Many of the words and actions that you think show your child your understanding actually influence him or her to feel mad or misunderstood. Following are some examples of parents' negative communications that undermine understanding their children:

1. Giving unsolicited, abrasive advice.
 "What you should do is...."
"If you would stop being so careless then you wouldn't have that trouble."

2. Talking about their own feelings and experiences instead of their child's.
 "I can't understand why you are carrying on."
"It makes me angry when you just don't seem to care."
 "I wonder when you are ever going to learn!"

3. Making your child's pain seem unimportant.
"Other families also have their problems"
 "Why don't you grow up?"
"Stop that. You're being ridiculous!"

There are many obstacles to understanding your child. Above are some of the more frequent ones I hear from upset parents. You may use poor listening skills. You may tune out when you feel frustrated that your child hasn't met your needs. Mistrusting your child's motives by always assuming he is being defiant will also lead to misunderstanding. Many parents forget that kids make mistakes, and they lose sight of how their own shaming and blaming can deeply wound their child. If you can identify with any of these, don't be too hard on yourself. As a parent, I too, have made my share of mistakes.

Following are some crucial points to keep in mind as you work toward understanding your child. Remembering these points when you hit rough spots with your child will help you stay calm and focused:

  • Defiant children lack emotional maturity.
  • Your defiant child wants your love and approval.
  • Not understanding your defiant child fuels the defiant behaviors.
  • Defiant children feel very misunderstood.

Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein is a Philadelphia area psychologist and Certified Professional Coach who specializes in child and family psychology, executive coaching, and weight loss coaching. He is also the author of the popular book, 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child

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