“Our children pick fights with us when they don’t know how to manage their difficult feelings.” – Sarah Rosensweet

A child who is experiencing difficult feelings (or an adult!) will be whiny, demanding, rigid, bossy, easily upset and looking to fight. All those difficult feelings are swirling around inside and looking for a way out and to be healed.

If your child is misbehaving, they are literally acting out all the difficult feelings they have stored inside. They are trying to offload all the uncomfortable feelings. (Maybe you can relate: Have you ever had a bad day and come home and picked a fight with your partner?)

If we, as adults, come home after a hard day at work, we have lots of options for processing our day. (If we can avoid picking that fight!) We can talk to a friend or partner about our day, write in our journals, or just reflect on the day and its challenges. Our rational minds are well developed enough to do this. Younger children can’t process feelings intellectually yet and they often need our help to get the feelings out.

While it might feel like they are deliberately trying to upset us (and yes they really might be being provocative!) they are doing the best they can. If we know this, we can recognize that they are having a hard time, not giving us a hard time and we can respond with compassion. 

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