Listening to our upset kids can be very difficult. Each person is a jumble of unmet needs that can easily be turned into anger. Marshall Rosenberg, author of Nonviolent Communication, encourages us to discern what the unfulfilled need is behind our anger.
If your child is having a difficult time controlling herself in public and you get angry, self-reflect on why you are angry. Is your need to be perceived by others as a good parent, and your child’s misbehavior screams of you being a “bad” parent, bringing out a feeling of embarrassment? If this is true, can you be self-disciplined enough to recognize this and change your inner dialogue at that moment?
Can you think instead, “My child is struggling with unmet needs? What would be the best way for her to feel heard and understood taking into consideration everyone around us?”
It takes insight and courage to put your child’s needs first. Perhaps you need to leave the store to find a safer, unobserved place to be with the upset child.
Listening to upset doesn’t mean you are “giving in”. You remain firm in setting the limit such as, “We are not going to buy that toy today. I know you want it.” Don’t try to placate by saying you will buy it another day or something better will happen later. Let your child experience the hurt so it can be released from the limbic system, the emotional center.