By Dawn Tedrow, LCSW, Dec. 5, 2017 –
There are a lot of things to be unhappy about in our world today. Everyone has their own opinion when it comes to politics and current affairs, and many are not shy about expressing their feelings. If you open up your social media news feed and read through the comments, you will see a lot of negativity.
What about you? Have you taken a look at your own attitude and behavior lately?
We try to raise our children to be well rounded individuals, to know the difference between right and wrong and to handle conflict appropriately.
Sometimes things are said just for the sake of stirring up an argument with someone who posted their opinion. We feel hurt by things people post, and want them to know they have offended us. But what is the right way to handle this conflict?
We must remember that our children are observing our reactions to these situations and they are often mirroring our behavior.
As a parent, I am entitled to my own beliefs that influence how I raise my child. However, I am also responsible for ensuring they conduct themselves in a way that is respectful. Perhaps it is time to review the idea that we can “agree to disagree.”
Be mindful of how you respond to situations you disagree with. I am also guilty of uttering something under my breath about the latest news. What I would like my child to take away from the moment is that I don’t agree with what is being said or done. But your child is also hearing the words you are saying and thinking of how to apply it to situations in their young life.
Unfortunately, our bad behaviors may teach our children to handle a situation in an inappropriate way and they may ultimately be punished for it. We are setting our children up for failure by not keeping our own reactions in check.
The next time you are watching the news and disagree with what is being reported, take a moment to think about how you should respond. What do you want your child to learn from your reaction? How would you like them to react to a difficult situation at school when you are not present?
The first step in expressing yourself in a positive manner is by starting with “I feel.” Surprisingly, many children don’t know how to describe their feelings, so it might be helpful to have a list of feelings available for them to look at while instructing them in this skill. “I feel angry” and “I feel sad” are some examples.
Once the child understands how to identify their feelings, you can begin teaching them to identify what is making them have this feeling. For example, “I feel angry when you tell me to pick up my toys.”
Practice modeling this behavior around your children and continue to encourage them to use their words instead of acting out inappropriately. As always, be sure to praise them for using their words in a respectful and appropriate manner.