One part of parenting that can be a huge struggle is figuring out what is going on in the minds of our children. The toddler is standing at the open refrigerator, staring in -or- the preschooler is scaling the bookcase, headed to the shelves of mom’s books -or- two children are in tears, and one is injured, while a highly sought after toy lies in the middle of the pair; what on Earth are they thinking?!?!?!
The simplest way to find out is – TO ASK!!
It might seem elementary, but so much of the time, our parental urge to control the situation overtakes our thinking and we forget to just ask what is going on. I have found, seven and a half years in to parenting and with three children who talk so far, that there is pretty much always some motivation for what children are doing. I am pretty sure that I have never plucked a child from a piece of furniture that they weren’t climbing to get something specific. The toddlers pretty much don’t just open the fridge to stare in wonder because it is just so fun to stand there looking. And there is almost always more to the story of the toy and the injury than I initially think there is. And I will never find out what the motivation or story is unless I ask.
The thing about control is that when we step in and control our children’s behavior, it doesn’t make the motivation go away. The toddler is still going to be hungry or thirsty, or looking for the remote control that he is SURE he stuck in the fridge. And that means that as soon as you turn your back, he is going right back to the fridge – if he doesn’t have a complete meltdown first, that is. And the preschooler is still going to be after whatever it is up on the bookcase when you pluck him down. So, while he may not climb the bookcase again, he is probably going to balance a pillow on a step stool on a dining room chair next time – if he doesn’t have a complete meltdown first, that is. And that whole fight over the toy, yeah, let’s just say that choosing sides without finding out what happened first can have you feeling like a complete moron later when you find out the whole story, especially if you have had a complete meltdown first.
Asking questions before asserting authority over a situation – after removing safety risks – is the hands down, best way to deal with most puzzling behaviors.
“Hey, Buddy, what are you looking for in the fridge? Oh, the remote control? I saw it in there and I put it back on the end table! Can I get you an apple while we are here and we’ll close the fridge back up?”
“Hey there! Climbing the shelves is dangerous! Whoosh! Did you need something up there? Can I help you to get it down instead, so you don’t get hurt?”
“Wow! Is everyone ok in here?! Did someone get hurt? What is going on with this toy? Everybody calm down, and let’s figure out what happened. Who had the toy first?”