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How to Deal With Your Kids Calling You Names

Lately my son has been telling me some new things, including...

"I hate you!", "I hate you both!" (to his dad and me), "You're making me starve!" (when I won't cook a second or third dinner) and "You're a poo-poo head!"

I hadn't heard these things from him until recently.

Well now, the "poo-poo head" is getting to have her say. Read on.

I have to admit, these new things he's saying are taking me aback. Mostly I think it's because there's a level of directedness toward me that wasn't there before. It's hard not to take it personally and react accordingly.

Maybe if he were a real leopard cub, he'd be going "RRAAHHhhrr," and I'd be extending a big fat mama lion paw in response.

But here in the human world, I found myself stuck. So...

I signed up for a coaching session with parenting coach, Shelly Birger . I was having a hard time putting into practice what Shelly and I preach about in our daily lives sometimes.

She helped me to look at my son not as an adversary, but as someone moving from being a little boy to being a bigger boy-someone who needs my help to do this. She reminded me to tune into with his needs for autonomy and connectedness.

She also reminded me of something I know intellectually but find it hard to remember when a little being is yelling at me and slamming doors...

Assume positive intention, or, as Marshall Rosenberg puts it, "Violence is a tragic expression of unmet needs."

Everyone, no matter what we're doing, is always trying to make life go better, however misguided our actions might seem. If nothing else, when I keep this in mind, I'm more likely to feel compassion rather than anger toward my fifty-pound maverick.

Shelly also reminded me that this is my son's best attempts at meeting his needs.

I prefer this story to "He has it in for me."

If I remember how lovely it feels to connect with him, and how things can flow when we're playing together, or even just taking a walk or a drive, I can see that, even in the throes of harsh words and actions, he is doing his best.

Five and a half years is not a very long time to gain a mastery of anything, let alone the art of being human. I have nearly forty years on him, and I can still fill several pages with things I wish I hadn't said or done.

Finally, when my son is at least calm enough to interact, I can sometimes remember to ask him what he is needing and wanting.

For example, after refusing to pull his shoes onto his feet, and insisting I do it instead, I asked him, "Are you wanting to feel loved and cared for?", remembering that this has been a need he's revealed in the past.

When I asked him, he softened.

He still wanted me to put the shoe on for him, but at least I introduced the concept that I can tune into his needs without necessarily agreeing with how he goes about meeting them.

Sometimes, in the past, I have said something like, "I can understand that. I love you and care for you tremendously, and...I am busy with something else right now, so I'm going to let you refill your water glass yourself."

It's not so much whether our guesses are 100% accurate, but that we care enough to tune in and guess at all. This is what will build connection and trust.

Warmly, Jill
About Author Jill Nagle :

Jill Nagle is a family mediator who co-writes Awake Parent Perspectives, an online weekly newsletter at <a href="" target="_blank"></a> Frustrated with toddler tantrums? Not sure if you're raising them right? Feeling disconnected from your partner? Subscribe to <a href="" target="_blank"></a> today!

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Article Added on Thursday, April 9, 2009
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