17 Jul Becoming a better parent: Meet the Need
Our Westview team member, Terry Owens, continues our series, Becoming a Better Parent. In this article, Terry encourages us to “Meet the Need”
We spent the last few months focusing on “Parents it’s ok to . . . ” memes that our friends from Empowered to Connect posted on Facebook (empoweredtoconnect.com). Our goal for parents is for you to know it is ok to take time for yourselves and meet your own needs. Meeting your needs empowers you with the energy and the healthy mindset to respond to your children more positively. This is important because the quality of our responses to our children can affect our relationship with them. The goal for all parents should be to grow a healthy, loving relationship with their children.
Let’s take a little time and look at the behaviors that provoke our responses, positive or negative. We’ve discussed behavior in past articles, but this subject deserves emphasis. To react helpfully, parents must understand behavior and where it comes from. Behavior is the language of a need not met. As infants, our children would express their needs by crying, the only language they had. We had to be detectives to figure out what they needed. Was it milk? Was it a clean diaper? Or, did they just need to be held? As our children grow, we teach them how to express their needs appropriately with gestures, expressions, and—eventually—words.
When your children exhibit some unusual behaviors you don’t usually see, stop! Take a minute to check in with yourself to ensure you are stress-free. When you are there, watch and listen to figure out the need behind the behavior. For example, ask yourself how long has it been since your child has had a snack and hydration. The fundamentals of food and water can be catalysts for behaviors that are challenging. In this case, ask if your child would like something to eat or drink before addressing the behavior. You may find that their behavior may change once the need is met.
Be aware of the environment around you. Is the space too frantic or noisy? Being in a chaotic environment can cause your child to be anxious and provoke challenging behaviors. If so, you, as the parent, need to be a calm presence for your child. This is where a loving touch and a calm voice will help calm their anxious feelings. You may need to take your child to a quiet place to help calm them.
Children can exhibit challenging behaviors when they play hard or study for a long time and don’t get enough rest. Create a structure where they have a set bedtime, time for body breaks, and breaks from studying. Allowing time for their brain to rest will diminish challenging behaviors.
Remember, when dealing with challenging behaviors, be mindful of the environment, yourself, and your child before addressing behaviors. Level your response at the behavior, not your child.
Dr. Karen Purvis once wisely explained that behavior is the language of unmet needs. We don’t always know the “why” behind the behavior, but it is our job as parents to be the detective and find the “why.” Once you meet the need, you change behaviors.
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