Last week I posted an incredible interview with Amanda Anderson about what to do when our children’s behavior seems unmanageable. If you missed it, be sure to check it out here. She shared with us three tips that she uses to manage difficult emotions with her children. The first of which is to center, the second is to connect and the third is to communicate.
Today, I wanted to just give you a few simple ideas for how you can connect to your children. These can be used in the moment when your child is having big emotions and they’re being defiant or they can also be used as a preventative measure.
When our kids are having big emotions, we often want to jump right to the communication part and we want to just reason and not connect with them. I think part of that connection is empathy: our children need to know that they are seen and valued, and that their emotions matter. It doesn’t mean that their behavior or emotions are appropriate, it just means that we are going to validate their feelings. So, if you are ready add some new connection ideas to your tool bet, you’re in the right place.
Connection Idea #1: Hug Chase
Here, you’re basically playing tag and I call it hug chase because once you catch your child, you scoop them up into a big bear hug then you put them down and then you keep running. It’s a really great way to channel the angry energy into connection, where you chase each other around and it becomes a game full of laughter. Remember, laughing emits the same endorphins that crying does, so we want to get them laughing as often as possible when they’re having big emotions, because it helps them process their feelings in a positive way.
Connection Idea #2: Simon Says
I’ve done this before when my kiddo is being really defiant. Of course there will be times when you suggest something and they’re not into it and that’s fine. Your kiddos might have a different idea as well and you can ask them what they want to do to help channel their energy into something fun.
When your child is being upset or defiant and exhibiting bad behaviors, encourage them to move their body. When you move your body, it helps supply your brain cells with oxygen which improves your brain function. So as a response to their behavior, connect with them and have them move their bodies. You can make any variation you want to the game, but the more you practice this game with your kids, the faster they will go from upset to regulated and that’s what we want them to do.
Connection Idea #3: Physical Touch
Physical touch is a great preventative measure, but can also be used in the moment. However, it really depends on your kiddo, as some kiddos don’t like to be touched when they’re really upset. Physical touch is really important as it sends a lot of messages to our brain that we are safe, that we are seen, heard and valued. I think it’s so important to have physical touch each morning, so this could be a good morning hug, where you hold that hug with your kiddos for at least eight seconds. Research shows that every person, not just kids, needs at least eight, eight second hugs per day.
Another thing you can do when your child is defiant or during that really hard time is just to get down to your child’s level and ask them what they need. You can ask them, do you need a hug? Can I hold your hand? Can mommy give you a back rub? Do you want me to draw letters on your back and you can guess which one I’m drawing? Give them some different ideas and some different options. It’s so important that we make our children feel like they matter, even when they’re melting down. Remember, there is a reason for their meltdown and kids who are regulated don’t just melt down, there’s something deeper going on. This physical touch will show your kiddos how much they’re loved, so look for ways to physically connect with your kids that’s unique to you.
Connection Idea #4: Say I Love You and Give Compliments
Now it’s really important to make sure you’re at their level when doing this. So place your hand on their arm or their shoulder and have them look you in the eye, then give them a compliment. Just giving them a compliment makes them feel incredible and gives them this huge hit of value, like they belong. It’s so important for a child to feel connected to us, to feel like they belong to the family and feel like they have a role and a purpose.
Connection Idea #5: : Reading
I love reading and again, this is something that my mom did with us so much when we were little. I’m so glad because it really instilled the love of reading in me and I do the same with my children. Now what we do is we get a chapter book to read with each of our kiddos and it’s become our thing. Anytime my daughter and I have special time together, she just wants me to read to her. When I ask her to clean up her room, she just wants me to read to her. It’s just an incredible way for us to have this bonding experience over books. So make a date every single day to read with your kiddos.
Connection Idea # 6: Wrestling on The Bed
This one is really fun. There’s a lot of laughter and it’s so fun to connect. With the wrestling on the bed is it’s more so like pushing. You’re not hurting each other, but you’re trying to pin each other down on the bed. It’s fun and it’s a way for your kiddos to redirect their energy, but also to learn how to play and to play wrestle safely. I see it as redirecting their angry energy through play and helping them manage their anger and redirect it in a positive way. Another thing that you can have your kids do is to give them a cardboard box or ball to kick and you kick that back and forth with them. Make it a game with them to get their anger out.
Connection Idea # 7: Play Card or Board Games
This one is one that you guys probably do already, but this is probably not one that you’re going to use in the heat of the moment or when you’re running late for something. I feel kids always sense that we’re running late and that’s when they melt down the most. Kids are very intuitive, we don’t give them enough credit for it, and they can feel really stressed when we’re stressed and if they feel rushed, it can give them a sense of anxiety. So I definitely recommend leaving margin in your schedule for meltdowns, anticipate that they may happen and give yourself space to work through these big emotions with your kids.
Connection Idea # 8: Playing Whiskers
My last, simple way to connect with your kiddos today, is playing a game called Whiskers. It’s not even really a game, but it’s actually an exercise from my son’s Brain Balance therapy. Basically you take your two pointer fingers as you face your child and you trace whiskers on their face. You’re going to place your two pointer fingers right under their eyes, at the bridge of their nose, and draw an imaginary whisker out to their cheeks . Then you’re going to do it again in the middle part of their cheek and then towards the bottom of their cheek tracing a whisker down near their chin. You are going to draw three different whiskers and you can change the order in which you start, so they don’t know what’s coming.
So you’re doing that physical touch and you can do it 10 different times and say 10 things you love about your child. Anytime you can get them to move their body, you’re integrating the brain again. This is just a really quick, easy way to connect with your child and show how cherished, loved and valued they are even when they’re angry, defiant, upset, difficult.
I hope that you enjoyed these kids connection games and that it gives you some hope, encouragement and ideas for what to do the next time your kiddo is having a hard time. Remember those big emotions are red flags and they need your support and your help. Their brains are not fully developed and they need that connection with you. They need to know that their big feelings are okay and that they’re valued and loved even in that moment. Then you can move on to teaching and expressing the lesson that you want them to learn.
If you enjoy this post, I would love for you to share it with a friend who might be struggling with their behavior issues with their kiddos. Then, come connect with me over on Instagram and let me know which idea was your favorite.
We are all in this together and I truly believe that we were designed by God specifically to need each other and to lean on each other. So sharing this helps other mamas find this freedom and find the tools and the strategies that they need to make their life more enjoyable and to give their kids an outlet for expressing their emotions. I always love hanging out with you mama and until next time I’m here rooting for you and you are not alone on this journey.
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- Episode 84: When Behavior Issues Feel Unmanageable