Weston Psych Care Blog

Don't Act Like Your 8-Year-Old

If you look around it's hard to miss that the many adults aren't winning at the whole "adulting" thing. To me, positive parenting practices are under this umbrella along with working, paying bills and taking care of your physical and emotional health. In fact, parenting is the most important job we have. Whether you watch the news or listen to how parents talk to their children when you are out in public, you're likely to hear words and voice tones that are more similar to a child than adult. This can have lasting negative side effects for years to come. When did using "if you're not going to be mature and act like an adult, then I'm not going to either" become a useful method to change behavior. Here are several tips to remember when disciplining children:

1. Don't Take It Personally:

They are children! Their emotional regulation is no where nearly as developed as ours (in most cases). When they say things like, "I hate you" or "I love mom better than dad"...they DON'T mean it. If you start taking everything that your child says personally and it negatively impacts your own self-worth, you need to do some soul searching and self-reflection. Why would what your 8-year-old says to you in a state of anger or frustration make you feel like a bad parent?

2. Use This Time to Teach:

There is no better way to teach emotional regulation than when it is happening. If you shift your mindset into thinking this way rather than punishing, guilting and shaming you can help foster healthy coping skills for when your children are teenagers and young adults. Use phrases such as, "You sound very upset, why don't we take a break and calm down" or "I know you're angry but it's not ok to call me names...I'm going to take some space to let you calm down. Get me when you feel better".

3. Validate:

I hear parents say on a daily basis, "you don't have to be nervous" or "you shouldn't be angry about this". This can teach children that negative emotions are not normal and something to be avoided instead of a typical part of life. Like stated above, you should always label and validate by saying phrases such as "it's ok to be upset" or "I understand that you're really frustrated". Teach them that these negative feelings are just as normal as positive feelings and that they too shall pass.

4. Model the Right Behavior:

There is no better way to teach than to model the behaviors your self. There are at least a few times a week where my wife and I tell our children that we're feeling a specific way and that we need to use a coping skill to alleviate or wait out that feeling. Coping skills can be environment specific and healthy and taught to children as young as 2- and 3-years of age. The most basic ones are taking a walk, being alone, talking to someone, playing with some fun toys or arts and crafts.

To quote most parents, "We want our children to be better than we are, so let's act with that sentiment in mind"

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