Parent Tips for Difficult Behaviors
As a parent myself, it has taken me years to figure out how to handle my children’s difficult behaviors. Quite frankly, I still get it wrong. But, what I have found so helpful comes from Dr. Bruce Perry. It is based on brain science and easy to remember using the 3Rs : Regulate, Relate, Reason.
Here is an example:
Your child has lost control of his emotions. You see tantruming, yelling, and difficult behavior. He is not able to think clearly. Trying to rationalize with him right now is pointless and will only make you more frustrated. When emotions are high, you want to help him calm (i.e. regulate) his emotions. To do this, you can offer water, crackers, sit beside him, slow your breathing so he can hear it. Very little needs to be said now.
Once he is calmer, this is the time to relate. Reflecting feelings is important at this stage. For example, he says “I hate you” and you calmly reflect back the feelings - “You are really mad at me right now.” Once a child feels heard, their emotions often calm. This is not always a quick process, but keep in mind that your goal is to help them get to the other side of big feelings. Also, reflecting feelings does not mean you agree with what he is saying, but it allows him to feel heard.
Once he is calmer, (and you will know this because he is better able to talk to you), you can begin to reason. For example, you might say something like, ‘I know you wanted to eat ice cream. You need to have dinner first.” Helping your child learn to regulate their emotions will lead to a teenager/young adult who is better able to handle tough situations.