How do we make a connection with kiddos when they’re engaged in behavior that is upsetting, annoying, or downright dangerous?
First: always establish safety. Remove objects, “catch” children, bring them to a safe place.
Then interpret the behavior’s message:
“You want a turn.”
“It seems like you want my help?”
Sometimes, I’ll even say to my kids “You want my attention. You want me to watch you. I’m sending this e-mail, and then I will watch.”
But my favorite approach isn’t verbal. My favorite AND the most powerful is in subtle body language. We become fully present with our child and attune to them.
We watch them with curiosity: I follow their eye gaze, their movements, study the series of their actions to better understand their intent.
They look-up and BEAM.
They feel seen.
Playful eye contact:
I do this after school [Hello, after school restraint collapse]: watch and wait for eye contact. When they make eye contact, I have two responses. I either: Smile with my whole face and send warm, loving thoughts their way (Conscious Discipline calls this a “Wish Well”), or I play a version of peek-a-boo . I wait for their eye contact and then I act “surprised” and quickly, bashfully look away. Then look back, and look away. It’s similar to flirting in middle school It usually sends them into giggling fits.
When we see THE CHILD and hear their message, we can help them express their message in a helpful, more desirable way, and totally negate the need for the “attention-seeking behavior” in the first place.