Updated: Mar 9
If you have a child over the age of two, you have experienced your darling child having a "bad" attitude. Maybe it reared its ugly head as you tried to get her out the door to Grandma's house. Or, your typically happy-go-lucky child crossed his little arms and turned up his nose at the pancakes you made this morning. Perhaps YOU have had a bad attitude that turned into the whole house having a bad attitude (To be perfectly honest, that's what usually happens around here!).
Whatever your situation may be, here are FIVE ways to change a bad attitude (yours or theirs!). The first three are more preventative steps; but can certainly be used during the "bad attitude." The last two are sure to help you - and them - through this situation and onto the other side! Ready? Here it goes:
Yes, I know you are "always" breathing - you are alive, right? But have you ever noticed that when you feel stressed out, you actually PAUSE your breathing? You know this is happening when you feel yourself exhale (sometimes loudly or forcefully!) after a particularly stressful event has taken place. So, this first step is all about taking intentional, mindful deep breaths from your belly when a stressful situation presents itself. And do this at least three times. It is also important to have scheduled, regular times throughout the day when you just stop and breathe mindfully. Think about it like building a "muscle" that you need to strengthen when you don't need it, so that it can be ready to be used for when you DO need it.
2. CHECK YO' SELF
How's YOUR attitude? Do you tend to be critical of people or situations you encounter at the grocery store, while driving, or throughout your work day? Or are you generally grateful in most things, being able to see the best in others? What about when there is a gap between what you expect and what the actual behavior is...do you fill it with believing the best or assuming the worst? I wonder why that is? Remember that YOU are your child’s first and most influential teacher…so what are you teaching your children?
Please, don't despair, though! If you recognize that you have been modeling a less-than-positive attitude, simply repent, telling your children you realize you've had a bad attitude about _______, and let them know you are going to work on it. THIS transparent attitude will help your children be ok with making their own mistakes and help them accept your corrections as well.
This means recognize and VERBALIZE the behavior you are seeing to help keep everyone in the present moment. We so often spend our time thinking about what we should have done, or should be doing or should do next. Quit "shoulding" all over yourself! Stay in the moment by noticing what actually IS happening! Simply naming what you or your child is doing notices it, bringing everyone to the forefront of the mind and increasing awareness in the moment. This may feel and sound silly at first, but I promise it is going to make a huge difference!
Say your children are playing quietly with blocks in the living room. You may be tempted to think, "I don't want to mess this up. I'll just keep quiet and pray they keep playing well with each other." However, if they were fighting with each other and tossing blocks around the room, you'd be sure to say - maybe even a bit loudly - "What are you doing!? What should you be doing!? Don’t you know you aren't supposed to throw blocks?!?”
Once you get into the habit of noticing, your interactions will sound more like this, "Look at you guys! You're playing together with the blocks in the living room." Or "You threw your trash away!" Or "You found your shoes!" Or, "It seems like you don't want to clean up right now." You may even find yourself saying, "I am peeling the potatoes for dinner....I am boiling water for the potatoes...I am mashing the potatoes."
After this becomes like second nature - and it will - you can start adding how the behavior you see is helpful to others: "You're playing together with the blocks in the living room so Mommy can work in here. That is so kind!" or "You threw your trash away, so our house stays clean. That was thoughtful!" Or, "You found your shoes so we can leave on time. That was helpful!"
There is little that aggravates a bad situation more than when someone tries to "fix" it and you just want to be heard! Think about the last time life didn't go your way....got it? Maybe you called your Best Female Friend to tell her all about it. Being your BFF, she probably DIDN'T say, "He is such a jerk! You should just leave/quit/find another school/etc." INSTEAD, she probably said something like, "That SUCKS! I hate that this is happening to you (sad face emoji)." It's the same way with our kids!
They don't necessarily want you to "fix" it - sometimes there IS no fixing it because they just have to do what you told them to do! But they DO want you to empathize with them:
“You wish you could have ice cream before dinner and you can’t. That’s hard.”
“You wish you didn’t have to stop playing with your friend and go home. I wish you didn’t have to, either.”
"It's hard when you have to do something you don't want to do. I understand that."
It does NOT mean you give in to them (at all!). It DOES mean you let them know you UNDERSTAND their feelings. That you are in this together. Breathe. Hug. Breathe. Smile. Breathe. Love. Breathe.
5. GIVE CHOICES
If your child is kicking and screaming and crying on the floor, there is NO WAY he can make a choice in that moment. It is simply neurologically impossible. This is when YOUR breathing is going to be an absolute necessity to help calm BOTH of you down. However, if she is stamping her feet, but TALKING - albeit negatively - you can offer two positive choices: "Do you want to wear the red shoes or the blue shoes?" She may say, "But I don't WANT to go!" Breathe. And go back to #4 "I know you wish you didn't have to go! I wish you didn't have to either." Breathe. "Do you want to wear the red shoes or the blue ones?" She may say, "NEITHER! I don't want to go!" Breathe. "I hear you. You wish you didn't have to go. But you do. We both do." Breathe. "Sometimes we have to do things we don't want to do and that stinks. But you can do it. I will help you. Do you want to wear the red shoes or the blue ones?"
I've had people ask, "Am I supposed to just go on and on asking them to choose? What if they never choose?" The short answer is, "Yes." The longer answer is that I want you to think about the times your kids have "worn you down" by asking for something over and over and over and over and over and....well, you get the idea! Haven't you ever just said, "HERE! Take it and shut your mouth!!" Ok, maybe you never SAID that...but you probably thought it! Anyhow, I am suggesting that you do the SAME thing to them...wear them down by offering the same two positive choices...over and over and over and over again until one is chosen! This will ONLY be successful if you are calm (remember to BREATHE), but I am SURE that this CAN work for you - much to your surprise at times!
Please, leave a comment on this article or after watching the YouTube video on how this has worked for you!!
#ConnectPointMoms helps you create stronger relational connections with the children in your life. This starts with being aware of your own stuff so you can BE PRESENT with your children in the moment you're in, and then knowing and using the best ways to communicate with them!
Some books that have helped along the way include: