When your child snarls at you, could you just offer love?

Photography: Jenna Young

‘I have been skeptical in the past of hugging a child who is screaming at you and being generally quite awful … in theory I know it makes sense but I find it hard when they are being so hateful and you don’t feel particularly loving! But I had a breakthrough. I wanted my 3 yr old to put his coat on as it was freezing outside. His behaviour was deteriorating and when he screamed at me.  I just said – “What’s up love? I think you need a big mummy cuddle and you can tell me what’s making you feel bad.” Then I hugged him, and he burst into tears. We had a cuddle and he put his coat on happily! It was textbook “Dr. Laura”!’ – Rachel from London

When your child snarls at you, what would happen if you summoned up all your emotional generosity, and simply offered love?

I know, you want to raise a child who acts right. You certainly don’t want to reward bad behavior. But think about those times when you’re at the end of your rope, and before you know it, you’ve raised your voice. Wouldn’t it help you more to get a hug than a reprimand?

As the Dalai Lama says,“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

Just look at your child’s upset as a raging storm that you don’t have to get sucked into. Acknowledge his pain, then bite your tongue, except to offer empathy. Yes, this is a teachable moment, but the teaching is in what you’re modeling about compassion, self-control, and staying connected.

Take a deep breath. Look at him with love and compassion, understanding that he’s miserable.

Say: “Ouch. You know we don’t treat each other that way in this house. You must be really miserable to act like this. I’m so sorry you’re hurting. I love you and I would do anything for you. I’m here with a hug when you’re ready.”

No, you’re not teaching your child that she can get away with being rude.  You’re teaching her that you’re a safe haven and she never needs or wants to lash out at you like that.

In your loving presence, your child’s storm will pass more quickly. Don’t be surprised if she thanks you afterwards, and wants the reassurance of some extra hugs.

There’ll be plenty of time then to talk about appropriate behavior. And you don’t need to shame or blame at that point, which will only cause her to shut down. Your child knows it’s not okay to snarl at you, just like you know it’s not okay to yell at her. What she needs is for you to listen to why she was so upset, and help to express her upset more appropriately. Make a list of what people in your house can do to appropriately express their anger, and post it on your refrigerator. Let her see you refer to it when you’re angry. She will follow your example.

Can’t do this every time your child is snarly? Join the club. But every time you can respond with an open heart, it gets easier to do. You’re actually re-wiring your brain so you aren’t as reactive. You’re dampening your stress response, reducing those anxiety-producing stress hormones. You’re increasing the feel-good bonding hormones, so you feel happier, more often. You’re becoming a person who creates less drama, and more love.

What’s more, your relationship changes. Your child becomes less likely to take her moods out on you, and more quickly gets back to her own emotional generosity.

And, then, sooner or later, you’ll see her start offering YOU love …. when you most need it.

Find the original article here.

Dr. Laura Markham is the author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How To Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends For Life and Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How To Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. Find her online at AhaParenting.com

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