For many families it’s back to school time. And while it’s an exciting and happy time, back to school can also quickly bring on emotionally charged moments. There may be more rushing around, more worry and added stress. This can all fuel a sense of disconnection. And with it,you may notice more unwantted and unecessary behaviors.
Behaviors such as back talking and defiance. Your child may not be feeling motivated to do homework, or family jobs. She may be speaking in “defiant” ways or arguing about everything. Younger children may have more emotional outbursts or tantrums… And us parents, tired and getting back into routines may feel buttons getting pushed and lids being flipped faster than ever!
The stress, worry, defiance and button pushing don’t have to rule your back to school experience. Connection and Cooperation are possible – especially if you are willing to step into your child’s shoes.
Step Into Your Child’s Shoes to reduce power struggles, back talk, tears and so you may have a great start to the new school year:
If your child seems to be giving you a hard time before or after school, try to step into your child’s shoes. Remember what it is like to be in school, juggling friendships, listening to teachers, following the school rules. Your child may have a lot on her mind. A lot she may be struggling to tell you about.
Often children act out because they don’t know how to talk it out yet. Their emotions are louder than their words. Often they struggle to tell us what is going on because they aren’t so clear about it all themselves!
So very often, the “I can’t believe it’s pasta again” complaint at the end of the day may be more related to feeling discouraged or emotionally spent over several events from the whole day, than with what you actually made for dinner.
Behind back talk and defiance is usually a message. It may be one of discouragement. Or a message that your child is asking to have more control over her life. Like having more choices, or time, or a chance to just relax a bit after school before following all the rules and agreements at home. Maybe the school rules are feeling difficult to follow, being away from you is tough or maybe friends are being bossy.
Maybe your child just had one of those really crummy days. You know, where nothing goes according to plan? I’m sure you’ve had a day like that?
Back talk pushes buttons for sure. Defiance is challenging. It can feel disrespectful and ugly… It lights up all sorts of warning signals to us parents to step in and “FIX” behavior… And yet, it can be an opportunity to offer guidance. To connect before bringing on a correction.
Correcting with Connection in Mind
A pratical way to see things from your child’s perspective is to be willing to make agreements. Agreements are a very connected and often very helpful tool to end repeat problems and iron out wrinkles in your daily routine and expectations.
Instead of arguing with your child about everything they must do each day, before and after school, involve your child in creating an agreement that is helpful to both of you. An agreement may help you and your child reduce conflicts about many aspects of back to school, such as screen time, homework schedules, packing lunches and more. Children as young as age 5 can participate and keep up agreements. To make a good agreement, make sure to take the time to follow each step calmly and with the intent to welcome cooperation.
Here is a quick cheat sheet for making agreements that actually stick (based on Positive Discipline Tools by Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott)
1. Listen to your child’s concerns and share your own
2. Brainstorm possible solutions for an agreements
3. Discuss the pro’s and con’s of the solutions listed
4. Choose together one solutions you believe will work for both you and your child and write it down.
5. Revisit the agreement within a week to make sure it’s working for both of you.
Remember your child has a lot of experiences and emotional moments with back to scchool. Your willingness to be present, to understand and listen each day before moving into routines, expectations and agreements makes a big difference.
So, just for a moment, when you hear those complaints from your child: the inability to take out the trash, to put some laundry away, to do homework before turning on the tv…step into your child’s shoes. Imagine what they might be feeling and thinking…Create space and a moment of joy by offering a smile. Empathize. Validate. Just be present. When the moment is right, shift over to your agreements so you don’t have to argue any more.
Wishing you and your family a healthy and happy start to the new school year!
Peace & Be Well,
A similar version of this article was originally published in Compass: A Positive Discipline Ezine for Families. Get your own complimentary copy by subscribing to the Positive Parenting Connection newsleter.