When one of our kids, teens, or adult kids acts in a way that throws us for a loop, it’s hard to come up with the right response in the moment, especially if the behavior triggers our emotions. We sometimes react in a way that we don’t want, or we may think, “I don’t like this behavior, but I don’t know what to do about it.”
As moms, thoughts like this seem to go through our heads All. The. Time. What if our response sends the wrong message? What if this is one of those critical moments that defines our relationship forever? We place such high stakes on responding the “right” way, no wonder we stress so much as moms!
Here’s the best news. We can think about behavior in a whole new way, and we can control our own actions (bonus!) with a simple 3-step process that works for any behavior that a family member displays.
We Are All Doing the Best We Can
First, there is no “right” way to respond in an unexpected situation. It is not very useful to think that we are doing anything “wrong” when we are dealing with behaviors from others. We are doing the best we can. We truly are.
Speaking of doing the best we can, I like to think this same thought about the person who is acting out, too. They are doing the best they can, at least in this moment. Doing the best we can is helpful to believe about any human being, actually. I know that this concept can feel like a stretch sometimes, but here’s the thing: The person is struggling emotionally and acting in a way that indicates they are struggling. Very often this is an indicator of a bigger problem that is a factor in driving their behavior. In any case, behavior is simply a form of communication. The behavior is often communicating that the physical, intellectual, social or emotional demands being placed on a person in that moment are more than they can handle. This is true for little kids, teens, or even adults.
How to Deal with Any Behavior in 3 Steps
I have a simple guide that helps me decide what to do for any behavior in three simple steps. It’s important first to remember that we only have control of our side of the exchange. The underlying emotions that we choose to drive our response can be any that we choose. I like to choose compassion, love, or confidence usually, (but I often have to concentrate on breathing to do this). When we have family members who struggle with mental health, lots of behaviors can come up often. As moms, we are often the disciplinarian as well as the person who also holds all the information about each family member’s diagnoses, personal preferences, and emotional triggers. With multiple family members, all with individual needs, this simple categorizing tool can help us quickly identify the best response for the behavior. Then, we can take the next step.
Step 1 ~ Take a deep breath. This is important for regulating our own emotions and giving us a clear mind to take the next step.
Step 2 ~ Choose the emotion we want to feel. Our emotions drive our actions so we want to be intentional about the emotion we want to feel before we take any actions.
Step 3 ~ Decide the category the behavior belongs in. There are 3 categories I have found in my experience as a mom, teacher, and coach for responding to all types of behaviors. The first is the LET IT GO category. The second is CONVERSATION. The third is SAFETY. The chart below describes these in more detail:
|L= LET IT GO||C = CONVERSATION||S = SAFETY|
|Why the behavior goes here||Sometimes giving grace is what feels best. We often hear the phrase “choose our battles,” which applies here.||The behavior is a chance to clarify, show compassion, connect, or collaborate.||Any behavior that feels unsafe requires an adult to take action for safety, whatever that may involve.|
|Consider…||Make sure you like your reason for letting it go.||Make sure they have the capacity to engage and everyone is calm. This response often needs to happen later.||Sometimes this means supervision is required because the person is not emotionally stable.|
|example||Using offensive language in frustration||Dishonesty to avoid responsibility||Using substances and driving under influence|
Once the behavior has been categorized the next part is much easier. If the behavior is in the LET IT GO category, there’s no reason to use any brain power or energy on it. We truly just let it go. No worrying about it, and no second-guessing. When we give grace from a place of empathy and understanding, it feels good. For younger kids, we have heard that we must be 100% consistent for every behavior, otherwise they will learn they can “get away” with it. In my experience this is not true. Kids learn that we all make mistakes and empathy is just as important as expectations.
If the behavior falls in the CONVERSATION category, this is a wonderful opportunity for connecting on a deeper level, building trust, and collaborating to solve a problem. Our first reaction is not usually to think of these events as opportunities for strengthening our family relationships, but in all the ups and downs of family life, the challenging events really can help us do exactly that. It’s a matter of the way we choose to think about behaviors, our role as a mom, and our motivation to nurture healthy relationships.
One of the most important benefits of using this system is for behaviors that fall in the SAFETY category. For family members who may be experiencing severe symptoms of their mental health diagnosis, it can be difficult as a mom to determine if professional help is needed. Whenever safety is a concern this is an automatic call. There is a sense of relief and control to not have to waver on the decision, especially in the emotional moments.
If you or another mom you know would like more support in behavior management, showing up calm and confident, or creating deeper relationships within the family, I am booking clients in my coaching program to coach moms on these goals. You can book an initial call for free. I also host a podcast where I share more tips and supportive solutions for moms. You’ll find me wherever you listen to podcasts by searching The Good Mom Podcast with Jodi Schilling. Here is a free resource that has 7 Ways to Feel Better Now for any mom going through a family crisis situation.
The Good Mom Coach
Jodi is a compassionate and relatable life coach for moms who have neurodiversity in their families. Jodi helps moms uncover who they are and what they really want without apology or guilt, through her proven personalized coaching program! She is a mom of four herself, with 20 years of experience in education plus expertise in autism, bipolar disorder, positive psychology, and DBT. Jodi holds a M.S. in Educational Leadership and is certified as a life coach and weight coach with The Life Coach School. You can learn more by chatting with Jodi on a free Turning Point call.
Jodi invites you to listen to her weekly ad-free podcast, The Good Mom Podcast, where she shares short stories with unconventional solutions that will uplift and inspire you.
Listen here: The Good Mom Podcast
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