- Reading Social Situations: Being able to read a social situation allows kids to determine how they are going to interact with other children. Being able to observe other kids (“trouble makers”) and staying away from them allows kids to avoid problems before they start. Reading body language, facial expressions, and the way other kids play, who gets in trouble, and who picks on other kids can give a child an opportunity to make wise decisions. Kids who have been taught to “read” the situation can learn how others might be feeling and why their actions are ones that your child does not want to be involved with. This skill is learned when the adults in a child’s life discuss and point out different behaviors, body language, facial expressions, and the feelings they might be experiencing. This can be used in many situations when the child tells you about an event or behavior they either witnessed, were involved in, or different situations.
- Managing Emotions: Managing emotions comes with maturity that can be developed into a skill, when taught well. Kids learn what is not appropriate (behavior) stemming from a certain feeling (anger) when they are disciplined, or consequences are put in effect. Learning feelings are their own but what they do with the feelings (behavior) is not tolerated when hurtful, disrespectful, or harmful. Some helpful ways to implement this skill with children is to ask them, “What did you see going on that you felt you needed to (bite, hit, cry, slam the door, etc.)?” Do not ask, “How did you feel?” Instead ask, “What is going on?” Generally, unacceptable behavior comes from a self -centered desire (“I want it now”) or not being able to verbalize what is going on or how they are feeling. Not allowing this behavior to be acceptable must be called out as in, “Just because you are mad does not mean it is okay to hit your sister.” Followed by a consequence for the behavior. Consequences alone do not teach skills in children. Verbalization must be used for the child to hear and see why the actions are not acceptable. It is the learning process associated with the consequence that changes a child’s behavior. In other words, “The next time I hit my sister, I am going to be punished, so I need to calm myself down when I am mad!” It is not the behavior of the child that is the problem, it is the way they think that causes the problem. Kids act out on theses thoughts when not taught how to manage their thoughts. After the child is punished, the adult must have a discussion with the child, asking them “What can you do differently next time?” This allows the child to think their behavior through and come up with other ways to deal with the issue the next time.
- Problem Solving: Kids who are continually in trouble or labeled “the bad kid” are kids who have not developed skills in solving problems. As a child develops they must learn how to adjust their problem-solving skills and learn new ones. This means the child learns how to identify their feeling, understand their thoughts, and learn to deal with the problem instead of blaming others or an adult fixing the problem for them. Ironically, just teaching the child to identify feelings is not enough. You must talk to the child and help them come up with solutions in solving the problem.
The tricky part is determining what technique works with your child in teaching them managing emotions and problem solving. I have worked with hundreds of families over the years and am a firm believer every single child and parent is vastly unique. Determining what approach or technique children respond to is vitally important to the success of the child. Until we actually hear how the child thinks, we are not clear in the reasons for their behaviors.