As parents we often feel like we need to know how to deal with every behavior that is presented to us by our children. We get caught in our heads with stories about why a child acts the way he does. We read a ton of books to better understand how we should be parenting and sometimes follow strict parenting philosophies to help us feel more equipped. All of this can be helpful, but it can also take us out of the moment with our children. Our brains like to work efficiently, so we take all the stories/descriptions we have about our children; all the beliefs we have about ourselves as parents; and all the external pressure from grandparents, strangers, and philosophies to come up with our answers. What gets missed is what the child is trying to communicate. By entering a “place of not knowing” and instead becoming curious about what our children are trying to communicate with their behavior, we can better help them cope with the environment and their feelings. All behavior is communication! But, often with wanting to respond quickly we resort to wanting to extinguish the behavior instead of taking the time to understand what it is communicating. In a few days, another behavior pops up. The reality is that there is not always enough time in the day to become “curious.” However, I invite you to step back and look at one of your child’s most interesting behaviors through this lens of curiosity. Witness your own feelings and stories about it. Notice how your own body is feeling. Are you holding your breath, smiling, tensing your muscles, or holding back tears? These are all of your experience and may or may not have anything to do with what your child is actually trying to communicate. Next, develop a sense of kinesthetic empathy by actually “trying on” a bit of your child’s behavior. What does it feel like to be in his shoes? What do you need in this moment? The answer will lead you to what your child needs. Try it. It’s fun.
For more information on how self-awareness and nonverbal attunement in parenting can strengthen attachment and healthy family functioning, please visit candybeers-kim.com.