Most of us grew up being told and believing that actions need to be followed by consequences in order to “learn a lesson”. And so when a child is “misbehaving” an unpleasant consequence, such as a time out or a hiding, needs to be imposed in order to stop that behaviour from happening again. While this makes sense at face value, it disregards the core function of child behaviour; communication.
All child behaviour is communication in some form, and if we look a little deeper, we see what the child is really searching for; connection.
In his book “The Whole-Brain Child”, Dr Daniel Siegel explains that when a child is “misbehaving”, they are often feeling discouraged and disconnected. The right hemisphere of the brain is active at this point. Often what we do as parents is to try to reason with the child, appealing to their left hemisphere. The trouble is that when the child is overwhelmed by right-brain activity, they will actively reject logic and reason. Which means that, in this moment, imposed consequences will never have the desired effect! What the child really needs is connection. This will help them to integrate the two hemispheres and 1) be more receptive to reasoning and solutions, as well as 2) become better at emotional regulation overall.
In order to connect with a child, we have to suppress the urge to correct the behaviour or fix the problem. This sounds very simple but is extremely hard in practice! Here are two tools that can be helpful when faced with an emotional meltdown:
Once your child feels connected, they will be more receptive to logic, solutions and, above all, they will be developing true emotional intelligence.