The power of perspective when parenting

MarcilieUncategorized2 Comments

“Your explanation of your child’s behavior guides your intervention.”  — Ross Greene
 
I will forever be transformed by having read, “The Explosive Child” by Ross Greene.  Poorly named, this book describes both a perspective and a process for solving behavior problems jointly with kids (all kinds, even non-explosive ones.)  His work, along with “Positive Discipline,” inspired the curriculum for my parenting mini-series: “Rewards, Punishments, and Problem Solving.”
 
It helps that there’s a simple process to follow (Greene calls his, “Collaborative Problem Solving,” and I call mine, “PESOS.”)  But even more profound is the perspective shift he recommends parents take while solving behavior problems with their kids.
 
Because how you see your child’s behavior affects how you feel, and how you feel affects how you act.  There’s some chicken and egg going on in there, for sure, but it starts with what you see, or rather, how you make sense of what you see.
 
Here’s an example:
 
Your child asks for ice cream before dinner.  You say no.  Your child breaks into full tantrum.
 
What do you see?  You might see an ungrateful child who is completely spoiled and freaks out when she doesn’t get her way.
 
What do you feel?  Irritated, disgusted, mad at yourself for raising such a spoiled child.
 
What do you do?  You tell her to knock it off and stop being such a spoiled brat.  You walk away in disgust while she tantrums even more.
 
NOW  . . . here’s another perspective on the same example:
 
Your child asks for ice cream before dinner.  You say no.  Your child breaks into full tantrum.
 
What do you see?  You could choose to see a beautifully imperfect child who is still learning and growing, and who wants to behave and do well, but something is making it hard for her.  Maybe she is feeling powerless.  Maybe she is feeling lonely and disconnected from you.  Maybe she is simply hungry.
 
What do you feel?  Curiosity.  Empathy.
 
What do you do?  You might give her a big hug.  Or ask her if she’s feeling hungry.  Or tell her that you love her and want to share ice cream with her after dinner.
 
“Your explanation of your child’s behavior guides your intervention.” And since we always want our interventions to be helpful, it’s always better to see your child as one who is trying to do well and behave nicely, but something is getting in the way. Because what you see affects how you feel, and how you feel affects how you act.
 
And as you may already know, we all do better when we feel better! Grown-ups and kids alike.
 
What shifts for you when you shift your perspective?  Please share!
 

2 Comments on “The power of perspective when parenting”

  1. So refreshing to read this after having dealt with my seven year old tonight who has a strong personality. I see so many amazing qualities in him but when he is mad it can truly blur how I feel. Remembering how sensitive he is and instead of reacting to his anger with what would be an instinctive angry reaction I need to take a deep breath, center myself, and speak back to him calmly or quite honestly exit the situation until we’ve both cooled off. But also very importantly as you highlight, taking a moment to remember and think about what he’s feeling below that initial anger will truly help me change my perspective and actions. By the way, hunger is often the issue!!

  2. Thanks for your comment, Rebecca. Yes, I can’t tell you how many times I have been irritated by my child’s behavior only to open her lunchbox and find that it has not been eaten! It is so hard not to be triggered. And it really does help to just know that there is something going on underneath the behavior that we see: hunger, fatigue, or the thirst for belonging and significance.

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