by Lisa Grant-Feeley, MS, LPC
If you’re a parent, you might never forget the first moment you saw your child and the wave of love that overtook you in that instant. Simultaneously, with the wave of awe and amazement came a jolt of terror as you recognized the responsibility loving - and raising - this tiny child would bring. Many parents take that responsibility to heart and want to do the best they are able for their child. Some have already had success in raising happy, well-adjusted children and are bewildered when a younger child struggles with behaviors they have never seen before.
Why does my child struggle when plans change? Why does my child become so incredibly frustrated when things don’t go as expected? How can my child scream, “I hate you!” or “You’re the worst mother (father) in the world!” Or worse, how can my child hit, kick, throw things at me? These are questions many parents ask themselves when their child has explosive behaviors. In fairness, it is difficult to understand how the same parents can have success with some of their children and not with all of their children.
According to Dr. Ross Greene, children who exhibit these behaviors typically have underdeveloped skills in the areas of frustration tolerance, flexilibity/adaptability and problem solving, which means they don’t have the skills needed to manage many of life’s unavoidable situations. Situations that require them to be adaptable or flexible, or to be able to manage frustration that occurs in an average day, or are confronted by a problem they need to solve. These children are doing the best that they are able with the only “skills” they have.
When we understand that our child is struggling to find a way to manage a difficult life situation, but doesn’t have the necessary skills, it is easier for us to support our child who is explosively showing us the intensity of that struggle. Seeing our child as doing the best they are able, allows us to provide the unconditional love we felt the first time we saw them.