I recently attended the Joseph Sandler Conference on Parenting at the Yale Child Study Center. In my next several blogs I will share some of what I learned at the conference.
You are at a restaurant with your closest friend and Carson your 7 year old son. Carson starts to misbehave. First, he tries to get up and leave. You bring him back. Then he starts to scream and bang his fork and spoon. It is embarrassing and it is disturbing your conversation with your friend and other diners sitting nearby. Carson asks for your phone to watch a video. At first you refuse. Carson keeps up the demand for the phone.
Fortunately you are prepared. You take out paper and crayons. That does not work. You then take out a few favorite little toys. That does not work. Now you are annoyed at him. But finally, with a sigh of resignation you hand Carson your cell phone to watch a video. That immediately quiets him.
Uh-oh, now you feel guilty and defeated. You have been told not to allow too much screen time.
Then you reflect and eventually decide it’s OK. Here is your reflective thought process…..
You recognize you can’t both talk to your friend and pay attention to your child. You must choose. You realize your child is not being difficult. It is the situation that is difficult for your child. He’s probably bored and having a hard time sitting there for so long, so he is just trying to get your attention. You also reflect on the reason for your behavior. It might be your friend really needs you today to talk about a problem she is having, so you want to give her your full attention. Or it could be you need to just have time to relax with your friend and have a break from your child.
The scene here is a restaurant. But similar misbehavior can happen anywhere– in the car, in the supermarket, when visiting relatives or when you have an important phone call.
What should you have done? There is no right answer. Choosing to give your phone or not give your phone are both fine options. In other words, it depends.
Reflective Parenting gives you choices. Choose what is going to work best for you, for your child and for the situation.
But no matter what you choose to do, the point is to be honest with yourself. Take responsibility for your actions and your reasons for taking those actions.
Here is what I mean. Often a parent’s choices are based more on the parent’s needs and feelings than on their child’s. In such cases your role is to recognize that what you are doing is about you and not about your child.
The benefit of being honest is that you can turn a situation like giving in about the cell phone into a reflective learning experience for your child.
- At the restaurant you might say, “I know it is not good for you to watch too many videos, but in this situation, I can’t pay attention to you, because I want to talk to my friend.”
- In the car you might say, “I am having a really hard time focusing on my driving while the two of you argue in the back seat. That’s why I am going to give you my cell phone to watch a video. I don’t like to give you my phone just to have you be quiet in the car. But this time I’m doing it to keep me calm.”
Wow! What a gift to your child. This kind of reflective language with your child is critical to your child’s social and emotional development.
See the full blog post on Regina’s website: http://reginapally.com/advice/parenting-tools/when-kids-misbehave-dont-blame-them-for-your-reaction/