2. Empathise. Whether it’s her foot or her heart, she hurts. Acknowledging that will help her feel understood, less alone – and less like it’s an emergency. Bypass her anger and respond to the hurt or fear that’s driving the anger, which helps her understand her own emotions better: “Sweetie, that must hurt! Ouch!”
3. Don’t attack back. Your child is attacking to avoid her own pain. If she can pick a fight, it’s a way of dumping the pain elsewhere so she doesn’t have to feel it. Don’t take the bait. Instead, when she says “It’s your fault!” you can respond “You are pretty upset… That must really hurt.”
If she’s attacking her sibling, you can say “Right now it seems like it’s everyone else’s fault, doesn’t it? Your foot must really hurt. Let’s help your foot, instead of blaming your brother. What can we do to help your poor foot?”
4. Model taking responsibility. Your goal in this situation is to help your child assume her share of responsibility for stepping on the toy, instead of blaming someone else. So model taking responsibility in whatever small amount you can. When she “blames” by saying “It’s all your fault!” you might respond “You wish that toy hadn’t been there. Me too! That really hurt your poor foot. I so wish I could have seen this coming and gotten that toy out of there. I’m so sorry you got hurt.”
You aren’t blaming yourself. You’re helping her to not blame herself, or anyone else.
You aren’t blaming yourself. You’re helping her to not blame herself, or anyone else. The healing process in children is facilitated when we step into the story and model taking responsibility, which is the opposite of victimisation.
5. Teach repair. Later, when she’s no longer hurting, you can say to your child, “That really hurt your foot…No wonder you were so upset…But when you told your brother that it was all his fault, I think that hurt his feelings. I know it’s his toy, but he loves you and would never want to hurt you. I wonder how you can make things better with your brother now?”
Originally published here.