Acknowledging a child’s feelings doesn’t mean excusing his behaviour– says Dr Spock.
The truth is when my kids act out-by which I mean throwing a wobbly in the middle of the supermarket because I won’t put the chocolate they’ve grabbed off the shelves into my trolley (Harry on Monday) or pouring a jug of water over the dog’s bed (Ben yesterday afternoon) – I tend to focus on getting them to behave rather than on why they’re misbehaving in the first place.
Time to try a different tack!
I committed the cardinal sin of putting Harry’s pyjamas on before Ben’s, cue blue murder:
Take them off him, NOW! You have to put mine on first, I need to be the winner! -Ben screamed.
Stop being ridiculous, I’m not getting him undressed again– I said in a trying to stay calm voice.
Yes, you are– said Ben pulling Harry’s trousers down.
Under normal circumstances, I might have tried telling Ben why his behaviour was wrong and if that didn’t work I’d probably have resorted to a Time Out to help him calm down. But according to Dr S I needed to acknowledge his feelings without giving in to him.
I understand you’re cross because you like to be the winner and today Harry was. I’m sorry you feel that way, but I’m not going to undress him just so you can beat him. – I said pulling him onto my lap.
How about I brush your teeth first instead so you can both have a chance to win something?
And tomorrow you’ll put my pyjamas on first– said Ben, sensing an opportunity for further concessions.
Deal– I said giving him a kiss
And Ernie, tomorrow I’ll get you dressed before Blue Bunny– said Harry, not willing to be left out.
Acknowledging Ben’s feelings helped me to diffuse a difficult situation whilst still maintaining clear boundaries.