Expert Parenting Advice
Practical parenting tips and advice from experts around the world

Stop kicking your sister!

How to turn bad behavior into positive learning opportunities.

"You can't kick your sister!"

I was so angry. My 6-year-old son Fred and his 4-year-old sister Sarah had been quietly playing in their room.

Suddenly, I heard screaming and crying. My daughter came running to my room. "Fred kicked me," she cried.

Now, there are few things that upset me so much as when my kids physically hurt each other. It just triggers me, and makes me instantly angry. So when my daughter told me that, I rushed to my kids' room.

"You can't kick your sister!" I shouted.

I was about to continue, already starting to think about consequences or punishments that would teach him not to kick his sister, when I took a breath, because I remembered what Dr. Anna Martin shared with me in our interview a few weeks ago...

In our interview, Dr. Anna Martin shared the four things that influences how we react to our children's behaviors.

Because often we react to our children without thinking - we just react because we are triggered by what our kids did.

But by becoming aware of these influences, and using them to reflect on your own behavior, it becomes much easier to go from an "emotional/triggered" mindset to a "rational/thinking" mindset.

This means you make better decisions, and you end up treating your children with more compassion and kindness...often turning difficult, emotional situations into positive learning opportunities.

So, in that moment, just before I started handing out unenforceable consequences like "no TV for a week", I took a breath and thought about Influence #4 that Dr. Anna shared:

Finally, we all have patterned behaviors. Your brain predicts what is about to happen before you realise it. So, you might walk through the door, see a mess on the floor, and you already know how all of that's going to play out. In other words, how your child might respond to your requests, how the other siblings will react. It is not just about what you think has just happened and it is never just about the child involved.

Dr. Anna Martin

I realized that I had already decided in my mind what was going on, and I was making decisions based on that, instead of calmly trying to figure out what happened.

And you know what? Just thinking about it calmed me down. It moved me from reacting emotionally towards thinking rationally.

I ended up having a calm discussion with my son about his behavior. We spoke about why he felt he needed to kick his sister, and we talked about some alternative ways he could handle it in the future. My daughter even joined in our problem solving discussion.

In the end, this emotional and frustrating event turned into a positive problem solving opportunity for us all.