This blog is inspired by something my sister shared like couple of years back that all a child wants to hear from his or her parent are just two words, “Its Ok.”
Those two words make every difficult experience become “ok” in the mind for a child. Sometimes parents are so absorbed in the drama of their own ego that they separate themselves from the child and stand by the world! Even a brief moment of that response from the parent has a life lasting impact on the child’s sense of feeling a deep rooted groundedness from within. Otherwise the child never really feels ‘its ok’ inside and keeps looking for that acknowledge through his or her own life.
However, if you choose to stand by your child whatever maybe the situation – even if the child was the wrong doer – if you begin from the point of saying to the child -“Its Ok”, you will get the cooperation of the child. Because in that moment, the child feels seen, acknowledged and supported and will be more willing to listen.
I feel that till the age of 16 years if parents can create that kind of conscious empathy, love and protection for the child it can have long lasting impression on the child’s response in the world – within and without. However, most children are victims of their parent’s stress, prejudice, hurt, fears, emotional turmoils, and their own wounding by their parents.
Do not equate Stand By your child to mean Side your child‘s behavior! When you Stand By Your Child, you send the message to the child that no matter what I am with you and together we can improve this situation. It creates the space for your child to listen to you.
When a child exhibits a behavior that is seen as wrong (or destructive to self and others), there are only two perspectives:
- the child knew that it was wrong and still did it, or
- the child did not know it was wrong
Either ways it is a learning moment for the child. But how do you make that a teaching moment without projecting your own insecurities on the child. For example, Say your child’s teacher or a neighbor or a relative or someone else brings to your notice something about your child that is seen as socially embarrassing, rude, destructive, what will you do?
Most parents that I have seen immediately start blasting their child – shouting, screaming, punishing, taking away incentives, time-outs! Sometimes parents start screaming at the child in-front of the messenger and sometimes they start screaming at the messenger for saying such things about their child! Both ways you are not Standing By your child.
Importantly – Never scold or ridicule your child in front of others! Definitely, do not let the messenger scold or abuse your child in front of you! That doesn’t work either!
Now how do you make the teaching moment.
First, you have to hear your child out! Meaning you have to give your child the opportunity to explain the situation to you. The only way your child is going to come through with truth is if your child knows that he or she is going to be ok inspite of sharing it. That is when your child needs to know that you will stand by him or her whatever happens! Your love is not going to diminish! Sometimes children do not know that and hence, they will say all kinds of things to avoid telling you the truth.
Secondly, if your child’s story conflicts completely from what you have been told, then you have to share what you were told with your child, and inquire about the discrepancies – What does the child have to say about it! You will know if your child is lying or not if you are tuned in and also, as you observe their stories over 1 or 2 such incidents.
You have to learn the skill to stand by your child without siding their behavior!
It is not easy to do because you have to put yourself aside, and be present for the child. It requires time and patience but it is worth it.
You have to start indulging in speaking to your child calmly and lovingly versus reacting in anger and punishment, and projecting your own insecurities, fear and embarrassment on the child. The more relaxed and listening you are, the more the child feels that you are standing by them, the more chances of them exploring into telling the truth! Then you can together explore the consequences of the behavior.
Don’t just say “You should not do that”, “it is the wrong thing to do”, “You have to behave properly”, “what will people say”, “you are embarrassing us” – these are vague sounding sentences which do not explain anything to the child about the consequences of their behavior – why was their behavior not socially supportive! Speak the truth. Bring real world examples Even from your own life! If you haven’t mastered that behavior yourself, then share it with your child and maybe even say to the child that together you can explore it further.
Step out of right or wrong mindset! Instead speak to the child about what serves or does not serve the child in the long run.
Children are deep compassionate beings naturally. They usually do not respond or behave in any situation without a reason unless of course, that is what they have seen you mirror for them.
Do not make a mountain out of a mole hill!
In most normal situations, your Standing By your child and talking about his or her behavior in a conscious compassionate non-judgemental way will shift your child’s behavior. It will hold space for them to come forth with truth. If that does not happen, then maybe there are deeper issues that your child or sometimes you yourself are dealing with. At that point you can choose external help maybe a good Child Therapist in your city could help.