Feelings don’t need to change only behavior needs to change. You learned about this and how to acknowledge and validate your child’s feeling while not accepting their behavior in my previous post on the one must have parenting technique.
But, do you still think your child needs help listening? Are you feeling like something is missing?
We all want our children to listen when we ask them to do or not do something.
We all want to avoid draining power struggles and improve our relationships with our children.
We want our children to be successful humans who can contribute to society in a positive way.
We want to enjoy our time with our children more.
For these reasons our children need us to help them reign in the behaviors that are driven by their emotions.
They needs us to see frustrating situations as an opportunity to teach rather than a reason for discipline or punishment.
They need us to practice having empathy and to expand on this practice by helping them choose a more positive alternative behavior.
Dr. Gary Landreth is an expert in Play Therapy and child development. He outlines the ACT Model as an effective way to set limits while helping your child learn.
ACT stands for:
A: Acknowledge the feeling
C: Communicate the limit
T: Target alternatives.
In this step you are employing the techniques you learned in my post about reflecting feelings. When you pay close attention to the emotions your child is expressing, and say what you see, you are helping your child begin to understand the feelings they are having inside while also feeling accepted, close and connected to you.
It looks like this:
“What I did made you so angry you want to hit me…”
“You feel sad that we have to leave…”
“You love playing with your ipad so much you wish you could play with it all day…”
We have already established that feelings are okay. Now it is important to establish that despite the feelings, certain behaviors are not okay. This communication should be clear and firm.
It looks like this:
“…but I am not for hitting.”
“…but our time is up and we have to go home for dinner.”
“…but playing on the ipad for too long is not good for our eyes or brain.”
Sometimes children need help finding an acceptable alternative to their current behavior. Sometimes they just don’t know, or they forget in the moment what is okay to do, or they are too emotional in the moment to think about what they do know. You can help your child find a better way to express their emotions.
It looks like this:
“You can hit the couch cushion.”
“We can set up another time to come over and play.”
“You can choose to play with your toys or read a book.”
This technique runs the risk of sounding phony or like a script so it’s important while you are practicing to make it your own. With more practice it will come naturally.
Will this work perfectly every time? No, but with consistency you will eventually see the fruits of your labor.
And, as with everything, be compassionate with yourself so you have more room to give compassion to your child.
Was this helpful? Email me your thoughts and experiences trying this technique at email@example.com.
Are you feeling like the daily struggle is just too much? Are you worried your child may have needs that extended beyond what you are currently able to offer them? Do you live in Central New York? If you are interested in learning more about psychotherapy and play therapy for your child I can be reached at 315-737-3094 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Jennie Mazza Jones, LCSW, CCPT has a private practice located in Clinton NY, where she specializes in providing psychotherapy to children and their caregivers utilizing Play Therapy. Jennie helps kids who long to feel accepted, want to do well, and wish they could control their worries, anger, and behaviors, but struggle because they communicate in a way that many adults don’t understand. She also helps parents/caregivers who want to help the important children in their lives reach their truest potential, but are afraid to make the wrong move, fear the worst, or are just unsure of what to do next. Jennie can be reached 315-737-3094, email@example.com and www.jenniemazzajones.com