I was working with an 11 year old boy this week who really struggled when his Mum corrected him. His instant response was to get mad, defensive and make the situation ten times worse.
This of course is very normal. A human being is designed to defend themselves when they are attacked.
"But I don't attack him!" - his Mum said, "I'm very gentle - at least before he starts arguing back!"
I explained to her that even "gentle correction" can subconsciously be interpreted as being attacked - and most 11 year olds do not have the emotional maturity to calmly accept being criticised. Actually, as adults we also struggle!
I talked with Mum about how she can be compassionate in these situations. Sure, we have to correct and remind our kids of things at times. But understand that even when we are being kind about this - it can still be hard to take.
From the boys perspective, we talked about how when parents see kids doing unhelpful things, a little fire gets started in their brains. When kids say "sorry Mum" or "okay Mum" - this is like a gentle sprinkler, putting the fire out.
When kids say "BUT...." - this is like throwing a heap of grass of the mini fire. It quickly becomes a huge fire.
I asked him to visualise the gentle sprinkler compared to the big heap of grass.
Here's hoping it helped!
Our online resource Calm Kid Central has a helpful video and tip sheet for parents/carers on why telling kids to behave doesn't work, and why coaching them does. To find out more, click below.