Have you ever thought or said, ‘Stop treating me like a child?’ I hear this lament from many of my clients. ‘My husband/wife treats me like a child. He/she questions everything I do.’ ‘My boss talks to me like he is my parent.’ ‘My parents want to know everything – they are on me about something constantly.’
No matter what your age, from the ‘terrible two’s to the stressful forties’ (often referred to as a mid-life crises) everyone desires to be treated as competent and capable, recognized for their strengths and good intentions, rather than shortcomings, foibles and mistakes. Everyone values his/her thoughts, feelings and needs to be respected and included in the decision making process for the issues that directly involve and impact them. In short, everyone values autonomy and wants to express him/herself and be in command of his/her life.
The ‘terrible two’s’ label was coined because a child begins asserting his/her independence. The child wants a sense of power over the things that matter to him/her-my toys, my clothes, my activities, my needs for affection and attention. When one feels like my ‘desires, needs, likes and dislikes’ are respected and addressed, one feels empowered and acknowledged for the individual he/she is. If children feel negated, disrespected or dismissed, they often have a temper tantrum – likewise adults have blowups when their needs do not seem to matter.
Research reveals that communication styles make a huge difference in creating healthy relationships between adult and child and between adults. Effective communication styles are based on processing the emotions associated with the situation rather than an ‘authoritative’ style that produces more challenges than happy endings.
Children who are parented with processing emotions have more abilities in the area of their own emotions than children who were parented with an ‘authoritative’ style. Children who are parented with processing emotions demonstrate these characteristics:
• Ability to regulate their emotional states
• Soothing themselves when they are upset
• Calm down faster after an upsetting experience
• Fewer infectious illnesses
• Focusing their attention more effectively
• Relate well with people, even in tough situations – such as teasing from peers
• Understanding people on a feeling level vs intellectual
• Friendships with other children/adults are less problematic
• Difficult situations are more easily navigated
There are five key elements for parents to communicate with children that bring more cooperation and decrease power struggles.
• Tune into your child’s emotions beginning at birth. Children have emotions as soon as the brain is functioning before birth.
• Recognizing emotional expression is an opportunity for connection, understanding and learning about another’s individuality. Children need to be lead by example. The adage ‘Do as I say, not as I do,’ is foolhardy and hypocritical. Children are keen observers, they are tuned into the nuances of everyone’s behavior and moods.
• Listen empathetically and validate a child’s feelings and needs.
• Identify feelings and needs in words a child can understand and relate to.
• Assist your child with options to solve an issue or deal with an upsetting experience.
These five key elements point to an important theme – ‘Connection before Correction.’ Connect with your child’s feelings and the needs underlying their frustration or upset before moving to ‘correcting, educating, strategizing or discussing consequences.’ They will be more available to hear your concerns when they feel they have been heard and understood first. This is a skill that takes patience and practice. Few adults have had any modeling or relating this way in their childhood. However, it can be learned. Once learned it becomes second nature.
Two excellent sources on this topic are: ‘Raising an Intelligent Child, John Gottman and ‘Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life,’ Marshall Rosenberg.
Dorothy M. Neddermeyer, PhD, Metaphysician – Certified Hypnosis Practitioner, Author and Speaker. Dr. Dorothy facilitates clearing blocks, fears and limiting beliefs. You can live the life you desire. She brings awareness to concepts not typically obvious to one’s thoughts and feelings. https://drdorothy.net