When the Child’s Behavior is Escalating
Mom: (Child stomps out of her room) You are stomping loudly and your face looks angry.
Lance: Who took my stuffed animal?
Mom: You are wondering who took your stuffed animal?
Lance: Yes! I left him on my bed and now he’s not there. You took her!
Mom: You noticed that your stuffed animal was on the bed, but now he’s not, so you think that I took her?
Lance: Yeah. I know you did now give her back.
Mom: You think that I took him because he’s gone off of your bed and now you are asking me to give him back to you even though you can’t see the stuffed animal here with me?
Lance: Yeah, you have him. I know you do.
Mom: You think you know that I have him because he’s missing and you think that there’s no other place that he could be?
Lance: Well maybe there’s other places. But I know you did it.
Mom: You think that maybe there are other places that he could be instead of with me?
Mom: It looks like you’re thinking really hard about where else he could be. I wonder if you’ll think hard enough to figure out where he is instead of with me, since you can see by looking all around me right here that he isn’t here.
Lance: You hid him from me. I know it
Mom: You think that I hid your stuffed animal from you and didn’t tell you that I took him?
Lance: Yeah. You’re always taking things from me and saying I need to be good and stuff.
Mom: Oh, so you think that I took your stuffed animal because you weren’t being good. That I took it to punish you?
Lance: Yeah, you did because I wasn’t being good.
Mom: Oh, so you weren’t being good hmm?
Lance: You got mad because I made a mess, remember?
Mom: Oh, so you weren’t being good because you made a mess and you think I took your stuffed animal because you made a mess?
Lance: Yeah! You took him because I wasn’t bein’ good but he’s mine and I want him back.
Mom: You want to find your missing stuffed animal and you think I took him because you were making a mess, but you can’t see him anywhere by me right now.
Lance: No. You hid him.
Mom: Oh, so you think that I hid him from you and you want to know where he is hidden?
Mom: Well since I didn’t take him I don’t know where he is hiding, but you look pretty worried that you really want to find where he is at.
Lance: I do.
Mom: It looks like you might need some helping finding him.
Lance: Yeah, I can’t find him. He was on my bed and now he’s not.
Mom: (walking with child to his room) So the last time you saw him he was on your bed but now you can’t find him?
Mom: Hmmm, he was right here (sitting on the bed) before and now he is gone. (Looking around the room, picking up the bed skirt, etc.)
Lance: Maybe he fell down under my bed. (gasping) I found him!
Mom: You found him under the bed?
Mom: So you thought this whole time that someone had stolen him from you and he was right there under the bed the whole time.
Lance: Yeah, I guess he was hiding.
Mom: Yeah, you thought I stole him but he was just hiding. He just fell down on the ground when you didn’t see him and disappeared for a while. But you knew where to find him.
When the Child is Experiencing a Problem or Challenge
Everett: I’m building something.
Mom: You’re going to use the blocks to build something.
Everett: Yeah. I’m building something. (Starts building with the blocks)
Mom: You’re going to take those pieces and stack them up like that and then use those smaller pieces on top.
Everett: Yup…and then I’m going to use this big piece on the tippy top.
Mom: (resists the urge to warn Everett that if he does this, it will topple over). Oh, so that big piece will sit on the top there?
Everett: Yup…just like this.
Tower falls over like dominos
Everett: (scowling and knocking what remains of his tower over; runs over to the corner and hides) Stupid tower…
Mom: You’re frustrated because you worked so hard on that and then it fell over just like that. And now, because you were so frustrated, you destroyed all of it, even though only part of it was destroyed.
Everett: Well it’s stupid.
Mom: You think the tower is stupid because it fell over when you put that last piece on top. And now you’re frustrated and hiding in the corner because you think that will help you feel better.
Everett: Well it doesn’t.
Mom: Oh…so hiding in the corner doesn’t make you feel better? I wonder what would make you feel better?
Everett: My punching bag will.
Mom: Ok…you go ahead an punch your punching bag for awhile and see if that makes you feel better.
As adults, we often feel so rushed and/or pressured to just solve problems quickly for children.
- Can’t get your shoes on in time? Here, let me help you do it so we can get out the door.
- Can’t get that container opened? Here, let mommy do it for you.
- That was a bad choice. We’re leaving…right now!
When a child needs our help, we may rush to provide it. Maybe it’s our own need to stick to a time schedule, or perhaps it’s our belief that we should do everything in our power to make life enjoyable for the little ones we care for. When a child misbehaves, we may rush to punish. Maybe it’s because we’re afraid of being judged by others, or perhaps it’s our belief that if we let them get away with it once, they’ll grow up to be murderers because we didn’t handle this one situation the right way.
This technique takes that pressure off of you and allows you to gently guide your child into understanding right and wrong, problem-solving skills, cause and effect, and many other valuable techniques that really can’t be learned if we rush to solve their problems or punish their behaviors.
Have you found yourself solving problems for your child or jumping to punishment, when using the Narrator Technique might have been a better option? If you feel comfortable, share your story below. And if you’ve used the Narrator Technique with your child, please share your experience below to help other moms who are still trying to balance their role in solving their child’s problems and punishing their misbehavior.
Candiss Ogden says
I’m still trying to work on it, but my son seems to enjoy his sister’s toys and vice versa, when they are both at home and if one doesn’t get his/her way tantrum city. Running of to the room, slamming door, or full out crying. I try to explain that that toy belongs to your sister/brother, but it’s still rather difficult. The brother is 5 almost 6 and sister 3 almost 4. It makes me tired just watching it and when I can’t seem to calm any one down I have to try and leave and my daughter just cries more. What should I do?
So sorry for the late reply on this. I’ve been on maternity leave and am getting caught up with emails and comments on the articles.
First of all, this is a really common problem among siblings. Kids tend to react/overreact much more intensely to their siblings than they do to other kids. Also, with kids of that age, this is a very selfish time, especially for your daughter. It can be difficult, but being consistent with your conversations (even if they aren’t helping at that moment) will help them to learn what you’re trying to teach them, even if it’s a slow-moving process. I would encourage continued use of talking about who the toy belongs to and why you’re responding the way you are. I would also encourage you to use the Interviewer Technique and maybe even the Preview Technique before issues arise to get them to start talking about what might happen if they take each other’s toy. The more you can address things before “tantrum city” the better it is for you. Once your children have started to lose control of themselves, there’s much less that you can do and actually get through to them. At that point, it’s best to keep things limited as more conversation and attempts at directing them will only make the situation worse. I would suggest that at this point, you use the Narrator Technique and say something like, “I can tell that you’re feeling sad because I’ve given the toy back to your sister because it’s her toy” and see where that takes you. If he continues to want the toy, you can follow the directions in the Narrator Technique and may say something like, “You’d like the toy back but I cannot do that since it’s your sister’s toy” and then continue with the Narrator Technique according to the directions.
Keep at it, Candiss. It’s definitely difficult (and exhausting) when siblings are so overreactive to each other and it takes a strong person to not run away and hide in a bubble bath 🙂 Good luck and let us know how things turn out.
TRACEY CHEUNG says
What if this happens and I’m in a rush to leave the house for work, and I may not have the time to go through the Narrator technique?
Yes Tracey, this definitely happens. It’s so rare that kids are on our timeline, especially strong-willed children. The hope is that by implementing the techniques in the free guide, parents are able to gradually help children to better understand the world and why certain things are important, even if they don’t want to do them. With consistency in using these techniques, the goal is to experience fewer and fewer of these situations over time. And as a counselor who talks with parents daily, I believe that most parents would admit that they’ve handled these rushed mornings in ways that they are not proud of, myself included. So I always remind parents that if you’re feeling that way, tomorrow is a new day for both you and your strong-willed child and we will try to do it differently this time, so that we don’t feel so guilty about the way those rushed mornings turn out!
Kathryn Miller says
I need more help with the Narrator technique. Is there somewhere I can get step by step directions for this to learn.?
Yes Kathryn. There is a more in-depth explanation of how to use the technique at http://disciplinedchildren.com/the-narrator-technique/.