Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Asking the Right Question

Question Mark After reading parenting book after parenting book, I have come to one very important conclusion. We have been asking the wrong question. We have been asking, "How do I get my child to change his behavior?" The focus has been on moving a child from negative behavior to positive behavior.

You know the routine: sticker charts, taking away privileges, responding only to nice talk, rewarding good behavior with a prize or that treasured new toy, and the like. Are these working? Do they create lasting change or do you find yourself constantly digging into your bag of "tricks" to find something new and innovative because the old
techniques are not working anymore? Or worse, do you find that all those tricks and techniques you try actually make the situation between you and your child worse?

Ask the wrong question and you will get the wrong answer. This is why those sticker charts are not working. In order to get the solution, we need to start asking the right question. Children are emotional beings. They are deeply emotional and spiritual creatures that we have somehow come to view as "little rational and logical thinking adults." But this is not who they are.

The right question needs to stem from the understanding that children operate from an emotional platform, not a behavioral framework. Thus, the question we need to start asking ourselves is, "What is driving my child's behavior?"

When we begin to ask this question, we switch our focus to that which is at the core of our children's negative behavior. At this core is a state of fear, pain, and/or overwhelm that comes from a child being outside of his window of stress tolerance. Children do not act out from a conscious place. It goes much deeper than this.

As adults, we have shifted into a place of intellect, rationalization, and logical thinking because it is a safer place from which to operate. Logic is much more predictable than emotions, thus more comfortable. As human beings, we have a need for certainty. This certainty is found through intellectual thinking and rational thought. For many of us, our childhood experiences moved us into this realm of thinking because feelings of anger, fear, and sadness became unsafe and people got either emotionally and/or physically hurt.

This is exactly why children are in our lives. They are our examples to return us back to our natural state of emotional living. This is where life exists at a deeper and more meaningful level. We find our purpose and our passion for who we are and the reason we are on this planet when we operate out of a state of emotional expression and capture the essence of what distinguishes us from all other mammals on this planet.

Our children are in our lives to challenge us to Dare to Love again. In order to connect with who they are, we must shift ourselves back to living from love, not fear; living from emotional expression, not logical thought; and learning the difference between unconditional love and conditional love.

Effective and rewarding parenting takes going beyond the behaviors, beyond dishing out consequences, beyond thinking logically, and beyond trying to control our children. It takes putting love into action in a whole new way and connecting with your child at a deep, intrinsic level--a whole new dimension of parenting.

Switching your thinking from a behavioral framework to a love-based framework that is focused on emotional connection will not be easy. Daring to love your children beyond consequences, logic, and control, will take courage, faith, commitment, and follow through.

When you learn how to put unconditional love into action, you have the power to change any family situation. Parenting through power and authority over our children comes from fear and ultimately undermines a child's ability to trust and relate to both themselves and others. Conversely, parenting through unconditional love and relationship equips our children to develop their own internal sense of control and empowers them to enter the world with a strong sense of self, well-developed love for self, and an ability to relate to others through tolerance, patience, and understanding. It simply starts by asking the right question, "What is driving my child's behavior?"

Press on,
Heather T. Forbes, LCSW
Parent and Author of Beyond Consequences, Logic & Control: Volume 1 & Volume 2Dare to Love, and Help for Billy.

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