STOP, LOOK & LISTEN!

Children are energetic, wild, sometimes mad, playful, stroppy, untidy, loud and like sponges when it comes to learning through experience. At some point in your child’s life, you will probably find yourself saying (even if it’s in jest) ‘Why do they do that, this isn’t normal’ or ‘their behaviour has changed’, ‘s/he is hyper and not listening’ or ‘do you think there is something wrong?’ 
It is important to remember a few things. Kids can do so many bizarre things but still be normal. They can be completely toilet trained and then decide not to use the toilet, but to stand there and go in their underwear. They can decide one day that for the next month they will not go to sleep at the time you said and sleep 2 hours less. They can decide they do not like anything you serve for dinner anymore and may even attempt to lob it across the room. They can go from kind to being nasty, nasty to kind, happy to total tantrum or display random behaviours like emptying their draws in the middle of the night to battling with you in everything they are asked to do.

We as parents are not perfect. And we all get things wrong. It’s totally normal and we need to take a step back when the kids are in bed and ask yourself what you could have done better. This is really important … not to make you feel like a failure, of course not! But to stop yourself from doing one small thing again which can have a major affect on your child’s behaviour. Because behaviours have a reason.

Here is one example, but with different outcomes:

1.) ‘Mum, Mum, Mummy, Mummy, MUMMY’ …. You tell them you are busy, they walk away.   ❌

2.) Another time they call you, you are talking. … you stop your conversation and ask your child what they want ❌

3.) Another time they call you, you are doing something, but you turn to see what they want, they tell you something like ‘I can’t find the brush and Ben won’t help me’. You tell them ‘well just keep looking’. ❌

These are simple things and we have probably all responded in this way. But let’s say this is frequent. Your child has learnt from this and reactions will change. Here are a few examples. I have added to each one a better way of dealing with each scenario.

1.) Mummy doesn’t have time for me, I was going to tell her something important but she doesn’t want to listen. She always does this. – Your child will start to misbehave at times when they wanted to tell you something because if they stand there and scream instead, you are more than likely going to drop what you are doing. Ahhh look, you don’t seem to be so busy now do you. I have your attention, this worked a treat! 

If you tell your child you are busy, that’s ok. But it is important that when you have finished doing what you are doing, you go and find your child and you ask them what they need. You look them in the eye and you talk to them. It could be anything, but whatever it is, is obviously important to your child. Take the time to do this and they will know that even when you are busy, you will find the time very soon. Your child will feel valued and listened to.

2.) I see this quite a lot. As an adult it drives me mad, especially if you are the other adult in the conversation. Children need to learn that when adults are talking they shouldn’t interrupt. There’s nothing worse than talking to an adult who stops listening to you to pay attention to your child. Your child will click onto this controlling behaviour very quickly and when they want attention or they do not like that mummy is getting attention from someone else they will continue to interrupt and make a scene. This behaviour will show to all adults, including school and can cause your child to have some bad traits.

Either say nothing to your child but put your hand up to suggest a ‘wait’ sign, ✋️ or ☝️and once you have a break in the conversation then turn to your child. Or tell them you are talking and to wait. At this point your child will either wait or they will walk off. If they do walk off, it’s important you go and find them when you get a minute.

3.) When a child tells you something, it’s probably important to them. In this scenario they are frustrated at two things. First is they are trying but failing, they can’t find the brush. Second, they asked for help, but a Ben didn’t care and now they feel Ben is being unkind. Third, they then told you, as an adult, and you didn’t help fix the problem at all. If scenarios like this come up frequently, your child will no longer know how to manage their emotions. They were managing them very well, they were feeling frustrated and asked another child to help, but the other child is not being nice. They now feel angry and they come to you. You tell them to keep looking and they feel they have completely failed at the task and been rejected twice. Eventually, when it comes to finding something, they won’t try anymore, they will instantly go to an angry state, and when your child is expected to help Ben, s/he is nasty to Ben. Then they get into trouble for an ‘out the blue’ reaction to Ben because this is a different day and no one has linked the behaviour.

Acknowledging your child when they are troubled is really important. You could ask Ben to be a very good brother and help find the brush. Praise Ben when he helps and your other child will feel listened to and cared for when Ben helps. Or you could help. Or you could all help. Either way, it is very important to listen when you see your child getting frustrated. If you don’t, you will be in more a ride when it comes to anger, aggression, tantrums, screaming and sporadic behaviours,

Your child MUST feel listened to. But it is important that boundaries are in place. Just because they want to be listened to does not mean NOW. Your child will learn patience and respect if your reactions are appropriate. But long term, just this simple scenario can aid in your child seeking attention both at school and at home, being loud, reacting badly to scenarios as their first ‘go to’ response and now you feel you cannot control your child. 

It’s like the rules of crossing the road. Stop, Look, Listen. And if you can’t do that now, make sure you do it when you have finished what you are doing. This will help your child to be an important part of your family, happy, calm and respectful. 

So to conclude, 

STOP – only when you can, if you are talking, do not allow your child to interrupt but after you’ve finished, make sure you stop and find your child,

LOOK – Making eye contact with your child is very important. If you are in the kitchen and they are talking to your back, they will not feel truly listened  if they got a response.

LISTEN – Listen to what your child is saying, no matter how small. If they are talking about it, it isn’t small to them. Help them to find a solution or praise them for coming to you. Being listened to helps them to avoid outbursts.

Spend time with your children. Time and love is vitally important. 

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