It is when your child is the hardest to love that they need it the most.

We all desire love and acceptance from our family, these are basic human needs. We need to feel worthy and that we belong somewhere. Does your child truly feel they belong to your family? Do they believe that they are loved and cherished even at their worst?

Try to look at events from your child’s perspective. Are they shunned for poor behavior? Do you lash out them after they lash out at you? I know I have lashed out at my child when at the end of my rope, but this was damaging and not a helpful response at all.

I would like to challenge you to find moments to connect. These moments may be just noticing something they are doing and commenting on it. You will be amazed at how much it means to them just to know they are seen. When they are lashing out you need to try to connect with what is going on under the surface because at the root of anger often lies hurt and fear. They may feel hurt because they feel misunderstood, or they may be fearful of their own thoughts and emotions and loss of control. Whatever the root cause, if you name it and help them understand it, this will not only help with the behavior but it will help them feel safe and understood which will build a strong foundation for feeling connected and accepted. Use the calm moments to help your child build skills for when they feel that way again. Give them the language they need to communicate their feelings. And always, always validate their feelings whether you believe they should feel that way or not, those are their feelings. If we do not validate their feelings, it will create anxiety and disconnection instead of safety and connection.

When you feel yourself getting angry try to remember they are scared, hurt or both. When we know our children are scared and/or hurt, it brings out our gentler side. If you cannot do this in the moment, then take a break from each other and come back to it once you both are calmer. You can say, “I really want to help you but right now my emotions are strong too and I cannot be helpful like this. Let’s both take a break and talk in a few minutes.”

Our kids need to feel safe, loved and accepted in our homes otherwise they cannot do better. We have to first model better behavior if we are going to ask better behavior from them. Be the first to change, the first to reach out, and the first to be the calm in the storm. I was able to change so can you.

These changes will help your child to feel loved and accepted. They will know their home is where they belong. They will not fear losing it all when they struggle with control. They will know that when the storm passes everyone will still be there offering love and support, nothing will have been lost.

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