Sometimes we get stuck in the correction mode of parenting. We give directions and consequences without knowing the true cause of the behavior because we are often feeling rushed or are juggling multiple tasks at a time. But when we are in the correction mode of parenting, we miss the opportunity to both connect and teach. As difficult as it is to not to get caught up in the mode of correcting behavior, our children are better served when we are able to take a moment to understand. Using the motto coined by Stephen Covey to seek first to understand, then to be understood will help us to be better parents. If we can take the time to understand what our children are reacting to and how they are feeling at that moment. Then we can help them to feel understood which forges a strong connection. Once empowered with this understanding, we can now help them label and understand their feelings and reactions and then be better able to teach them a new way of managing that emotion without the negative behavior. Of course, this is not a one-time occurrence; they will have to be coached many times on the same topic until they have been able to practice it numerous times and are mature enough to respond differently. Keep in mind that change is hard even for adults, and sometimes, we still overreact instead of responding appropriately. I think we can cut them some slack. They want to please us; we just have to give them the time and tools necessary to do so.
Published by Parenting For Good Mental Health
My name is Tricia. I am the proud mom of two amazing young men.
My youngest son was always a very energetic and highly reactive child. Life with him was often like a roller coaster ride. He had to work very hard to learn how to manage his emotions and behaviors. By the time he turned 10, he had learned to manage them fairly well. But one night while watching the movie The Mummy, his anxiety was triggered. Night after night, he just could not get the scary images out of his head. This went on for almost a year where he would cry in bed at night. Nothing we tried seemed to help. So we decided to take him to see a psychiatrist where he was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, depression, OCD, and bipolar disorder.
Unfortunately, the care and medications that he received from various professionals did not really help. By educating myself, I began to learn that there were many more options that had not been provided or suggested. I believe that had I had more information sooner; his care could have been better tailored to his needs. This was a very difficult time not only for my son but for our entire family. We had to develop new ways of interacting that did not cause fights over the littlest things. We had to learn the hard way what not to do in a crisis. My husband had to learn that you don’t have to have a reason to be depressed or anxious. Sometimes you just are. And that it is not helpful to say to a depressed person, that they have no reason to be depressed. Having never experienced these feelings himself, my husband really struggled with understanding these things. But now that he gets it, he wishes he would have understood sooner so he could have been more supportive to our son in the beginning.
Thankfully, our son has found his own way through the darkness. And he has developed some skills and tools for managing his mental illness. His path could have been easier and less painful for him had we known about these other options sooner.
As parents and caregivers we need to educate ourselves on their illnesses and the evidence based care options that are out there. We have a limited number of clinicians that treat children and teens, so we sometimes only get to see them once a month. What kind of impact do you think you could have on your child if you only saw him once a month? We need to bring as much to the table as possible. The clinicians can only work with the information they are given. The more you can tell them the better they will be able to tailor your child’s care to his needs. We also need to know how to be the parents our child needs because what works for other kids does not always work for ours.
I would like to help educate others so that their path to recovery might be made shorter. There is a lot of support out there, but sometimes we do not hear about it. NAMI is the first support that I will recommend.
NAMI the National Alliance on Mental Illness is the largest grassroots mental health organization in America. Through NAMI you will find support and education that can help you to better facilitate the care your child needs. https://www.nami.org/
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