You don't deserve my unconditional love
When children are at their worst and you are at your wits end it can be hard to be loving.
In my younger nanny days I was no-nonsense. I was quick to hand out punishments and remove privileges for bad behaviour. I became good at offering ‘carrot dangling’ rewards to forge better behaviour.
I soon realised these were short term, band-aid techniques. A moment of calm, a quick fix but not a long term solution. They certainly did not meet the needs of the child that were the cause of the behaviour in the first place.
Time-out for instance, was my ultimate go to. I threatened it, and I followed through. Most of the time it worked and i'll tell you why -
Time-out is generally used as a shaming form of social exclusion. It is emotionally painful and deters the unwanted behavior. However, the child receives this message:
“Go away from me, I don't want you in my presence. My love is conditional, and right now you don't deserve it."
At this point your relationship is compromised because the child feels disconnected.
I know what you are thinking - “Don't they need time out to calm down? Don't they need to think about what they have done? “
This is correct. I can assure you however that the child that is sent to time-out is not sitting in their room evaluating where they went wrong. Half the time children don't even know why they do the things they do. They are not learning a lesson, learning how to regulate their emotions or developing any sort of self management skills.
Let me tell you what is happening here - They are thinking about you. How they made you feel and how unworthy they feel.
This creates an intense feeling of shame for the child. When children feel bad about themselves their behaviour escalates, don't be surprised if anger follows. It is easier for a child to be angry and lash out than to deal with big feelings.
What I would encourage is supporting the child through their feelings of guilt not shame.
Guilt relates to their actions whereas shame relates to their person.
Next time you feel tempted to use time-out, change it for a time-in. Take them aside and give them the help they are desperately seeking. Have a conversation about your expectations and problem solve together. Problem solving is one of the best ways to develop emotional intelligence.
For a quick summary on the differences between Guilt and Shame, pop over to my post -