What is My Child Communicating with Their Behavior and How Do I Discipline? -Part One

I hear many parents talk about their frustrations and confusion over their child’s behaviors. A helpful way to understand your child’s behavior is to imagine an iceberg with behaviors on the surface, but underneath is the emotions that influence those behaviors.

Behavior is a form of communication. According to Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson’s book, Parenting From The Inside Out,“Parents often respond to their child’s behavior by focusing on the surface level of experience and not on the deeper level of the mind.”

Thoughtful reflection of what your child is communicating with their behavior will help you have better understanding, and allow for the ability to teach better ways to communicate. Some questions you can ask in these moments include:

Is my child feeling…

• Overwhelmed

• Embarrassed

• Sad

• Anxious

• Devalued or hurt

• Ashamed or guilty

• Rejected

• Lonely

The next time your child acts out, or gets angry, notice what you see on the surface, and look beneath for the emotions. It is easy to make assumptions or to take it personally. It’s important to slow down and try to understand what they are communicating. Here you can find some additional questions to ask as you try to understand.

Stay tuned for part two, where we will explore how to address the behavior in ways that helps keep everyone more receptive and calm.

Written by: Dustin Ellis

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