Why is this relevant in parenting?
No, it isn’t a trip to the zoo, or the circus, even though it might feel like it at home, sometimes.
Rare, Unusual or Most Likely
When we look at a child’s behaviour, what I have noticed is, that many parents, not everyone, will go to the zebra solution or the unicorn problem. What that means is, going for the rare or unusual, when most of the time, the issue is a horse, and the solution is a horse.
For example. In a recent post in an online community, a parent was seeking support for the behavioural issue they were experiencing with their 3yo. They were arriving home from work at 6pm with their child from nursery, and he was super busy, running around and interrupting his parents while they were talking about their day and not eating his dinner.
The parent wanted support to solve what they believed was their child’s hyperactivity.
Cause v Effect
It may seem logical to go for the problem being what you can see, and this is quite normal. Where the challenge begins is that by looking at the issue as the child and their behaviour there is the trap of making that the cause of the issue, ie there is something wrong with my child and go looking for the unicorns or the zebras. Whereas, if we step back and look at the behaviour as the effect of the issue, we can start looking for the horses, aka the easily fixed causes.
If you experience something similar consider, if this isn’t a unicorn or a zebra, what could it be instead
Looking at what is happening overall is an excellent starting point.
Where to Start
A 3yo child, who has been at nursery school, with people they may or may not love and trust, all day, or a good portion of it. Chances are, he’s a bit excited to be out of the confines of being with all those other people, and he is wanting to reconnect.
A 3yo, has little to no executive brain capacity, which means their ability to self-manage is practically non-existent, This is still a horse. This is not a sign of a child that has ADHD (as is appears to be the concern of the parents in the post), it might, however this child doesn’t have this problem at school.
As the behaviour doesn’t present everywhere, it is unlikely to be the child, as in something in the child. Therefore it has to be something in what happens in the home environment or related to the transition between school and home.
Accepting we are not looking at something rare, we have a horse issue, so what are the options.
As he can manage at school, what is happening at home, that isn’t at school.
The issue seems to be a mismatch in expectations. This tends to be the most common or proverbial horse to be looking at.
When the parents have collected their child from school, they have also been apart from each other all day, so were wanting to reconnect and were wishing their child to wait out for them to meet their own needs first. It seems quite cute and as cute as that is, and lovely they still feel like that, these are also parents who have a 3yo child.
To this little human, his parents are THE most important thing in the world. He may not be able to language it like that, and he wants their attention so badly, that he is getting overwhelmed with energy and can’t sit still. In some ways, he is being unbelievable patient in waiting for them to remember him. Or he might be rushing around and interrupting.
The parents appear to have forgotten or may not yet understand that it is not the job of a 3 year old to wait for others to be ready, especially their parents. Yes, they must eventually learn about healthy boundaries and respecting other people’s time, and at three this is quite an ambitious expectation.
My impression was that these parents had missed that this child was not being a deliberate inconvenience by behaving in a way to get their attention. He is a child seeking to be validated and understood. He has not accrued an obligation or debt of honour in the process, as his parents chose for him to be part of their family.
What these parents appeared to have forgotten is that, this child, who they chose to bring into the world, doesn’t have the ability to wait while they reconnect. They have forgotten to appreciate, that just like them, he wants to reconnect. That they, as adults have the capacity to wait.
Looking at the big picture. Chances are, if these parents spent a bit more time considering what the behaviour represents for the child. Appreciating that the behaviour is not against them, and rather for himself. What does it mean?
I have been listening to The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Seigel and Tina Payne Bryson, what the acronym HALT was introduced.
H – Hungry
A – Angry
T – Tired
From the presenting information, this child seems like the reasonable assumption is that this child’s horse behaviour could be lonely. If his parents were to postpone their deeper connection time, they are likely to get a double blessing. The first being that their child could receive their full attention, meeting his need for both significance, and connection. Meaning that he could then settle in the comfort and security of having received their love. The benefit to them then, being quality alone time, having met their child’s needs first.
As parents, it is not our child’s job to fit our needs, it is ours to recognise and meet their needs, so that ours can be met.
When we can get this fundamental order optimised, our lives can become so much more fulfilled and peaceful as our child builds his trust in our desire for his best interests.
If you are in the trenches of parenting, come join me in the Conscious and Intentional Parenting Tribe on Facebook, where you can access tools, strategies and support, to assist you in raising children to become emotionally intelligent to meet the needs of Adulting in the 21st century.
Author – Leanne G Wakeling – Relationship and Communication Coach, Parenting Mentor, Behaviour and Thinking Styles Profiler.