Dear Caring Parent,

I witnessed this scenario and it made me wonder how many conversations do we have as parents in which we need to get curious about ‘what’s under this?’ Here’s what I heard: 

Dad, putting some garden stuff into a trash bin. “Hey Beth”

Beth – 10 year old daughter enters the open garage “Hey. Where’s my chair?” 

Dad – “Ummmm. What’s that?” as he points to the chair behind her. 

Beth – “Suzie’s.”

Dad – “Wellllll? She’s not here. Use it!”

Beth – “Daaad” she whines as she stomps around it. 

Dad – silent. Watching. 

Beth – “Really Dad” she pouts.

Dad –  “yeh, really.”

Beth – “But I want mine” she whines.

Dad – silent.

Beth – harumphs as she plops on to the chair.  

Dad – shaking his head, goes into the house. 

5 minutes later. Dad returns with a glass in his hand. “Here, Beth. Some lemonade,” he says as he touches her shoulder.  

Beth – “That’s great dad,” she says, grabbing his hand as he releases the lemonade to the arm of the chair. 

Dad – Holds out his arms for an embrace. Beth practically jumps into them. 

They hug briefly. Beth happily sits down in the chair. 

Dad, walking away thinking, “I’ll be damned, my wife was right. When she whines she just wants some extra attention! Cool!” 

GENERAL RULE OF THUMB 

How often do we miss the real feelings going on behind the whines, pouts, and just general bizarre behaviors our children display? 

But how do you know? Not all of us have a wife like this dad does! I’m thinking it’s a general rule of thumb, when our kids are being what we call weird, there’s a feeling going on about something. 

Our children go through stages when they’re good at expressing their feelings. They also go through stages when they are anything but good at it. That can be because they:

  • don’t have the words, 
  • aren’t really sure what they’re feeling, but they’re feeling, 
  • are moving into a new development phase and are experiencing things new to them,
  • imagine we’ll make fun of them, or make a mountain out of a molehill,
  • have a hormone attack going on so things are rough inside.
  • don’t have feeling words because this isn’t big in your family.

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO?

You don’t always know what to do, even if you are wondering what’s under this?  Unless you get an intuitive hit. If not, you can experiment around and find what works. OR, you can be curious with your child. 

Show curiosity with a question like “what’s going on, honey? You seem in a funk.” Depending on how ready they are for this kind of conversation, it can be a conversation opener or a continued funk response. Shrugged shoulders are not uncommon! You either get to lean into it a bit or you can let them know, “that happens. When you want, I’m here for you.” 

Look for a time soon afterwards when you can sit next to them (if they’re older, in a car or walking out to get something helps). Shed some gentle, fun connection on them. You know your child. What works for that? 

Still nothing? Give them a bit of positivity about themselves as they walk out the door, come to dinner, or are giving you a hard time (shocker). 

Our kids need us to see beneath their behaviors in a caring way. And that’s a forever thing –  from infancy on. 

When nothing is working, try these other communication strategies. It’s written with teens in mind, but these work for other ages too. Sometimes you learn something troublesome, or they just aren’t opening to you but their mood has shifted downward. You might need to think about counseling. Just bringing that up to your child can let them know how seriously you take them. I’ve seen bringing this up start a conversation. Or start counseling. 

If you are really stumped about what to do and want to further discuss it, connect with me. Our kids need us! 

Take care now, Natasha