That’s kind of what happens here. In adults, we might slam cupboards and place things down just a little harder to garner attention. In children, this might look like emptying a sippy cup filled with juice on the floor after having something taken away. It might look like a teenager stealing something out of your wallet after you cut off their allowance.
Sometimes you don’t realize both of you have entered into this negative cycle, without going through the things you read above. Next thing you know, words are flying and they’re ones that are hurtful and harmful: “You never listen to me! You’re a bad person! Why do you have to be like this?” Hear your kids saying this to you? Now say those words as a parent! These phrases go both ways! Sometimes, we take things very personally because we have made a large emotional investment into things.
Here are ways for you to approach this: Recognize they want connection. Slow yourself down. Step back and recognize you both don’t feel connected, heard or understood. Prevent yourself from saying more harmful things or damage this relationship further. Use “I…” statements instead of “You …” statements so the blame is not being placed on the other individual. Listen to how the person communicates the emotion, not the activity. For example, as a parent, you can say “I don’t really like how we are talking to each other right now because I think we are not speaking the same language” or “I feel that we are both very hurt right now, let’s take some cool downtime and come back to this later.”
You have been reading about connecting with each other, and you also hear phrases like “Go away, I don’t want to talk to you anymore, leave me alone.'' These give you mixed signals. How do you leave them alone, but still give them the attention they are wanting? You might think, “If I leave them alone, they’re not going to do anything but play video games and they’ll never learn to be an adult in the functioning world.” Or you think “Isn’t this teaching them to be lazy and throw a tantrum to avoid doing anything?” You’re worried that your kids will carry out these habits into their daily adult life and not become functioning adults.
We get that. To prevent that from happening, try not sweeping things to the side, you must go back into the conversation to repair. It just needs time. Model to your child/youth the importance of building healthy communication skills. Alone time is valuable because when you show it is acceptable to take space apart and regroup, they will learn to approach other situations in the same way too.