While I was travelling home from DK I sat in front of a family of 2 kids (around 3 and 5). The oldest said before she got on the flight ‘I am scared’ and mother said ‘STOP being scared, there is nothing to be scared of’. On the plane the child got more and more upset and started crying. The Mother said ‘STOP being scared, STOP crying’ and the girl kept crying and being scared. Then I started listening to parents everywhere; shops, high street, café etc. and suddenly all I heard was STOP: STOP eating with your fingers, STOP playing with the card, STOP crying, STOP screaming, STOP running, STOP hitting, STOP nagging or begging – even STOP being sad. STOP, STOP, STOP. Do our kids stop when we say STOP? Sometimes they might but most of the time they don’t. This is for 3 reasons:
- Validated their feelings: If the child feels scared, sad, upset, and angry or disappointed we have no right to control, take away or tell them NOT to feel that way. A feeling is very personal. We should allow our kids to ‘grieve’ for what they can’t have, do or how they feel i.e. if they can’t have a cookie, go to a party etc. we should not say ‘STOP being upset’ acknowledge that they are grieving and say, that it is ok. If they are upset for not being invited to a party, we should not say STOP being sad you will be invited to another party. Try instead: Listen, understand and accept: I can hear that you are upset, I can see that you are upset and I understand you are feeling that way because … and that is OK! Leave it there. Let them experience the ‘spiral of the feelings’ for as long as they have to. My daughter was very upset recently. I told her ‘I understand you are upset, it is ok to cry’! Then hugged her without further words! Sometimes it is our acceptance of the situation that helps them cope!
- Tell them what we want them to DO or what they CAN: ok we have told them what we don’t want them to do, what we want them to STOP doing. But why not just tell them what we want them to do – say a DO-command instead of a STOP-command. Start with validating their feelings, then say what you expect from them: ‘please use your quiet voice’, ‘please walk’, ‘please use gentle hands’, ‘please keep your hands to yourself’, ‘please speak politely to me’, ‘you CAN have a cookie after dinner’, ‘you CAN stay up late on Friday night’, ‘you CAN have more money once you have washed the car’ etc. it is so much nicer to say a positive!
- Make sure they have understood what we asked of them (not what we have NOT asked of them)! (what we expected them to do or not to do); you might think it is very obviously what STOP means, but for young child, special needs or a teen it can be confusing! Also often kids hear the last of the sentences ‘STOP running’. I remember being in a supermarket and suddenly a little boy around age 4 stormed by me with a big grin of his face, dad was screaming a good 20m behind ‘PETER STOP RUNNING’, I am sure that Peter thought he was allowing him to RUN down those lovely long aisles! Instead: Again tell them what you want them to DO ‘Peter, WALK’ or ‘Peter, WAIT FOR ME’. Make sure your child has heard you! When the child is upset they actually don’t hear you, they are in the middle of a very deep feeling and you are blocked out. So make sure you are focused and present when you deliver a DO-Command in order to observe and make sure your child has actually heard you and what you have communicated.
Something I use to get my boys attention when they are ‘fighting’ is to say out loud ‘HI’! Then I get their attention, they stop what they are doing and then I get in there and say ‘I can see you are both very upset now but I need you to use your gentle hands and feet’! This quick way of getting their attention can also be used in cases of emergency (i.e. road safety, hot water etc.) we will have to get our kids attention quickly and don’t have time to listen, understand and say politely ‘Please look for the cars before crossing’.
So from now on just become aware of how often you use the word STOP, is it working? If something is not working change it.
Good luck from the ParentingSuccess Team
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