We were all kids once, and we all had attitudes that our parents hated. Now we are parents and we often think “oh no, I have a mini me, now I know why my parents treated me the way they did.”
Well, you are half right, you might be raising a mini me. Little did your parents or their parents know that when you gave them attitudes or when they had attitudes with they were younger there was a reason for them, and it wasn’t because we are brats, spoiled, defiant or whatever other label you may think when your child is giving you attitude.
Or maybe you look at kids or your own kids and think “Gosh, they are so disrespectful.” Or your skin crawls when they don’t say please, and think they are rude and demanding.
Yes, we have all been there- judging them and their attitudes.
Once we learn more about what is behind our child’s attitude we will know how to navigate through it, how to not let their attitude ruin our day and make us want to flip our lid. Understand what is really going on behind those pesky attitudes, and how to help them through whatever feelings they are having at the moment.
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Are attitudes really a part of their development?
Short answer yes. So from the day they start to hit, talk back, tell us “no”, it is all developmentally appropriate . But why? Because from the age 0-7 their logical side of the brain isn’t developed yet, they live solely in the emotional part of the brain so they don’t know why they are feeling a certain way, what to do with these feelings, or even what they are called.
From the age of about 2-7 is when we start to see the “terrible twos”, but as we have quickly figured out, it not just the two’s that are hard, it’s every age. But, at this age range we might deal with them “talking back” or sayin “no” to EVERYTHING that we say or tell them to do, and we want to scream sometime, “JUST DO WHAT I SAY SO WE CAN JUST MOVE ON!”
Well, what I’m about to say might make you want to roll your eyes, but them sayin “no” is actually a good thing. They are learning and finding their way through the world. They are testing what is true for them, they are testing their world around them, they are learning to listen to their body and their needs and wants. When we shift our minds and look at them saying “no” in this perspective it makes it easier for us to be able to empathize with them, to tolerate them saying “no”, and understand that they aren’t trying to piss us off, or make our lives a living hell.
“Ok, so what about the 8+ year olds, what’s their excuse? They are old enough they know right from wrong and what is expected from them, I can’t take their attitudes anymore.” What you might be thinking, right?
Well, from 8 years old this is when their logical brain starts to develop and it actually doesn’t stop until about 30 years old. Does this mean our older kids don’t understand anything? No.
Of course they do, but don’t fully understand how to handle certain situations like we expect them to, or they don’t know how to manage their feelings especially if they haven’t been taught how to really handle their emotions or just be with their emotions. No judegment on you at all, because if this hits a spot , you might not have been taught or had the chance to really feel your feelings when you were younger or even knew how important it was, and what you knew about dealing with your feelings is just what you knew. Maybe it was that you had to “toughen up”, or “just get over it”, or maybe nobody really talked about how they were feeling in the family and it felt normal to just keep it to ourselves. Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know.
It might have been normal to just push your feelings aside and just “look at the positive side”.
And a lot like how 2-7 year olds are trying to find their way around the world the older kids are trying more so. They are trying to find who they are, and be who they want to be and have autonomy.
Don’t take your child’s attitude personally
Ooo, this is a hard one, isn’t it? When we hear our child say “no”, or “God I hate you!” or hearing them slam a door it’s so hard to not let your blood start boiling, or shout back or rush into their room and yell at them for slamming the door.
This is where we need to really practice empathy. Remember what it was like to be that age, remember what you felt being that age. We understand why we have boundaries set in place but they don’t fully understand yet, or they are getting stuck with them for some reason and this is our job to figure out why.
When I’m coaching parents I help them learn the process of being able to not react in these situations, and how to stay calm and really empathize with their child and help them and problem solve together. This takes practice and it’s really a game changer. What our kids really need a lot of them time is for us to just understand, and all the time- to feel safe.
Kids Have attitudes because they work…
I read somewhere in an article it said, “kids have attitudes because it works for them.” It was pretty much saying that kids at any age give attitude because they have learned that it gets them what they want. They learn it from social media, their friends, the toxic environment.
He goes on saying that we need to change our kids attitudes. To focus on one attitude and make a plan to change it, to give it 2-3 weeks for it to change because this attitude is a habit.
So, I’m going to say I completely disagree. This isn’t just my opinion but this is backed by science and studies from psychologist and psychiatrist.
First, attitudes are not habits. They are rooting from their emotions, this is their best attempt to getting a need met. As I said earlier this part of the brain is still developing, they don’t know yet how to make sense of their feelings and how to communicate with words or the right words on what they are feeling and what they are needing, especially if they have not been taught how to.
They aren’t meaning to be rude or disrespectful. If they are seeming disrespectful we need to take a look and see if we are modeling respect to them. Not only adults deserve respect, kids definitly deserve respect and they need to feel respected, how we show that is by listening, empathizing and having an open conversation with them.
We all think or have thought that kids are so manipulative, that they do what they want to get what they want and that they don’t care, that simply is not true.
Facts about kids and manipulation that is behind their attitudes
We have all heard over and over, “oh, he’s manipulating you. He’s just crying to get what he wants or to get attention.”
Pretty much from day one we have learned or thought that kids are born manipulators. “Just let him cry it out, because if you give in he will be spoiled, he’s manipulating you.” This really created this thought that parents need to stand their ground and never let kids get their own way. Which you may see that this can make kids look like the enemies and where a lot of the power struggles stem from.
I thought this ALL the time with my kids, even at such a young age. What we think looks like manipulation is actually your child trying to get a need met.
And I know, this can be a little tricky to wrap your head around because we all have been conditioned to think that kids manipulate us.
Well, that’s not exactly true. So as little as an infant, when they are crying and we pick them up, they are not manipulating us. They are needing comfort and then they cry because that need isn’t being met, so that is one reason why the crying out method doesn’t work. It is just pushing away the need of the baby, leaving the baby to sooth itself which it literally doesn’t not have the capacity to do yet.
Then we see toddlers throwing themselves on the floor because they didn’t get what they wanted, so many labels come to our minds and we think they are manipulating us.
And then it’s our teens, the greatest manipulators of them all… well, besides for babies and their cries I guess. Well, that is not quite the case either.
In order for babies, toddlers and even older kids to truly manipulate us they need to have the following skills:
- Hypothetical thinking
- Critical and rational thinking
- Impulse control
Resource link: http://devcogneuro.com/Publications/ChapterinStuss&Knight.pdf
These skills come from the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for high functioning abilities. This is the part of the brain that develops last and scientist think around 25 some think even 30 years old.
So as you can see, they are incapable of manipulation.
Then what is the reason for this- what looks like manipulation? Well, what we really need to start with it shifting our minds of accepting their feelings because their behaviors are just the surface of what they are really feeling. I’m not saying just let them throw things, and harm people and hurt themselves because they are trying getting a need met.
What I’m saying is we shouldn’t focus on the behavior and see the child as their behavior. We need to look beyond their behavior and see what it is that they are really telling us, and get curious on how we can help them and support them.
Their behavior is always their best attempt in getting a need met. The longer a need goes unmet the more difficult it is to calm the child down, to get the child to trust us, to listen to us, to “behave” the way we “want them to.” This is their survival technique at all ages especially babies and toddlers.
How do I change my child’s bad attitude?
You may be thinking, “this is all great, but it’s still really annoying and frustrating dealing with their attitudes.” And I 100% get it!
So, this is something I help parents do. It’s not really a linear way to “change” the behavior, but the key thing to do is to know that it is stemming from an underlining reason which is a need, and the biggest need is the need to feel safe.
I’m not really talking about being protected and not being harmed. I’m talking about feeling safe in their bodies, that they aren’t always in the fight or flight mode, which often comes from US being in that fight or flight mode, comes from us being inconsistent with our moods and reactions, yelling, punishing etc.
This takes a lot of inner work to master this part to become a safe space for yourself so you can be a safe space for your child especially if you’re not used to it, but it is possible.
So, if you really want to see your child’s attitude change we need to become more understanding, empathetic, safe, accepting and calm.
If this something you need to learn how to do, that is what I’m here to help you with.
How you don’t want to respond when your child is seeming to be pushing your buttons with their aggravating attitudes
This is where the lifelong practice comes in. It is easy and almost natural for most of us to be reactive to our kids behaviors and attitudes. There may be needs of yours that you’re needing met and aren’t getting met. Their attitudes trigger you and you’re about to snap.
Know that it’s ok, you’re not a bad parent, you didn’t ruin them, it’s never too late to repair relationships.
We simply are doing what we have been taught, sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know.
So, how we don’t want to respond is- by yelling, critizing their behavior or attitude, judge them for not knowing something or how they are feeling or behaving. Shaming them for behaving a certain way and blaming them for how it’s affecting you, is just causing what is really going on inside of them even stronger.
Again, no judgement on you if you find yourself doing this, we all have.
How you can respond to them when you feel like screaming and hitting something aka “flipping your lid” when your child is giving you attitude
I go into this in more depth with my clients because it’s not a quick discussion, but what we are wanting to do is remain calm. I know, you’ve heard this before, and it is easier said than done. But, the basics of this is to first focus on you.
When you’re feeling triggered, acknowledge that you’re triggered, ask yourself why, find something that calms you down, screaming into a pillow, do jumping jacks, breath etc. When you are calm, then approach your child. Empathize with them, sometimes just sitting with them and rubbing their back or holding their hand in silence helps calm them down. Let them know you notice what they might have been feeling, and problem solve together .
To keep this video short I won’t go into a ton of detail about how to problem solve together (link above), but give this a try and let me know how it went.