What Your Child’s Difficult Behavior Tells You About Yourself

The surprising (and personal) reason children act up

Do you have a parenting problem you can’t seem to fix?

It’s tempting to try to fix your child’s frustrating behavior. But consider the possibility that certain issues don’t start with your child—they start with you. Which is good news! That means you can do something about them.

In today’s episode, Carol and Anne share the general challenge each Type of parent has, and how that can affect your child. As you try their tips, you’ll see your child’s behavior start to self-correct.

This week’s Parenting Practice

Notice a challenge in your family and ask yourself, “What is this telling me about ME?” Use it as a mirror. What correction is being shown to you that needs to take place in your own being and your own self-care that will shift your family into more balance? What do you need to choose to create more balance in you so there’s more balance in your family?

Transcript of podcast episode

Carol: I see parents looking at their children, first going, “What do I need to do to correct my child, to change my child so I have a different experience?”

Welcome to “The Child Whisperer” Podcast. I’m your host, Carol Tuttle, author of the best-selling parenting book, “The Child Whisperer.” I’m with my co-host, Anne Tuttle Brown.

It’s common on The Child Whisper Facebook group to find posts of mothers that are frustrated, that feel out of control, out of balance, they’re not sure what to do, they’re overwhelmed.

Anne: At their wits’ end.

Carol: Yeah. They’re just exhausted and they feel like they’re applying what they’re learning in the book, in “The Child Whisperer” book, but that’s always my first recommendation, go back and read the book. This isn’t something you were raised to understand, it’s a new approach to parenting. And so, you’ll get it in theory, but you need to continue to remind yourself to put it into practice.

Anne: Yeah. Especially if you’re in kind of a new phase with one of your children, there’ll be different nuggets of wisdom that you’ll gain from every read.

Carol: Very, very often, though, in these posts, I recognize intuitively that the imbalance is coming from the mother, not the child. They’re posted in a way that they want to know, “What do I do? What’s the correction that needs to be applied to my child or children?” They’re looking for feedback that says, “Give me advice on how I can correct this and correct my child.”

Anne: They’re saying, “The problem is out here.”

Carol: Yeah.

Anne: “What’s to be done?”

Carol: The problem is with my children when, really, the problem is in their own being, they’re out of balance, they are the point of correction.

Anne: Whoosh, that can be a hard pill to swallow.

Carol: Well, it’s easier to correct.

Anne: That’s true. There you go.

Carol: If you’re willing to go with it. I learned this early on in my parenting. As I got into my own healing work quite young, I found that my world was very unmanageable. By the time I was 27 years old, I had 4 children, 6 and under by the time I was 29, turning 30, and my world blew up. So, yeah, if I’d had Facebook at the time, I could see myself…I’m out of…you know…

Anne: Wanting something…

Carol: “I feel like ending my life every day. Da da da da da.” So, you know, I could have easily, if I’d had an outlet to express it, put it on my children. What do I do to kinda get my children behaving so I don’t feel this way? Yet, fortunately, I had a wisdom within myself that guided me to know it was me. It really wasn’t my children, it was me. I was the imbalance. I was the one that needed to make the correction. So, I enrolled myself in psychotherapy and I started to do 12-step work. I made myself accountable. Now, that’s pretty extreme, I don’t think most of these moms posting are to the degree I was.

Anne: Are needing that kind of intervention, right?

Carol: But the idea behind this was I looked at myself first. And too often, I see parents looking at their children first, going, “What do I need to do to correct my child, to change my child so I have a different experience?” Well, in this podcast, I’m suggesting you turn that around and you put yourself in the spotlight. When you’re so tempted to look at…you know, you’re looking for discipline, instructional ideas…

Anne: outlets…

Carol: …but everything is focused on the child. What if you were to remove that focus on your child and put it on yourself? What is it that I need to correct in myself that’s going to have an influence in shifting the entire family experience?

Anne: I think you’re right in that it can be an easier, more swiftly moved switch when you’re looking at yourself. And you’re really determined to make that change; you could see some amazing results quite quickly.

Carol: And I try and point that out as favorably and supportive as I can to these moms who are so blatantly obvious. For example, a recent post that I was able to give feedback on was from a mother who was venting. She was frustrated, overwhelmed, “I don’t feel my children are listening to me.” She gave examples of each of her three kids, their Types. They were like 2, 5, and 7. She was homeschooling. She felt her world was out of control, imbalanced.

“I’m trying to apply what I’ve learned as a Child Whispering parent, it’s not working. What do I do? I’m a Type 4, my husband is a Type 4. We were raised in very strict households where you just did what you were told or you got a spanking.” It was more of a vent post than an actual, “Here’s what I’m doing, how can I…?”

Anne: I’m curious. Do you see in those posts when people do give feedback, are they often like written off, but like a follow-up comment from the poster being like, “I’ve tried that, I’ve tried that, I’ve tried that.”?

Carol: Quite often, yeah. Quite often they’re…

Anne: And I think that more points to, “Okay, well, then they’re not the problem.”

Carol: Exactly. If you keep trying all these things with your children and it’s not making a difference, then maybe what you’re focusing on isn’t what’s asking for correction, you’ve got to turn that correction on yourself. And so, I actually looked her up on Facebook because the first thing I asked myself is did they profile themselves correctly? She was using phrases and verbiage that did not depict her Type. There are things that were said that weren’t really classic Type 4 statements. She used a phrase where she said she felt scattered, out of control, it was very…

Anne: Those are some keywords to pay attention to.

Carol: Yeah. Right away I was noticing some of her verbiage and said, “This doesn’t sound Type 4.” So, I looked her up and I was correct in my conclusion that she had mistyped herself. So that was the number one thing I wonder as a parent trying to operate by an Energy Type that’s not truly them. So, in this case, this mom was a Type 1, not a Type 4. So, her world will never look balanced until she’s aligned with her own Type. She’s trying to be someone she’s not, and the whole world is blowing up. So, this inferred… Everything’s out of balance because mom’s out of balance.

Anne: “When mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” that saying is true.

Carol: Well, we are the nucleus of our family. So, my feedback to her, and I very rarely do this, so don’t think I’m going to profile you on The Child Whisperer Facebook group, but at this point in her seeking support, it was the number one identifiable factor why her world was out of balance. So, in my feedback, I said that it’s rare that I give this feedback, and yet because it is the number one issue that’s causing an imbalance in your whole family, is you’re not a Type 4, you’re a Type 1.

And until you create balance true to your Type, you cannot create balance in your family. Now, let’s say you have correctly profiled yourself, are you taking care of yourself in a way that you’re balanced, so that you’re operating from a balanced place?

Anne: Let’s go through each of the Types. What tendencies do you see when they’re out of balance, and what kind of energy is created?

Carol: Okay. I want to try and come up with one word for each of them that I think is depictive of being in balance.

Anne: And this is the energy than the family is taking on.

Carol: Yes. So, the family takes on the energy.

Anne: Type 1?

Carol: Flurry.

Anne: Type 2? Okay, let’s stand on that.

Carol: They’re in a flurry. They’re in a flurry. I see it in my eldest daughter, she’s more conscious of it than ever that she chooses into too many things. She makes too many commitments she cannot handle. She’s learning, right?

Anne: And then life just becomes chaotic.

Carol: Yes.

Anne: And grounded.

Carol: Her children are much more difficult to deal with. I recently visited her pre-holidays, and I had an experience I had not experienced recently there where everybody was grounded, well-behaved.

Anne: In a really good space.

Carol: Because she’s got four boys, and there’s a lot of times they’re all beating each other up, and it’s out of… I called it The Rumble.

Anne: Flurry frenzy? The Rumble.

Carol: The Rumble. And I mentioned it to her.

Anne: The flurry followed by the rumble.

Carol: Yeah. I mentioned it to her. She said, “Mom, it’s because I said ‘no’ to several things that I usually say ‘yes’ to.”

Anne: Good for her. And she noticed that.

Carol: Yep. I said, “Well, it’s showing.”

Anne: I mean, she’s seeing the benefits of that. Oh, hallelujah. What a relief.

Carol: Oh, yeah. I said, “Boy, well, I’m feeling it here. This is the most pleasant experience I’ve had in your home.”

Anne: That’s wonderful.

Carol: I said, “Good for you. Good for you to know your limits better than ever now.”

Anne: Yeah. And by trial and error and she’s gotten there, so good for her. Type 2?

Carol: Overwhelmed. Just overwhelmed.

Anne: Like an emotional overwhelmed, right?

Carol: Yes. And then, just, oh, just, you’re not able to emotionally stay in a good place.

Anne: Yeah. And you’re going to be more snappy at your kids because you’ve got this emotional…you just don’t have… It’s like your bucket is full.

Carol: Correct. Breaking down with your husband.

Anne: You’re at a breaking point, yeah.

Carol: Crying.

Anne: What…

Carol: Trying to keep it going. You’re trying to keep it going.

Anne: What motivates that, whereas a Type 1 is saying “yes” to too many things, what motivates that for Type 2? Same thing, it’s too much in your life or…?

Carol: It’s similar that you’re overly committed or your standard of what you expect yourself is unreasonable at the pace you’re living.

Anne: The pace, I like that, the pace at which you’re living life.

Carol: To think you should be doing as much as other people and you’re just not, and there are days you will do more than others, but you have to know…

Anne: I see you stand up in between these podcasts to get your 10,000 steps and I’m like, “I should be walking more,” and I think, “No, I don’t need to,” even if I want to.

Carol: You don’t want your watch to control your life as it does me?

Anne: I don’t even have a watch. No. But I’ve compared myself to you so many times. I was like, “Oh, you move more than me; I should move more.” And, I mean, I move, I just…I’m going to do it in a more natural…

Carol: Well, let’s move to the Type 3 word then.

Anne: Yes.

Carol: Antsy. Just, oh, like a caged animal. Yeah. And you get…

Anne: And you get, barking, huh?

Carol: …really irritating to people, like barking, you’re ordering. You’re…

Anne: Yeah. You get louder thinking it’ll make people move faster; it doesn’t work.

Carol: You’re antsy, man. And you’re like, “Get yourself out,” you know? Don’t you take your kids with you. Go to the grocery and be like the highlight of your week will be going to do shopping without children in tow.

Anne: Out of my way, people. I’m coming back.

Carol: You can move faster than that. You’re like, “That’s like freedom.” I remember that going, “Ah,” because, you know, we lived in California. I had four little kids. I heard more than ever, “These are all yours?” I’d always want to say, “No, I have two more at home.”

But I remember hiring…once I finally got smart, I didn’t even know I was a Type 3 in that time period, but I knew I needed support. I hired. Well, when your psychotherapist basically tells you, “I’m going to submit you to the psych ward…

Anne: The ultimatum.

Carol: …or you gotta get hired help,” that was a true experience.

Anne: And a trip to the grocery store by yourself was a start in your healing. That’s a very powerful activity.

Carol: Yeah, it was. Isn’t that amazing because I could just leave the kids at home with my mother’s helper, nanny, whatever you want to call her…

Anne: Thank goodness. As…

Carol: …and I’d go to the store, and it’d be like, “I can just move how I move in the world,” or I would hire her to play with you guys so I could get stuff done around the house.

Anne: Yeah. Oh, and I can assure you I did not miss that trip to the grocery store. I have fun memories of my nanny.

Carol: Yeah. Okay.

Anne: So, but I wanted to also to say that what else will happen is everything becomes so urgent.

Carol: Yeah, you’re…

Anne: It’s like, “Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up, kids,” and it’s like, ha, it’s taking over.

Carol: It’s snappy.

Anne: Okay. Type 4?

Carol: Mean. Now, this is interesting because you don’t want to be mean, but you get…

Anne: Yeah, that seems pretty harsh.

Carol: Well, they… We could substitute harsh for mean. You’re not getting your alone time, your solitude time, you’re going to come across extreme. And in your extreme way of dealing with what…now you’re going to just… your tone of voice, the choice of wording, the bottom whining it…

Anne: Well, you’ve lost your structure, and so now you’re trying to get back to that structure in a more firm way that can come across as mean. Is that where you were getting?

Carol: It’s kind of putting your foot down, you know, “I’m putting my foot down now. We gotta put some order in this household.”

Anne: And you’re probably getting upset about even the little things where it’s like, “Oh, that didn’t bother you yesterday, like why is this…?” And your kids are getting a little bit nervous.

Carol: Well, you’re just tired of being around your family, you’re not by yourself enough, you’re like, “I need to just get away.” I’ve said…

Anne: Well, not even away, maybe you just need to be in your room. There was a…

Carol: Well, that’s away.

Anne: Yeah. Yes. Well, that’s true.

Carol: Although I do think once you’re a Type 4 mom, you should rent a hotel for the weekend and just go get away…

Anne: Seriously.

Carol: …and be by yourself.

Anne: Well, that sounds delightful.

Carol: That away in your bedroom, away to just sort things out, to get settled internally.

Anne: So, I’ve heard so many Type 4 moms that will take extended breaks in the bathroom with the door locked. So, I mean, those are going to be little bits that you can…

Carol: Yeah, you have to schedule this stuff.

Anne: …but I think you need to have more scheduled, more formal, “This is my alone time.”

Carol: So, if you look at how this is projecting on your family now, maybe it’s not your children, it’s you. Flurried kids, frenzied kids in a frenzy.

Anne: Overwhelmed.

Carol: Everybody’s on each other. It’s just like…raised out of control. Overwhelmed. Your children are just moody and they’re rude to each other. And they’re very whining and crying. Antsy, children are snappy at each other and…

Anne: Exhausted?

Carol: …easy to react and tired.

Anne: They can’t move as fast.

Carol: Mean. Your children are being mean to each other, same things.

Anne: Or they’re shutting down, I think, that could be a response to the Type 4 movement, is you’re just scared.

Carol: Yeah. So, this week’s parenting practice is to notice what’s going on with your family and ask to yourself, “What is this telling me about me?” Use it as a mirror. What correction is being shown to me that needs to take place in my own being and my own self-care that will shift our family into more balance? What do I need to choose to create more balance in me so there’s more balance in our family?

I think it will surprise you how clearly this insight will come to you. And as you start operating more in that way to say, “Maybe it’s not my children, it’s me,” you’re going to find that we started this show with this idea that it can be an easier thing to correct, so go with it. And then report. I’d love to hear reports of these successes on The Child Whisperer group. We see enough of the other, let’s hear some successes of these corrections that you’re making with yourself, and then, what you notice how it affects your family and the benefit of that. I look forward to you posting your success story.

Thanks for listening. For more support, go to thechildwhisperer.com where you can purchase the book, subscribe to our weekly parenting practice email, and find a transcription and audio of “The Child Whisperer” Podcast.

Anne: If you’re listening on iTunes, thank you for leaving your review. If you have a parenting question, please send it to [email protected].

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