When to Discuss the Behavior


 00:00:00    Alyssa

You're listening to Voices of Your Village. This is episode 184. In this episode, I am diving into when to discuss the behavior with kiddos. So often, when it comes to behavior, we have this inclination to step in and talk about it right then. What they can do, what they can't do, what they're supposed to do, what they're not supposed to do etcetera, because we have these underlying fears of, if we don't talk about it right now, they'll think this is okay, if I don't address this, am I encouraging it to happen again? We're diving into all of that in this episode because the reality is, in the moment is the worst time to discuss the behavior. So let's dive into what we can do in the moment. And when we can come back to talk about the behavior in a way, that's more effective, both for the short, and for the long term and more productive. All right, folks, let's dive in. 


00:01:05    Alyssa

Welcome to Voices of Your Village, a place where parents, caregivers, teachers and experts come to support one another on this wild ride of raising tiny humans. We combined decades of experience with the latest research to create the modern parenting village. Let's dive into honest conversation about real parenting challenges, so it doesn't have to be this hard. I'm your host, Alyssa Blask Campbell. 


00:06:41    Alyssa

Listen y'all, when we are emotion coaching, it is not a time for law enforcement or delivery of Justice. I'm gonna repeat that because that is the theme for today's episode. When we are emotion coaching, it is not the time for law enforcement or delivery of justice. Let's say your child hits a friend at a playdate. Your inclination might be to address the behavior. We don't hit. Hitting makes him feel sad. Oh, no. When you hit him, it made him feel sad. What should we do to help him feel better? You might be tempted to go there first. If we are addressing the behavior right now, The child's emotional needs are not being met, which means we will likely see another behavior real soon. We also won't see a change for the future if we don't teach this kiddo, how to build awareness around their emotions, express them in a pro-social manner and how to process them. When the child is feeling an emotion, they have cortisol running through their body. Cortisol is a hormone that is our like fight/flight/freeze hormone. It actually does quite a bit in our body and what happens is that your hypothalamus and your pituitary gland which are both located in your brain. They can sense if your blood contains the right amount of cortisol. If it's too low, your brain will ask your body. If it's too low, your brain will let your adrenal glands know located down by the kidneys and they will up the cortisol. They'll pump a little bit more out. This will vary from day-to-day and instance to instance, when your body is on high alert, when you are operating from your amygdala, which is another portion in your brain, then your body sends the message for cortisol to increase. So, you get this rush of cortisol and it shuts down your prefrontal cortex, which is your rational thinking decision making part of your brain, so that you can react to situations. When your body feels like you're in danger or there's fear of something, then it's your body's job to simply react and not be thinking, like what should I do here? When the cortisol is on high alert, when there's a bunch of it running through your body, it's going to shut down a lot of things in your body actually, the functions of your reproductive systems, your digestive systems, your immune system and even growth processes will be off. And then the idea is that after the danger has passed your cortisol levels, should calm back down and regulate, your heart and your blood pressure and other body systems will get back to normal and it'll regulate and then you could say talk about the behavior. But when there's high cortisol, what we are doing to support our kids is emotion coach them and provide them with coping tools and co-regulation to help them regulate to help stop producing so much cortisol to leave the amygdala and come to the prefrontal cortex. Once they've hit their not in a place right now to rationalize, their heart is racing, their blood pressures up, their bodies probably tense with cortisol, rushing through their body, our job is to emotion coach them, more on that in episode 63, if you want to dive deeper there, to emotion coach them and support them through this. We talked a lot about this in episode 61 on hitting and how to respond. But I get a lot of questions about like, well then, when do we talk about the behavior? How's my kid going to know that they're not allowed to hit, so that's what we're going to focus on here. But I think it's key that you understand the system's first. What can happen is that if we have cortisol rushing so often or it's not being regulated. So, if, when the cortisol rushes through a kid's body and they aren't emotion coached and supported in regulating that cortisol and learning coping strategies, to help themselves, learn how to regulate it, what can happen is cortisol continues to flow through the body and not regulate and not calm down. And this can be a leading cause of things like anxiety, when you are experiencing anxiety, you're in fear, you're stuck in fear, operating from your amygdala with cortisol, really dictating your decision-making. You're not accessing your prefrontal cortex. You're not from a calm place where you get to make decisions with a rational decision making. It can affect so many things, it can affect memory and concentration. And it's linked to a lot of like chronic illnesses, headaches and heart disease, weight gain and trouble sleeping. Because what we're doing is creating a hormone imbalance. So there's so many, there's so much from an emotional development perspective for why we don't talk about the behavior when a kid is experiencing this emotion but from a biological and physiological standpoint here it's our job to help them regulate the cortisol first. 


00:12:24    Alyssa

Okay so say you've emotion coach them, great, they're calm, we've processed or are moving forward and now you go to talk to them and they run away or they say I don't want to talk about it or they just say no. How do we navigate this then? So first of all, I don't want to talk about it until way later, like, maybe even like a half hour or hour later. I want to give the body time to really process and regulate that cortisol. I know, just for myself, like, if I get really upset about something if I feel triggered in some capacity or I'm angry, if you try to talk to me about what I could do differently while I'm still feeling like flooded with that frustration. I'm not receptive to it. In fact I probably yeah no most likely get pretty like sassy, even earlier I was in a conversation with Zach and I was feeling a little dysregulated, feeling a little triggered by something and then he said can I give you some advice on something totally unrelated to what I was triggered by but still was just like, can I give you some advice? And I should have just said, no, but in a sassy way, I said, well you're gonna anyway, aren't you? And I said, go ahead, really inviting Alyssa, and then he gave me a piece of advice and I was defensive in receiving it because I really wasn't in a place to talk about it yet. Instead, what I should have said was like, you know what, no, right now. I don't feel ready to talk about it. Can you tell me later? A kid can't say that also, I think it's really important to note. That typically when a child or any human has exhibited a behavior that's not pro-social. When I say pro-social, I mean it's like a positive helpful behavior and its intended to promote social acceptance or friendship. So a pro-social behavior might be being kind to a friend that they're playing with. Or even saying, hey it hurts my feelings when you say that, could be a pro-social behavior rather than hitting them. Because what we're trying to do in communicating feelings is build on a relationship. And so if a kid exhibits a behavior that is not pro-social, like they hit or they hurt somebody, or they take a kid's toy, if they do something that they know, is not what their quote unquote supposed to do or isn't kind, afterwards they likely feel embarrassed and guilty. In the same way that when we yell at kids, even though we don't want to and even though it's not our intention. But it'll happen because we're human, we yell at kids or we make mistakes, later I don't feel great about that. It's not like you do it and then you're like, oh, I feel so great and empowered. When you go to talk with them about the behavior, keeping in mind, they probably still feel embarrassed and or guilty. So I love to start off with hey bud you're not in trouble or hey I want to talk to you about something. I'm not mad at you. I know that you didn't want to hurt them or I know that it feels really crummy in your heart that you took Stacy's truck earlier when she was playing with it. Oh, it's so hard when you really want to play with something and somebody else is using it. If you can start from that place from a place of genuine connection with them, if you go into it just like I'm going to tell them that what they did was wrong and here's what they need to do next time, it's not going to be well-received but if you can go in from a genuine place of connection of like, man, I know that that's really hard and I know that that stinks and I know you're probably feeling crummy about it right now. I'm not mad at you. I wanted to talk to you about what happened and maybe what we can try and work on next time, I want to know if there's something I can do to help you for next time. Now, we can talk to them about the behavior, sometimes they still might not respond to you. That's okay. You can still say stuff to them that they receive and hear, and understand and feel validated, and seen without having them respond. I think when we make them respond with like a, did you hear me? Or what do you think you could do next time? And they sit there quietly? I'm going to say it sounds like, you're not sure what to do next time. Let me think, well, I remember one time when I was and then I would tell a social story, I really wanted to have a turn with this bike, and I was in first grade, and Ali was using the bike, but her bike did really cool things that my bike didn't do. And I really wanted to try hers out and so I went up when she wasn't watching and I took her bike and I rode around the block. And I came back and she was so sad. She thought it was missing and I ended up giving it back, but I really felt crummy about it later, and I knew that I made her sad, and I didn't want to make her sad. I just really wanted to have a turn with the bike, but I'm not sure what I could have done differently. And so the next time when it happened again, I really wanted a turn. I didn't know what else to do and you can let them know. Like yeah, man, sometimes it's hard to know what else to do. And so then I asked my mom or I asked my aunt, or I asked my teacher, what I could do, if I really want to have a turn with something, and somebody else is using it and they said, well, you could ask them. You could tell them. Oh man. What you're using looks like so much fun and I've never tried that before. I'd really like to have a turn when you're done. Could I try it next and if they say no if you still really want to try it and you need help figuring out what to do next. You can always ask an adult, you can come to me and say hey I don't know what to do here. In fact, you know what guys I was in a group and there were bunch of kiddos and we were all going to be spending a few days together. And I, at this point quite naturally will step into kid conflict and emotion coach both sides and be the like witness and the facilitator of problem solving and conflict resolution. This is doing that and I said this to one of the kiddos, I said, you know what Bud, I know that it's really hard in the moment when you're frustrated, to figure out what to say or what to do that's kind. And so if you're feeling that way, if you're feeling really frustrated and you don't want to hit them or you don't want to tell them that they're stupid but you don't know what else to do. You can always come ask me and say and you can let me know that you're really mad and you want to have a turn with this and I will come help you. 


00:19:57    Alyssa

What I'm doing by helping them and giving them that option is modeling for them, how to navigate conflict resolution and problem solving and eventually they won't need me. Eventually they'll have these tools. But what they're saying is I don't have these tools yet and I think when we leave it to kids to figure this out on their own without giving them this toolbox, we set them up for failure. I think it is our job to step in and be able to facilitate these conversations. And sometimes I mean for me often, it means I'm doing it in front of their parents and honestly guys probably 80 to 90% of the time afterwards parents will be like oh man like that they learn something from watching me do that. I think so often were nervous about emotion coaching another person's kid or navigating the problem solving or the conflict resolution with another person's child, especially if your child is involved in it, but I think more times than not the other parent is grateful to A: not have to B: they might learn something along the way here. I think all of us are hungry for like, what else do we do in this situation? So many people are walking around not knowing how to respond, or how to react or what could be helpful here. And so when we step in and can emotion coach, I think it can be wildly helpful in the instance of the hitting or the hurting someone, or taking somebody else's toy in the moment, I'm just emotion coaching and there might be adult feelings here, like your own feelings that you have to regulate and process because you might feel like the other parent especially if your kid did the hitting or whatever the other parent might be looking at you and you maybe expecting an apology or you might feel judged or you might feel insecure or embarrassed that your child hurt somebody else. So you might feel tempted to do something like, hey, go tell them that you are, sorry. Or to talk about the behavior and it's not actually about your kid it's about you then, If you can regulate and emotion coach this kiddo, you can go up to the parent afterwards and say, like, oh my gosh, I'm so sorry, like we're working on this and she's still learning what to do when she really wants a toy or whatever, I'm really sorry that your kiddo, got hurt and I bet that other parent is going to receive it really well, I bet you hear something like, oh my gosh, it's no problem. Like that's a part of being a kid or something along those lines. Put yourself in their shoes. How would you feel? You. If another parent came up and said that to you like, oh my gosh, I'm so sorry that your kiddo, got hurt, my child is still learning this, we're really working on it, if you feel like you need to address it with the parent afterwards, you go right ahead. But in the moment if you can regulate your emotions so that you can respond with intention rather than react because of your feelings, it's going to go a long way. So later when you're talking to this kid you can say things like man it really hurts when you get hit or even, I wonder how it would feel if you were waiting to have a turn and somebody came up and took that truck and ran away, or how does it feel for you when you are climbing up on the slide and somebody comes up and they kick you, I wonder how that would feel you can now build in the empathy and say and when they say like that would hurt or ouch that hurts, you can let them know. Like yeah and I know that you didn't want to hurt them. I think you were feeling really frustrated, you really wanted to have a turn next time you could blank. And if you need help, you can always ask me. So we're talking about this behavior, we are going to address it, but we're not doing so until they're calm. Otherwise they genuinely, from physiological perspective, they cannot take this information in because they're in their amygdala, they're in their feelings brain, they're not ready for rational thinking yet. And so our job is to get them in the habit of recognizing when they're having a feeling and that rush of cortisol. Oh my goodness. I see that your shoulders are up to your ears, and your chest looks so tight, and your hands are clenched. Your face is so red goodness, you look frustrated. So they start to learn what this feels like, guys so many adults are still working on this. So many adults are still working on this where we don't know what we're feeling until we explode. So starting to help kiddos build this emotional awareness of what they're feeling so that they can start to learn. And when you're feeling that in your body, what can you do to help your body feel calm? You could stomp your feet, you could do 10 big jumps, you could come ask for a hug, you could take a deep breath. You could say, I'm so frustrated. I need space. And you could take space and take a deep breath. That's our goal here. Our goal isn't to tell a kid that hitting hurts. They know that it hurts. They know they're not supposed to bite. They know, all these things. What they don't know is what to do when they're having a hard feeling and how to find their calm in the moment. What they don't know is how to recognize those feelings, when they're building before they explode. Behavior is a form of communication and we get to ask ourselves. What are they communicating, what tools don't they have yet? What do they need more support in and then we get to figure out how to best support them there. But we're not talking about that behavior until way later. And we're not talking about it from a place of shame. They already feel that they already feel it in the same way, that so many of you side into my DMs feeling badly after you've yelled, or after you've reacted, instead of responded, they already feel that, we don't have to drive that home. Instead, we could to build their toolbox with what they're saying. They still need help with. All right, y'all. Oh, I can't wait for this follow-up discussion. As always. Take a screenshot and share it over on Instagram tag @seed.and.sew I love to see where you're tuning in from and I want to continue this discussion over there. So come on in and let's chat about it. What follow-up questions do you have, what really hit home for you? What areas do feel like you need more support in or need to work on because we can continue to dive deeper into this. It's the whole point of this free to you podcast. Alright guys, have a good one.


00:27:09    Alyssa

Thanks for tuning in to Voices of Your Village. Check out the transcript at voicesofyourvillage.com. Did you know that we have a special community over on Instagram hanging out every day with more free content? Come join us at seed.and.sew. Take a screenshot of you tuning in, share it on the gram and tag seed.and.sew to let me know your key takeaway. If you're digging this podcast, make sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode. We love collaborating with you to raise emotionally intelligent humans. 



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