Your four-year-old is having difficulty following instructions. 

You’re frustrated and end up speaking more sharply than you intended. 

They melt down.

Does your child have behaviour problems?

OR is it Your relationship with them needs a little attention?

Raising kids is no walk in the park, and sometimes we too get a little exasperated at the constant need for management and control.

The key to raising wholehearted adults is BEING a wholehearted adult.

For some of us, that’ll require a bit of self-reflection and honesty about what is coming up for us when we get mad at our child’s behaviour.  If this is amongst the challenges you have, you are not alone. 

Rocky Foundations

I was chatting with my mum today, and we were talking about this subject because we are on this relationship recovery journey.  The journey has been necessary because neither of us understood the other in a way that was connected and attuned.

Essentially, we are going back to the crawling stage of our relationship, where the initial disconnections happened.  We’ve been learning how to listen to each other without judgement, justification or defensiveness.  (still a work in progress, especially for mum, though she’s come a long way).

The reality is, our relationship never had great foundations to grow from in the first place.  I don’t mean that there wasn’t love, it’s that due to mum’s early life experience she didn’t have the emotional fitness to provide the emotional safe-haven necessary so that we could effectively grow our emotional regulation skills.

For me it meant I “inherited” this same skillset.  Ie inability to effectively self-regulate in age and developmentally appropriate ways.


Tribal Cycle

It’s what happens with all kids.  They learn by osmosis from us how to be.  We create the environment which they form their identity. 

If we are dysregulated, whether over (shouty, anxious, dominant) or under (withdrawn, stubborn, resistant, passive) their self-view is being formed by rubbing up against those qualities.

Each child will respond differently based on their own nature included design, ie the schema they are born with.   

The more we can appreciate where their nature meets our nurture, and make choices that enable their flow, the easier our parenting journey will be and the higher the quality of relationship we will build.


1. Grow our self-awareness – knowing ourselves means we have greater capacity to make above the line choices, meaning recognising the things we can control and acknowledging the things we cannot.

2. Listen to hear, not only to respond – in times of challenge, when perhaps our “shark music” goes off, is to avoid making assumptions.  Our child will always be the best source of information on what is going on with them. 

It’s a real privilege to develop a role as a trusted advisor by providing our child a place to be processing their thoughts where we are neutral to what we are hearing.  This is where we get to be of great value to our child as they develop their identity and critical thinking skills.

3. Be curious – avoid jumping in and problem solving or telling them what to do or think.  Practice being their coach and guide, rather than their master and commander.

I do appreciate for those of us who are “fix it” parents, that can take a bit of practice.  Though it’s amazing what you get to learn about your child when the feel that level of trust that if they “stuffed up” that as you listen to them, you’ll only be assisting them with clarity on their options.

4. Model the behaviours you want from your children – Kids are learning more from WHO we are BEING than what we are saying.  They are learning from us way before they have the language to express opinions or give feedback.

5. Have fun – the more relaxed and enjoyable we create the lived experience of our family, the easier our child will learn and grow.  Regardless of their design, style or any challenges.  Children need to feel a sense of safety, security and comfort first in their relationship and responses from us.

Be Aware

Children, including all the way through to teens, will be harder on themselves, no matter how mad they might be at us.  Our job is to avoid taking their words or behaviour personally, because what we receive from them is not against us, it is for themselves.

That means that when they are mad at us, they are more likely to be trying to feel better within themselves, so they deflect at us.  Our role is to support them in gentle, conscious, wholehearted ways to accept responsibility in age and developmentally appropriate ways.  Not by telling them and rather by being there for and with them.

Raising wholehearted adults is an opportunity to unleash our own wholehearted adult.  A adult with the vulnerability that enables the types of connection and attunement we wish we’d had.  Empowering the development of emotional fitness that will hold them in good stead to succeed regardless of the hurdles they might face as adults.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint. 

Adult brain, based on latest scientific research is ages 24-28, so even with teens, there is time.

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Author – Leanne G Wakeling – Relationship and Communication Coach, Parenting Mentor,

Behaviour and Thinking Styles Profiler.