What is the best way to respond to a disobedient child?

A child disobeys when they feel unheard, unvalued, their view not considered important enough to be listened to. A child disobeys when they don’t understand why they are being asked to do a certain thing. They rebel when what they are asked to do ‘feels wrong’ and takes them away from their joy, their heart’s guidance.

Some times it is appropriate for a child to disobey, to learn assertiveness, to set boundaries. Some times disobeying is the healthiest action they can take to honour themselves and their needs. It is not always wrong or destructive to disobey.

mom-toddler-cosleepingIf it is a small child, a toddler, the best way to respond is to calmly explain why you need them to do what you are asking them to do.

“Mummy needs you to be quiet now, because she is tired and needs some rest. You know what it is like to be tired and sad, don’t you? How about having a cuddle with Mummy and a nap?”

A child will empathise with this information. They will understand why it is beneficial to you for them to be quiet and what’s more you have created a win-win situation. To the child they now have the opportunity to choose connection and receiving love / affection / nurturing, which feels good to them – and as a bonus they will get to feel proud of themselves for helping Mummy – win, win, win!

Try to create such beneficial solutions so the child gets to choose something that meets your needs and theirs. By creating a win-win there is less need for struggle or resistance.

If it is an older child, 6 or 7, then you can explain things in a little more detail. You can ask them how they are feeling and what they need right now. There is a reason for their behaviour. If you can understand the thoughts behind it, you can then discuss alternative ways of seeing situations and choices of how to react. Teaching and role modelling emotional intelligence is important.

“Remember last week when Mummy stubbed her toe on the fridge, she hopped and screamed until it stopped hurting. Mummy was tempted to throw something in anger or to hit the fridge, but she didn’t did she? What did Mummy do? That’s right, Mummy stood still and breathed deeply until the pain stopped. That breathing allowed all the anger to flow out of her and back into Mother Earth. Next time when you get angry let’s try breathing through it and seeing the anger flow out of us back to Mother Earth?

Shall we practice now? When were you last angry? What was it about? Imagine that now, can you see it? How does it feel? What do you want to do? Okay, let’s practice visualising / seeing the anger as energy inside us, see it flowing our our body, down into the Earth. Great! How did you go?”

Doing these types of activities fosters closeness between you and your child, as well as helping them build skills in controlling and releasing their emotions. Remember you are their role model, they learn from what you do. If they see you raging about traffic blocks or income limits or whatever else, then that is how they learn to respond to life’s challenges too.

Be the best role model you can be. And if you slip up and you do something less than ideal explain to them what happened, so you both learn from it and so they are not scared of you and your reactions.

Boots“I am sorry Mummy yelled at you, but this is the third time this week that you have tracked mud inside on your shoes. Mummy doesn’t enjoy cleaning the floors over and over again. I just got upset at the thought of having to do it again, and I felt like you hadn’t listened to me. When you don’t listen Mummy feels hurt like you don’t care about what Mummy says. I know you probably just forgot and you didn’t do it deliberately. And I know you certainly didn’t do it to hurt Mummy’s feelings, but that is how I felt.

Do you remember how upset you got when Tommy kept taking your truck and hiding it? It is the same sort of thing. How did that feel to you? That’s right, you didn’t like it, you felt like Tommy was mean and selfish. Mummy felt like that too, like you didn’t care you were making a mess and that Mummy would clean it up. How about we clean it up together and we put a sign on the door at your height so that you see it before coming inside from playing in the backyard? Should we make the sign together? Yes, okay, how big should it be? What colours do we need? …………”

In this way you are teaching the child problem solving and emotional intelligence skills. You are making it clear it is the behaviour that you dislike. It is not the child itself that you are unhappy with. This distinction is very important. If you imply the child is careless, stupid, lazy, clumsy, inconsiderate, etc, then they will feel bad about them self and naturally will respond with hurt feelings – sulking, tantrum, lashing out. They will feel wounded by your words and feel bad about themselves. This is not helpful, it adds to low self esteem and feeling not good enough.

Make it clear it is the behaviour you didn’t like and you can choose to behave differently. Therefore “It is not you, just your choices that I would like to see change. I love you, I honour you, I am grateful you are my son, I just need you to help me out sometimes by listening to what I say and doing what I ask.”

Of course there are times when it won’t work, no matter what you say. If a child is over tired, exhausted, hungry there is no point trying to reason with them then. Let them rest. Let them rebuild their energy reserves, then you can talk about it.

Sometimes you need to postpone your needs being met and look at what the child is going through. “Honey, why are you so upset? You came in from school and threw your bag against the wall and stormed off into your room. Are you okay? Do you want to talk about it?” This would be a more helpful response than yelling at the child for leaving his or her bag and stuff lying around.

If you take the time to listen to them and their emotions, they are much more likely to listen to yours, when you need to explain something to them. Be compassionate. Be empathetic. Be honest and sincere. And most of all be loving.

If it is a teenager who is being disobedient, you need to pick your battles. Let minor things go and only challenge them on issues that you believe are serious enough to warrant discussion.

Teenage years are very challenging for all concerned. As a teen the child is experiencing volatile changes in their body, raging hormones, they are questioning who they are and their value. “Am I smart enough, pretty enough, am I going to succeed in life or not?” They are going through a deep reflective time where they soul search. They may not like who they are or what they have in life, they may doubt their ability to have a happy life and these are heart breaking questions to grapple with. There is lots of fear, anguish, grief and anxiety. This can bottle up until it explodes out in anger or tears.

They are going through a lot so give them space. Let them know that you love them and you are here for them if they want to talk about it. They may not want to. They may feel too embarrassed to do so or be so confused inside that they can’t put how they feel into words. Honour them and this process.

Let them know you love them regularly. Let them know you are proud of them and believe in them. Compliment them on their abilities and when you see them doing something positive.

“I’m really proud of how you handled that situation. You were very polite and considerate giving that old lady the chance to sit on your seat in the bus. That was a very nice thing to do.” “Thank you for tidying up your stuff without me asking you to do it. It makes me really happy to see that you will be able to keep a neat, healthy home when you are older” “But, Mum, I just needed to find something, I wasn’t doing it deliberately.” “I know honey, I’m just glad you did it”.

If you can compliment children often, you help them to build a sense of ‘Yes, I am okay. I am a good person. I can do things’. These are all positive core beliefs which will help build self esteem and their ability to lead a healthy, happy life.

Children are no different to us adults. Some times they are wiser as they haven’t learned to filter their thoughts or ignore their emotions. They haven’t learned to suppress their needs to please others. They can be more emotionally honest in this sense – even if it is turbulent and explosive!

We all need to build our stress management and emotional intelligence skills. If you are stressed and tense take action to calm your body and nervous system. You can spend time outdoors in nature, use some essential oils, listen to some soothing music or watch a television program you like. You can have a hot bath, go for a walk, do some yoga or deep breathing. There’s lots you can do to quickly calm down and start to feel a little better.

Tension and Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) can help to shift the tension and stress out of your body so that your nervous system calms down and you balance back up. Once you have learned TRE and how to self-regulate you can use TRE at home whenever you like so that your body and mind calms down, worries less and is more peaceful.

When your body is uptight, tense, stressed, it sends messages to your brain as it feels you are in danger and that it is not safe to relax. Hence your brain scans for danger. Your nervous system is hypervigilant looking for the threat. In this wound up state it’s easy to over react to minor things.

When you’re calmer, when your body and nervous system is more relaxed it’s easier to engage with others from a more playful place, a calmer, more peaceful place. TRE can help you to down-regulate your nervous system and be in a more relaxed state which is beneficial for you and your children. TRE is safe for kids to do too, so that they are calmer and can enjoy life more.

If you get upset at your child, ask yourself ‘Why am I reacting? What am I assuming?’ You may find that you are feeling disrespected, not cared for or loved. That is your issue from your past, for you to resolve.

Your child was not deliberately disrespecting you when they ate candy before dinner. They saw candy, went yum and ate it. They feel good eating candy and wanted to feel good. That’s as complex as it gets. They didn’t stop to think about the impact or consequences of eating it and they certainly didn’t think ‘I want to piss Mum off, I know, I am going to eat all this candy, make myself sick on sugar, and refuse to eat my dinner. That will upset her. Yeah, I’m going to do that!’

toothpaste funKids just do what feels good – they play, sing, dance, laugh, roll in the mud, etc. They are not plotting against you. There is no such thing as a willful child. Look at the situation from their perspective and see what they see.

Squeezing the toothpaste all over the floor is fun – it makes noises, it squelches, it comes out in patterns, it ….. If you don’t want them to do it, remove it from their reach. Remove the temptation.

And take care of yourself so that you are not exhausted and reactive.  Take care of yourself so you do have the energy to listen to and play with them. Take care of yourself so you can be a healthy role model for them and so you can enjoy life. It is meant to be fun after all. Blessed BE. Amen.

Channeled by Jodi-Anne (05 Aug 2015).

See more answers to pertinent life questions on the Life Insights page of this website.

Overview of techniques for emotional release

When emotions are overwhelming it is tempting to get busy, to turn to sugar or other addictions to numb out and escape the feelings. This just keeps the emotions buried inside. The only way to truly escape from them is to feel them and release them so that they are no longer inside, surfacing over and over again in an attempt to get you to embrace them.

There are many ways to feel and release emotions. Below is a range of techniques that you can use for either no or low-cost. Try each and see what works best for you. If you find that you still can’t cope with the intensity of the emotions then reach out for support. A list of free counselling helplines within Australia is included below. If you are not from Australia an internet search or question to your local doctor will hopefully provide you with details of similar services available close to you.

  • Expressing how you are feeling – Speak your truth, honour your feelings – just do it in a way that is safe. If that means screaming into a cushion or in the car with the windows wound up, do it. If it means crying while curled up on the floor, do it. If it means beating cushions on the lounge while expressing your anger, do it. If it feels safe to do, you may choose to imagine the person who upset you is there with you and tell them the consequences of their actions and its impact on your life. The important part is expressing what you feel. Letting it leave your body rather than locking it up inside you.
  • Writing out how you are feeling – a journal or diary can be used to write about how you are feeling and why. This honours your emotions and helps you to connect within, to reflect on what you are feeling and the reasons for it. It helps you to gain insight into your experiences and behaviour. It can be very helpful especially if you feel you can’t share what you are going through with anyone else. Some people like to express their feelings in poems or songs, they find that very therapeutic. You can also write letters (which you won’t actually send) to those that hurt you expressing your emotions, the impact on your life and your needs now. Because you don’t actually send the letter you can express the depth of your rage and grief, really letting the person know how you feel. After you’ve written it rip the letter up and burn it, let it and the emotions go.
  • Drawing how you are feeling – art can be a powerful method for releasing emotions as it is more ‘feeling’ based and less ‘thinking’ based. Pick up crayons, paint or clay – whatever feels right – and use it to express what you’re feeling. Just scribble or draw, allow what needs to be expressed to come out. You don’t need to try and draw something specific, let it evolve out of your emotions. It can be very surprising to see what appears this way. When it’s done the emotion is out of you and on the paper. You can keep your drawings as a record of your healing journey or rip them up and burn them as a symbolism of release.
  • Moving the energy – emotions are energy in motion (e-motion). You can shift anger and rage by doing vigorous exercise. Go for a walk, run, swim or whatever form of exercise feels right. Do a gym class, punch a punching bag, whatever works for you. As you exercise you release the pent up energy and therefore the emotions.
  • Embracing the healing power of nature – sitting or walking in nature can be a powerful healer. I find that being in a garden or forest helps me to centre and ground, to balance back up, to feel stronger, more peaceful and able to cope with whatever I’m facing. Standing near or in the ocean, feeling the salt air or the salt water if I’m in it helps cleanse me, freshen me, drain away the negative emotions, leaving me feeling lighter, cleaner and stronger. (Having a bath with a handful of rock salt in it does a similar thing).
  • Meditation – If you can sit still and meditate then simply observing your emotions and the associated thoughts can allow them to shift and release. They no longer need to fight for your attention so they quieten down as you honour them and accept them – as you acknowledge the reason the emotions arose and what information they are giving you about your life and any actions needing to be taken. Just sit and breathe deeply, witness what occurs within your body. Allow emotions, thoughts, images and memories to surface and release. Our breath is very powerful and can shift even the most intense of emotions if you allow the process to occur – keep breathing and witnessing – and allow the emotions to flow and shift. Trust that they will move and breathe through any resistance.
  • Flower remedies – There are a wide range of flower remedies such as Bach Flower Remedies and Australian Bush Flower Essences. These are relatively low-cost and help the body to balance emotions and clear blockages. There are remedies to assist when you have experienced shock or trauma (Rescue Remedy or SOS Remedy). There are also remedies specific for individual emotions and issues – such as grief, fear, anger, sadness or for building confidence, self-love and self-esteem. Many health food shops and some chemists stock flower remedies within Australia. They can also be ordered over the internet from wholesale stockists or manufacturers.

Australian Counselling Helplines

Below are the details of some of the free counselling services provided by organisations within Australia. (This information was accurate as of 2010.) Visit their websites to find out what other services they provide or can refer you to. There are often support groups and sometimes workshops you can attend. There are also some Government funded services to support those suffering from depression and mental health issues. Ask your local doctor about what services are available in your local area.

Adults Surviving Child Abuse (ASCA), Phone: 1300-657-380 – provides support, information and referrals throughout Australia to survivors of all forms of child abuse and neglect, male and female, family members, supporters as well as health professionals. Operating hours are 9–5 EDST with answering machine outside these hours and while counsellors are on another call. All calls made after hours will be returned the following day. http://www.asca.org.au/

Kids help line Phone: 1800 55 1800 – Kids Help Line is Australia’s only free, confidential and anonymous, 24-hour telephone and online counselling service specifically for young people aged between five and 18. http://www.kidshelpline.com.au/

Lifeline Phone: 131 114 – A 24-hour telephone counselling service available for anyone, at any time, and from anywhere in Australia for just the cost of a local call. http://www.lifeline.com.au

Parent help line Phone: 1300 364 100 – The Parent Helpline is a service of the SA Government Department Children, Youth and Women’s Health Service and provides telephone information, counselling and support – 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year. It is available to parents of children and young people from birth to twenty five years and to people working with children and young people, including teachers and childcare providers. http://www.parenting.sa.gov.au/helpline/. For details of services provided in other states of Australia see: http://www.aifs.gov.au/nch/resources/counselling.html#nat

Paying for supportive healing services

If you have funds to spend then you can of course choose from a wide range of modalities and services to assist you with your healing journey.

  • If you want to talk about your experiences – then Counsellors, Coaches, Psychiatrists and Psychologists may be of assistance. Each has a different approach, cost and use. Ask questions before deciding on a practitioner to see. What is his or her experience with healing from child abuse? Do they regularly prescribe the use of anti-depressants and medication? How long do they normally see clients for? What are their spiritual beliefs? Find someone who you resonate with, who feels safe to be with and who listens to and honours you. Be prepared that you will probably feel worse before you feel better. As you make insights about your life and the reasons for your behaviours you will uncover the pain that led to your conditioning and repetitive patterns. It is painful facing all of this but it has to be done in order to heal and find inner peace. Take your time, rest when you need to and explore yourself and your past at a rate you can handle. Many abuse survivors, like me, push themselves way too hard in an attempt to heal quickly. Be kind to yourself.
  • If you want to use non-talk focussed approaches – then a range of methods can be used to support your body to release and heal. Massage is very beneficial; especially for physical and sexual abuse survivors who learn from it that touch can be safe and nurturing. There are many different types of body-work that can be of assistance, including: acupuncture, bowen, myofascial release, reiki and rolfing. Ask friends what they have tried and felt helped. Get referrals to practitioners that people you trust have visited. Do some research on the internet and follow your intuition as to what feels most appropriate for you. Try something and if after a few visits it doesn’t feel helpful, try something else. When you have found something that works for you, stick with it. Allow it to take you deep within. Often people stay at the surface by chopping and changing the modalities that they are using. They fail to go deep within, feel their pain and release it. Instead they just seek pleasure from these body-work approaches. While this feels good it’s not achieving the ultimate need – releasing the emotions buried within the body.
  • If you are willing to talk a little – then there are a range of practices available that are quick and brief therapies rather than involving years and years of talking. Homeopathy can be very beneficial – you talk just enough that the practitioner can select the right remedy to support you with the major issues you are currently facing. You use that for four to six weeks then return to repeat the process. Thought Field Therapy, PSYCH-K, and the LifeLine Technique can help you to release buried emotions and/or change self-defeating, subconscious beliefs. You don’t have to explain your history or anything about yourself. Just tell the practitioner what the topic is that you want to work on and any beliefs that you want to change. They will then guide you through the process. A different topic is worked on each session.

There are many options and many ways to heal. The above are just a sampling of techniques that I’ve experienced as beneficial in my healing journey. See where you feel guided and follow that path. Trust in yourself and the process. Your journey like everyone else’s will be unique to suit your unique needs and issues.