Spicy Words, Big Behaviour … Why do they do that!?

Kid in why do they say that

Our children are no different to us. When their stress tanks are full, they will have limited capacity to think, plan, or tolerate things that aren’t serving their immediate needs.

In those moments, needs might disguise themselves as snaps, demands, or big behaviour. Emotion is energy in motion (e-motion). This energy can be dressed up as disrespect, and it might have the urgency and force of a meteor. It might be unpolished, brash, hard, but imagine what it’s like from their side, as the ones who are being barrelled by this energy.

When they struggle to understand or say what’s happening for them, they will show you. The showing might be awkward and messy and hard to read, but the clue is there in the feeling – angry, frustrated, irritated, sad, stressed.

‘I hate you!’

Sometimes finding the right words is hard. When their words are angry and out of control, it’s because that’s how they feel.

Eventually we want to grow them into people who can feel all their feelings and lasso them into words that won’t break people, but this will take time.

In the meantime, they’ll need us to model the words and hold the boundaries firmly and lovingly. This might sound like:

‘It’s okay to be angry, and it’s okay not to like my decision. It’s not okay to speak to me like that. I know you know that. My answer is still no.’

Then, when they’re back to calm, have the conversation:

‘I wonder if sometimes when you say you don’t like me, what you really mean is that you don’t like what I’ve done. It’s okay to be angry at me. It’s okay to tell me you’re angry at me. It’s not okay to be disrespectful.

What’s important is that you don’t let what someone has done turn you into someone you’re not. You’re such a great kid. You’re fun, funny, kind, honest, respectful. I know you know that yelling mean things isn’t okay. What might be a better way to tell me that you’re angry, or annoyed at what I’ve said?’

Emotional-regulation takes time and experience … and it starts with us.

For sure, we want our children to be able to communicate respectfully, but this will take time and experience.

The best experience is from us. Nothing will be more powerful than how we behave when we’re stressed. Do we speak to them gently and respectfully? Or do we shout, and get demanding and insistent?

There is a time for teaching, but not when their stress tanks are full. They just don’t have the capacity to hear, register, and store the information in a meaningful way. None of us do.

Hold the boundary and attend to relationship (through validation) until they come back to calm. Then, have the conversations that will grow them.

Consequences? Maybe, but maybe not.

There might be a need for consequences if they’ve caused harm, otherwise, they might be pointless. Remember the whole point of consequences is to put things right, or to teach them a different way to respond when they feel big. They’ll learn more by talking with you than any other way. ‘What happened?’ ‘What can you do differently next time,’ How can I help?’ ‘How can we put things right?’ ‘Do you need a hand with that?’

The idea of needing consequences to motivate them to do better is outdated and assuming they aren’t already motivated to do better. The problem isn’t the want. It’s the how. Preserving our connection and seeing through the behaviour to the feelings and needs underneath is key. It keeps their path to us well-lit and wide open.



Thank you very much, so interesting columns. I was a teacher when I came across your advice first and it helped me enormously, but now I work in customer service and in the wideworld I find a lot of situations where i can find applications of it too and help understand our emotions and live a happy life. Thank you very much.
Best wishes!💕


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The point of any ‘discipline’ is to teach, not to punish. (‘Disciple’ means student, follower, learner.)

Children don’t learn through punishment. They comply through punishment, but the mechanism is control and fear. 

The problem with this, is that the goal becomes avoiding us when things go wrong, rather than seeking us out. We can’t influence them if we’ve taught them to keep their messes hidden from us. 

We can’t guide our kiddos if they aren’t open to us, and they won’t be open to us if they are scared of what we will do. 

We all have an instinctive need to stay relationally safe. This means feeling free from rejection, shame, humiliation. The problem with traditional discipline is that it rejects and judges the child, rather than the behaviour. 

Hold them close, reject their behaviour. 

This makes it more likely that they will turn toward us instead of away from us. It opens the way for us to guide, lead, teach. It makes it safe for them to turn and face what’s happened so they can learn what they might do differently in the future.

Rather than, ‘How do I scare them out of bad behaviour?’ try, ‘How do I help them to do better next time?’ 

Is the way you respond to their messy decisions or behaviour more likely to drive them away from you in critical times or towards you? Let it be towards you.

This doesn’t mean giving a free pass on big behaviour. It means rather than leading through fear and shame, we lead through connection, conversation and education. 

The ‘consequence’ for big behaviour shouldn’t be punishment to make them feel bad, but the repairing of any damage so they can feel the good in who they are. It’s the conversation with you where they turn and face their behaviour. This will always be easier when they feel you loving them, and embracing who they are, even when you reject what they do.♥️
#parent #parents #mindfulparenting #gentleparenting
Kununurra I’m so excited to be with you tonight. I’ll be giving you super practical ways to strengthen your kiddos and teens against all sorts and all levels of anxiety - big anxiety, little anxiety, anxiety about school, separation, trying new things - all of it. You’ll walk away with things you can do tonight - and I can’t wait! Afterwards we’ll have time for a chat where we can dive into your questions (my favourite part). This is a free event organised by the Parenting Connection WA (I love this organisation so much!). The link for tickets is in my story♥️
Hello Broome! Can’t wait to see you tonight. Tickets still available. The link is in my story. 

Thank you Parenting Connection WA for bringing me here and for the incredible work you do to support and strengthen families.♥️
What a weekend! Thank you Sydney for your open hearts, minds and arms this weekend at @resilientkidsconference. Your energy and warmth were everything.♥️
I LOVE being able to work with early childhood centres and schools. The most meaningful, enduring moments of growth and healing happen on those everyday moments kids have with their everyday adults - parents, carers, teachers. It takes a village doesn’t it.♥️

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