Why do kids act out?
I’ve been thinking about children’s sometimes confusing behaviour. Like it or not, kids act up, which can be hard for children and parents alike.
Many adults (me included) can do stuff that sends you into a spin where you’re left wondering, “what the hell just happened there?”
When small or big people act up by shouting, stamping their feet, snapping at you, crying incessantly or going from one extreme to another, it’s not easy to stay ‘cool like a cucumber. I know this from interactions with my kids.
When I deem them to be behaving ‘badly’, I can react in ways that either fail to help or only compound the situation, delaying the arrival of any calm or satisfactory appeasement. As a so-called expert in human behaviour, you might think I’d have the hang of this by now. One day, maybe!
The Two Essential Missing Ingredients
As I sit here now, writing this, I can see what is missing from these interactions. Whether you’re stuck in a loop thinking about what your kids, partner, friends, parents, or work colleagues ‘should’ be doing, it doesn’t matter. It’s the same problem. The lack of a different perspective keeps the wheel of disconnection turning.
When you get stuck seeing it from your perspective, there are two missing ingredients: empathy and compassion. Empathy is the ability to see something through someone else’s eyes. It’s different from sympathy. Brene Brown captures the difference in this most excellent video below.
Compassion adds to empathy by engaging warmth, kindness and wisdom in a person’s suffering that wasn’t there before. It takes courage to give tenderness and compassion. It’s not always easy, but ultimately, they serve you well. They’re valuable tools for the workplace, home life, friendships and dealing with internal struggles about the kind of person you are.
What is Empathy?
I can’t explain empathy any better than Brene Brown does in this video. Check it out.
- Article by Kate Harding about her experience of family life after her husband’s suicide.
- Should Idlers Exercise?
- A podcast episode about compassion with Mary Welford