusing, showing no interest, have no confidence, and is constantly asking for my help. Should I keep helping him? I cannot sit with him all the time to help him. After I yelled and calmed down and hugged him and apologized and asked him what happened, he said he’s having a tough time. I felt so guilty, but I always get a rise out of this when he is not meeting his potential.

Please help me. I’m totally off the respectful path.

I wrote back to her—and this boy is six years old, by the way. I wrote back to her: “If you had to guess what was going on with him, what do you think it might be? Can you think of any reason that he might be unmotivated to do his work at this time? Also, how do you generally respond?”

And she wrote back:

So I feel like what’s going on is happening for a couple of reasons. One, he still hasn’t processed his feelings around the birth of his sister two years back and the transition around that. I am unable to be with him the way I used to, and he also started school the same year. So by the time he comes back from school, the attention that I give him is divided. His sister is a more easygoing, adorable girl, so she gets a lot of positive attention from everyone.

So I can say that he has a lot of feelings to unload, which he often does through acting out and testing behavior instead of crying it out. So when he acts out, he gets often yelled at by us. Establishing firm boundaries with him is tough. For example, if I need to go to the kitchen, he will start shouting and playing very roughly with his sister. They will be giggling, but I know it doesn’t feel comfortable to anybody. So if I ask him to stop, he won’t. The only option I feel I have is to lock him in another room, and that feels too much to me. But then what else can I do?

Two, the whole thing I feel has become a testing ground now. He can feel my discomfort and my expectations and judgment around his learning. As I mentioned earlier, I do get affected and have also yelled at him. But when he starts asking me silly questions about his work, I can see right away that he’s not even trying and that’s too much for me to handle. I don’t know how to respond.

Three, maybe he’s finding it boring because it’s too tough for him. The curriculum sometimes seems a little too much for a six-year-old. They’re learning nouns, complex equations, etc. While I do not want to push him, I absolutely do not want him to be a slacker. I was a slacker when I was in school, never did my homework, and I know how that affected my life negatively. So I feel that he should have a positive attitude towards his work, which he also had up until a few months back.

When he blatantly says no to my request to finish his work, how should I respond? Should I never ask him, just leave him? How can I restore his absolute love for learning and his motivation that would allow him to reach his full potential?

In this case, I think that both parent and child are sitting on feelings. I hear the parent’s fear that her son ends up having the struggles she had. And this is a common one for us. That is a really tough hurdle to get over, actually, when we have that fear—which comes out as anger a lot of the time, and frustration—that our child is going to have to suffer things that we had to suffer, that our child is not going to be able to rise above things that we struggled with. I hope this parent has someone that she can share with, because her feelings are valid, just like her child’s are. And she needs a place to vent those that ideally isn’t with her child, because he’s got his own thing going on, it sounds like.

I’m really glad she mentioned all the issues that have happened for him. That he comes home from school and feels now that he has to compete with his sister, who’s adorable and easygoing. And he’s a sensitive guy that’s having a harder time and needs to vent at the end of the day, like most kids do. So these feelings he’s sitting on, I believe, are what’s causing him to not be able to settle in to focus on his work. And that makes sense, right? So, how can we help him?

And, how can this parent separate her own feelings from his? That’s another big challenge we have as parents. One of the best ways is to realize that they’re separate and share them with a counselor, therapist, friend, spouse, someone who’s comfortable to share it with. Because our children are not us, they are their own people. And our fears get in our child’s way, they don’t help them to reach their potential.

In this case, I would regularly have a one-on-one moment with him at the end of his day. Maybe it’s five minutes, where his sister may try to barge in, but you’re not going to let her. I mean, you’re going to keep your focus on him, not saying you have to bar her from the room. And when you do have a moment where you are undisturbed, just checking in with him: “Hey, how’s it going? It’s tough to come home and have your sister here, right? You probably feel like thrashing around and venting some of your feelings from your day, and I like to hear about what’s going on. But then I’ve got to be with your sister too, and that’s tough.” Opening up those conversations.

Also in there you might say, “I’m wondering about what’s going on with you, because it seems like you don’t want to do your schoolwork, it’s really hard. It’s like you’re unsettled. Is there anything I can do to help you? What would make this easier for you? What can I do?” This non-judgmental attitude, which again, if we’re in our own fear, there’s no way we’re going to be able to have that, and it really can’t be faked. So the first job here, I think, is for the parent to understand her own feelings and process them, share them, so that she can start to put them aside to see her son and what he’s going through. She does see it. She’s very insightful, actually. She does get all of these things that are going on with him, but I think her own fear is getting in the way of her being able to help him as she wants to. And yeah, it’s tough to concentrate when you’re distracted and unsettled. It’s just tough to concentrate, especially on a Zoom call or an online class. I find it very hard to concentrate online. It’s hard to let go of the distractions.

Then in the second part, when he’s acting out with his sister, try just seeing him there, “Wow, you guys are getting very rough there,” and then seeing his sister, “Are you okay there? Is this comfortable? What’s going on? Do you need some help?” Or maybe, “Hmm, that’s a little too rough.” Doing something less, where you’re just moving his body a little bit and not directing him from across the room. Because a verbal direction that comes at them when they’re in the heat of their feelings, they’re roughhousing, they can’t really hear and follow those directions. They need us to say, “You know what? I’m going to move you a little bit back,” or “Maybe you guys could play something else. This is getting wild.” Something safe and calm, understanding that this is one of the many typical ways that children vent feelings, through the behavior with his sibling.

She’s right to see the aggressiveness in it, because that often is in there. And our job is to help him stop at that point, but not do a whole big thing of moving him out of the room like this is some extreme situation, which makes the child naturally feel very disconnected and shamed and wrong and adds more feelings to all the other ones that they’re already dealing with. Do less. And be on both of their sides when you intervene, neutral and just helping out the situation.

As far as his schoolwork, I would actually be very open to answering the silly questions. Without annoyance, just answer them. “Hmm, I think this, I think that.” But not sitting next to him if you’re too busy doing something else. The way that we handle that, expressing that boundary, makes a big difference. And also see it as quality time, that you can hang out with him a little when he’s asking you those questions. Even if he’s asking from across the room, see that as the same as if you were playing together, interacting in some positive way, because children can do that for that reason. Mom, I need your attention. I need your attention. I need your attention. I’m doing it in this silly way, asking you things I already know the answer to. But what’s happening here is I’m just wanting the attention. I want to be seen here. So see him. And when you can’t: “Ah, I’d love to, but I have to do this right now.” Or, “Can you come in and ask me and then go back?” When you need my help, I’m always going to try to be here for you, as much as I can. Instead of judging—again, hard to do when we’re in our own fear, but that’s the challenge.

Okay, here’s one more:

My boy is three-and-a-half, and we’ve had a number of challenges with aggressive behavior. My question is what to do if our children do get stuck repeating or continue to revisit behaviors we have previously moved past?

We moved states, had a baby, started preschool, and had a beloved teacher leave, all within a three-month span back when my son just turned two. This triggered aggressiveness at preschool and at home toward the baby. I discovered your resources about six months later and things really turned around. We had several months of peacefulness. He reverted back to aggressive behaviors after receiving a very nasty bite at school. We took about a month off from preschool. Things improved and we were doing great until he started potty-training around his third birthday. This time, aggression was met with lots of defiance. We got past it, and here we are, three-and-a-half and back at a very aggressive and defiant state again. I’m feeling so defeated, as we have seemingly conquered these phases time and time again, but it continues to reemerge. It’s very disruptive in his class and his teachers are clearly disturbed by his behavior.

To give more context, my three-and-a-half-year-old has gone through phases of biting, scratching, hitting, pushing, and once poked an eye. Oftentimes it’s completely unprovoked. Sometimes it seems like it’s his reaction to being overwhelmed or overstimulated, but other times it seems totally impulsive, experimental, maybe even entertaining. When my boys play together while my oldest is in an aggressive state, I do not leave their side. I’m always near, ready to stop him from hitting, lately scratching. I try my best to stop the strike and tell him, “I won’t let you hit/scratch.”

These aggressive states seem to last weeks or a month at a time and seem to keep coming back. I’m utterly exhausted. The balance of acting unruffled and relaxed while my son scratches the 17-month-old in a millisecond feels like an impossible task. They love to play together, especially my youngest. He’s incredibly mobile and follows my oldest around. I cannot keep them apart, nor do I try, since they still have a great relationship despite the aggression. Lately I’ve been telling him after he tries to scratch, “If you want to touch him, you can rub his back softly like this.” And I show him how.

Aside from being there to prevent, showing him what to do instead, telling him “I won’t let you,” what can I do differently? I’m at a loss. And since we continue to revisit this issue, I feel clearly something needs to change. I’m confident he knows he shouldn’t do it. I don’t think there’s a miscommunication of whether it is okay to hit. When he is in a sweet mood, he will rattle off how babies hit because they don’t know better, but he’s a big boy and he knows it’s not okay.

Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated.

My heart goes out to this little guy, and this parent is very insightful in the way that she’s seeing him and responding to him. I’m sure she’s right that he knows he shouldn’t do it. He knows it’s not okay to hit, so we definitely don’t want to repeat those kinds of responses. Because when we repeat things that our child already knows, that feels disconnecting to a child. Just as it would to us as adults if someone kept telling us these same things that we already know. It’s a turnoff, right?

I think she’s spot on when she says “it seems like his reaction to being overwhelmed or overstimulated,” but then she says, “other times it seems experimental, maybe even entertaining.” I doubt that very much. That would be very odd, because children don’t like to be doing behaviors that upset other people. Even if they smile, it’s an uncomfortable smile. It’s a smile to cover a lot of vulnerability that they’re feeling.

This child also is sitting on feelings. And it sounds like the parent is welcoming him to vent them a lot of the time, but maybe not enough. He had the feelings about the baby and starting school and then the teacher leaving. And it sounds like the parent sort of helped process those out and then she had months of peacefulness. But then he got a nasty bite at school. That’s going to put him back into that fear place. I wonder if he was encouraged as much as he maybe could have been to share the feelings around that in the two ways that I mentioned. So talking about, “What did that feel like? It was so surprising, right? Did it hurt?” They took a month off of preschool. Yeah, preschool is this other thing that can be misunderstood. It’s a big, challenging situation for children. It’s a big deal. She had him home for a month, that sounds like a good plan to let him relax a bit after that. She’s fortunate that she was able to help him take time off.

But now she says he’s back in an aggressive and defiant state again, and she seems like she’s not sure why. I wonder if this is still a residual from some of the original feelings that he’s had, and if it’s still kind of simmering with him, he’s still sitting on the feelings. And then something seemingly minor, some other challenge, brings out that feeling of overwhelm again. I mean, that’s what it is. When children have feelings that they don’t understand, they don’t understand where they’re coming from, they feel that they’re not acceptable for having them a lot of the time because of our natural reactions. How frightening is that, that you’re all alone in what you’re feeling? That’s what children feel.

And what I bolded here was where she says, “Aside from being there to prevent, showing him what to do instead, telling him ‘I won’t let you,’ what can I do differently?” And this is what I would do differently: I would stop saying, “I won’t let you.” Because he knows she doesn’t want him to do the behavior. Showing him what to do instead? I believe he also knows, I think she’s spot on. He knows what he’s supposed to do, just like he knows that what he’s doing isn’t what he’s supposed to do. He knows he’s supposed to be gentle, but he’s just getting stuck in these impulses because the feelings are just flaring out of him that way. Being there to prevent, yes. Showing him what to do instead and telling him “I won’t let you,” I would drop both of those things. I would stick with being there to prevent and letting him know that you see and accept him, while his behavior is not acceptable, and he knows that, and you’re there to help prevent it.

If we saw something that did seem to stimulate the hit or the scratch, we say that, we can see him there. “It seems like that upset you when he got that close,” or “You didn’t like it when he moved away from you when you were trying to play with him.” But if it’s none of those things, if it’s random, as this parent says that it often is, I would just say while I’m preventing him, my hand is there, or I’m stopping him, “Sometimes you just want to scratch and hurt him, right? It seems like you love him, but you also want to hurt him sometimes.” And then, “You know I’m not going to let you do that.” So maybe saying it there, but with that understanding, with that acknowledging, from a place of matching by 30% at least the intensity of what he’s giving you.

And then the first way to help is to, in a quieter moment, talk to him about it. Open up these conversations that reassure him his feelings are acceptable to you, you’re here to help, not to judge. You want to know how you can help. That it makes sense to feel that way about your brother sometimes, that he just gets on your nerves, just the whole idea of him. And you know that he also loves his brother. It’s just what siblings do, it’s the dynamic that often happens. You can share that with me. I’m interested, I’m curious. I want to know. That’s connecting.

And when children feel connected, so much of these feelings melt away. Yes, they’re still vented, but less and less, because they don’t have that fear on top of the fear and anger. The fear that they’re alone and that they’ve got something inside them that’s hurting people and making people angry, and they don’t even know what it is. We could see almost every issue that comes up with our children in this light, through this lens, because that’s almost always at least one of the elements that’s missing in our response.

And it’s a hard one to get to, because we have our own feelings. And it’s hard to see beyond behaviors, really hard. So please give yourselves a break. Give yourself a lot of grace. Know that you’re not going to turn a corner and just suddenly do it all differently. It’s a process where you just see glimmers. You’ll see glimmers of, Oh, it was safe for me to respond that way and look what came out of it. Or, Oh, look what happened when I opened up this conversation, I found out some things I didn’t know. In that second note, the boy said he’s having a tough time. I would want to know more about that. “What’s going on? How does that feel? What feels tough, and what can I help make easier for you?” That honest way of connecting with our kids, it’s what it’s all about. And it’ll bring you so much joy and freedom to know that you can do that. Always, not just when they’re behaving well and you’re all happy together, but it’s even more important during these times.

I give many more details for all the reasons that children behave the way they do, and how to uncover what’s going on for yourself and your child, in my No Bad Kids Master Course. There’s also a lot of information in my books, especially No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame, which has just been rereleased with a new publisher. They’ve updated it beautifully, and it’s a real gift book now.

Thank you so much for listening. We can do this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More From Janet

Books & Recommendations