Underneath your child’s irritating behaviour is something for you to understand.
Working it out is half the battle but this image here may help you. Just say to yourself: “My love and approval, my love and approval, my love and approval!” It’s what they want.
All behaviour is driven by feelings. All feelings are driven by needs.
When we meet the need rather than focus on the behaviour, we begin to deal with the cause not the symptom
If I told you that your child’s daily struggle was to win your love and approval, would it make you think differently about your relationship with them?
Without love and approval children can die inside.
A bit dramatic? I don’t think so.What if I told you that it’s not a conscious struggle but innate?
‘You know it’s true, everything I do, I do it for you.’ ~ Bryan Adams
“Yes that’s me!” cry all Mums at once. Everything I do is for my child. They are the centre of my Universe. Well, rest assured that everything your child is doing is for you also. Well, it’s for your love and approval. It’s what nurtures their tender hearts and innocent souls. It helps them grow into healthy, happy well-rounded human beings.
Do you …
- Often doubt yourself?
- Struggle to make decisions?
- Ask permission to do things (when you don’t need to)?
- Apologise a lot (and when you don’t need to)?
- Do something you don’t want to do because you find it hard to say no?
- Post things on social media to ask for feedback (oh sorry that’s me!)?
- Are easily offended if people have different opinions?
- Get upset when nobody notices how much effort you have made?
- Need other people to compliment you?
- Are looking to be appreciated or understood?
These are approval seeking behaviours, and are deficits leftover from my childhood where I was taught that my worth was based on what others said I was and not who I know myself to be. I wasn’t taught that my worth is intrinsically part of me! It’s only now in my 40s, I realise what other people think of me is their filter and their view of the world. I reaffirm that to myself by saying:
‘I am alive and therefore I am worthy. Someone’s opinion of me is not your reality unless you believe it. Their words are powerless without my acknowledgement. These critics don’t walk in your shoes, so don’t give them power. Keep moving forward and let nothing hold you back.’
Children act out what is being suppressed in a family
I write passionately about connection as I coach families who struggle to create it because there has been some sort of emotional trauma in the family. This can be a bereavement in the family, a recent home move, a sick parent, separation or divorce. Any emotional trauma causes disconnection and that disconnection usually manifests itself in a child’s behaviour. The child is a symptom of the family system.
Children crave connection like we crave chocolate. I did write about our food cravings having emotional lack correlations. Chocolate being love of course! And that love being connection. That connect with their parents that they get through love and approval.
It’s often the most sensitive child whose radar is finely attuned to the disconnection.
There are other ways that connection can be broken between parent and child. I’m sure you can think of your own ways that you break connection with your child:
- not properly listening
- dismissing feelings
- being apart for long periods of time
- shaming emotions or behaviour
- new routines
- overscheduling and rushing around from one thing to the next
A child sits in the energetic space between two parents
Whatever that space looks like is how it is for them on a daily basis. Where there is harmony, there is love and security. Where there is disharmony (this includes disharmony that you think you are hiding from your child), there is uncertainty, anxiety and sadness. What does that space look like for you and your partner?
According to Oliver James, author of my current read ‘They F*** You Up, we carve out our niche in the family according to how much love and approval we win from each parent. I was astounded to read that in the case where we’re one of many siblings (I am one of four girl) each child is brought up by the same two people, but by four different sets of parents.
Nature versus Nurture – Which is it?
This is the same for you when you were growing up. Think about your role in your family and how you got to win your love and approval. You did win it didn’t you? I’m not sure that I did. I mean I know that my parents love me because we are programmed to love our parents and they programmed to love us. I didn’t have my Dad’s love of sport like my little sister has and I wasn’t as compliant as my siblings. I did make them notice me with my academic achievements, but was I enough?
Our birth order, our sex, how attractive we are (yes really, how very vacuous), how clever we are, how much we remind our parents of the unhealed parts of themselves, how compliant we are and a whole plethora of environmental factors mean that the way we turn out has very little to do with genes. Although we tell ourselves that it’s genetic to lessen the responsibility of parenthood and to convince ourselves that the bits of our children we are not so keen on are genetic and unchangeable. They are out of our control.
Don’t underestimate your powerful influence as a parent!
Well, they are not. In fact, you may be surprised to know that the family that we grow up in affects our:
- Creativity by 75%
- Intelligence by 65%
- Personality by 60%
- Sociability by 75%
- Emotionality 60%
- Extroversion 60-70%
- Autism 20-30%
- Alcoholism (70% in males and 90-100% in females)
- Anxiety neurosis 80-100%
- Manic depression 35-50%
- Attachment security 100%
These statistics were taken from James’ book and are part of a twin study by Robert Plomin who has shown the importance of non-shared environment, a term that he coined to refer to the environmental reasons why children growing up in the same family are so different. In addition, he has shown that many environmental measures in psychology show the genetic influence and that genetic factors can mediate associations between environmental measures and developmental outcomes.
Resetting your child’s emotional thermostat – teach them to self soothe
I mostly like Oliver James because he invented love bombing; this is the ultimate way to connect with your child. It claims to reset your child’s emotional thermostat. I guess that’s a bit like when we take time out to top up our resources. What’s your thing? Warm bath, manicure, hair cut or coffee with a friend? We know when we need to reboot. Children struggle to express themselves. They only know when they feel off and they make it their business to let you know about it too.
Let’s look at: The Angry Child and The Anxious Child
I don’t like labels but these are for you and as a guide.
The Angry Child
From the parent’s perspective, this child is full of fiery raw emotion which is exhausting. This child may evade boundaries, tune out, have a strong will and need to be in control. I find that angry children are often masking up softer feelings like anxiety and sadness. Angry children respond badly to:
- Punishment – they kick back more and power struggles ensue.
- Being sent away to deal with their anger on their own.
- Being shamed for their behaviour (we are not our behaviour).
- Being judged or labelled for their anger (we are not our emotions).
- Pandering – giving in to avoid angry outbursts – they are looking for boundaries!
The Anxious Child
From the parent’s perspective, this child can be demanding. This child wants constant reassurance,can develop fears and phobias often around food and sleep, has an overactive (and yet incredibly creative) mind, asks lots of questions and at times lacks confidence (although not always obvious). I find that anxious children respond badly to:-
- Being forced to do something before they are ready / without discussion and planning
- Being shamed for their behaviour (we are not our behaviour)
- Being judged or labelled for their anxiety (we are not our emotions)
- Having their feelings around their anxieties dismissed – they are real and frightening to them
- Being told to toughen up – they are sensitive and creative children who need these qualities nurturing in them. I work with strong-willed sensitive children – I call them Wildhearts (Do you have a strong-willed sensitive child?).
What can you do to help your child in their struggle?
I want to remind you of how I began this post and the most important thing for you to understand and remember.
All behaviour is driven by feelings. All feelings are driven by needs.
When we meet the need rather than focus on the behaviour, we begin to deal with the cause not the symptom.
Behaviour is a symptom and the cause is the feeling. When our children are able to take care of their feelings and self regulate/self soothe, they will win at life! Their behaviour will transform before your very eyes.
There are heaps of helpful and practical resources in my Online Learning Den, I have a FREE one to get you started! Check out this kids worries workshop: ‘How to Grow Your Own Happiness and Shrink Your Worries‘ so you can give your child what they need to flourish and succeed in life.