Howdy, hello Villagers! Welcome to this week’s podcast and as always, thank you for tuning in. This week I dive into the logistics and reality of how and when to address your kiddos behavior, let’s get started!
Let’s say your child hits a friend at a play date. Your inclination might be to address the behavior first. But, if we are addressing the behavior right away the child’s needs are not being met and we will likely see a repeat of this behavior really soon. We won’t see a change in the future unless we teach our kiddos to be aware of their emotions and how they express them.
When a child is feeling an emotion they have cortisol running through their body, cortisol is our fight/flight/freeze hormone that does so much in our body. What happens is that your hypothalamus and pituitary gland can sense if your blood contains the right amount of cortisol, if it’s too low, your brain will let your adrenal glands know and they will up the cortisol. This will vary from day to day, instance to instance but what is always true is that when your body is on high alert this rush of cortisol shuts down your prefrontal cortex (or ration thinking portion of your brain) so that your body can react when it feels like it is in danger or there is fear present.
When your kiddo's heart is racing, this is when we do our emotion coaching. We go even deeper into emotion coaching in episode 63 if you want to check it out for more expansive information. We also talk a lot about this when we discuss children hitting and how to best respond in episode 61.
I get a lot of questions about this that are like, “well if we don’t talk about it now how is my kid going to know their behavior was inappropriate?” And that is what I answer in this episode, the key is to understand the systems first before we introduce solutions.
When we and our kiddos are stuck in anxiety, we are really stuck in fear. Operating from our amygdala with cortisol dictating our decision making, we are not from a calm and rational place. This affects memory, concentration, headaches, and much more because this is a hormone imbalance. From a biological standpoint, it is our job to help our kiddos regulate their cortisol first, before addressing their behavior.
Say you’ve emotion coaches and now your kiddo is calm so you're ready to move forward. Now you go to talk to them and they run away or say they don’t want to talk about it, how do we navigate this? First of all, I don’t want to talk about this until way later, like half an hour later. Because I want to give the body time to really process and regulate that cortisol. I know for myself when I get really upset about something if you try to talk to me about what I should do differently while I am in my emotion there is a good chance I get sassy and refuse to talk about it.
It’s not like they do it and think, “I feel so great and empowered for hitting my friend.” So, when you go to talk with them about the behavior, keep in mind that they probably still feel embarrassed or guilty. So, I like to start out with confirmation: “Hey bud, you’re not in trouble” or “Let’s talk about something, I’m not mad at you.” If you can start from a place of genuine connection with your kiddo, they will receive the behavior discussion better.
Also, it is important to point out that your kiddo receiving information is different from them responding. You can still say things to them that they receive without having them respond. Sometimes when we try to make kids respond with a, “Did you hear me?” or “What do you think you can do next time.” they can get overwhelmed and shut down. The goal is for them to hear us so that they can process the hard emotion on their own time.
In the instance of the hitting or taking someone else’s toy, I’m just emotion coaching here. And yes, there might be adult feelings in the moment that you have to regulate and process on your own time. Wow, guys, I was so stoked to finally answer your behavioral questions in this episode. As always, slide into my DMs and let me know what you thought! The only way to keep growing this village is with your help, so let’s chat babe!