Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Are you "reacting" or "responding" to your child?

Many parents react to their children. That is, they answer with the first word, feeling, or action that comes to mind. When you react, you aren’t making a decision about what outcome you want. Even more than that, if you react, you can’t choose the best way to reach the outcome you want.

Responding to your child means that you take a moment to think about what is really going on before you speak, feel, or act. Responding is much harder than reacting because it takes more time and effort. The time that you take between looking at the event and acting, speaking, or feeling is vital to your relationship with your child. That time, whether it be a few seconds, five minutes, or a day or two, allows you to see things more clearly, in terms of what is happening right now and what you want to happen in the long-term.

An appropriate response is one that fits the situation. Both your child’s age and the specific facts of the occasion are important in deciding what a fitting response is. For example, a fitting response for a baby who is crying differs from a fitting response for a four-year-old or a 10-year-old who is crying. A fitting response for an instance in which a child is running depends on whether that child is running into a busy street or running to the swing set on the play ground.

Responding to your child in an appropriate manner allows you to:

• Think about all the options before you make a decision.

• Answer some basic questions, such as: Do your words get across what you are trying to say? Do your actions match your words? Are your emotions getting in the way of your decision making? Do you know the reasons for your child’s actions or behavior?

• Consider previous, similar events and recall how you handled them

• Be a more consistent parent

• Offer an example of how to make thoughtful decisions

• Build a strong bond with your child

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