Is Your Response to Misbehavior Helpful or Hurtful?

When you see your child doing something hurtful, it’s second nature to want to jump in and correct the behavior immediately! But sometimes this can actually stop our kids from learning.

Kyle and Ella were tired of the conflicts from constantly correcting the behavior of their intense, lively six-year-old daughter, Maya. But as we talked, they realized their attempts to control her behavior were actually robbing her of the opportunity to learn self-control herself.

“What messages are you communicating to Maya when you try to control her behavior?” I asked in a coaching session. “That we are responsible for her behavior, not her. That she isn’t capable of making a wiser choice.”

Since those were not the messages Kyle and Ella wanted to be communicating, they decided to try a different approach with their daughter.

When they saw Maya behaving in a hurtful way, they took a deep breath. Kyle and Ella wanted to provide a safe environment where Maya knew she could give a truthful answer without defense or anger and then change her behavior accordingly. With a gentle smile, they lovingly asked a simple question: “Honey, is that helpful or hurtful right now?”

Behind this simple question they communicated, “I have confidence that you’ll be able to figure that out and trust that you might want to chose a more helpful behavior.”

Maya learned to respond to this question with a simple “hurtful”, and then she could decide how to change her behavior. This provided an opportunity for Kyle and Ella to affirm her awareness and her self-control, kindness, and wisdom.

Apply It Now:

  • What thoughtful question could you ask your child to build self-awareness of their behavior?
  • How could you ask it in a way that communicates, “I love you and believe in you” as the primary message, avoiding a message of “You aren’t capable of figuring this out”?
  • If you feel stuck and want some one-on-one help, check out our coaching options.

Frustrated by constant discipline challenges? Take 15 minutes to read our free ebook When Your Child Misbehaves – Four Strategies for Lasting Change.

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