Meeting Our Kids Where They Are

Jul 05, 2024

Your child gets home from school and asks for a snack. Upon entering the house, he throws his coat and bookbag onto the ground and runs to the kitchen pantry to get something to eat. Following his footsteps, you inevitably trip over his stuff that he dropped on the ground. Frustrated from your long day, you instruct your child to come back and pick up his belongings off the ground. He turns and looks at you and says, “but I am starving, and I need to eat now.” 

This is a moment that we can choose to meet our kids where they are. To do that, we need to know that they are likely not regulated in the moment and need to eat first before we make a request from them. As adults, the go to approach is typically reason first; “you can’t leave your stuff in the hallway because it is not safe” or “do not disrespect me or talk back to me, pick up your stuff.” When our children's basic needs are not met, asking more of them or reasoning with them can trigger them further. I can think of many examples where I escalated a situation because I was firm in my demands and did not meet my children’s basic needs first. By meeting them where they are, we give our children the space and opportunity to get calm and regulated so that we can relate to and reason with them. Using our scenario, this looks like allowing your child to eat their snack, drink some water, and then asking them to pick up their belongings. Furthermore, they are in a better mental space to listen to why it is unsafe to leave their belongings on the ground and how we can prevent this in the future. 

Like anything in life, this concept takes practice. It takes patience, pausing and recognizing when our children are becoming or are dysregulated. The key is to practice together. Collaborate on an after-school routine that involves eating a snack first and remember to hang our stuff up. Work together and grow together in helping one another stay regulated. 

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