Expert Parenting Advice
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Finger-lickin' parenting

How to become a "stress detective" and use your child's emotional outbursts and tantrums as clues to understand them better.

I love eating KFC chicken, so when I saw a headline titled KFC’s top secret '11 herbs and spices' was leaked I had to click.

Apparently the secret recipe has been known since 2016. Colonel Sanders' nephew found the recipe written down on the back of the last will and testament of his aunt. He then decided to share the recipe online.

Discovering this secret recipe made me feel a little bit like a detective. I love the idea of uncovering hidden mysteries, trying to solve unsolved problems.

It also reminded me about something that Dr. Jean Clinton told me when we interviewed her for our book How To Get Kids To Listen.

Dr. Jean is an infant child and adolescent psychiatrist, and she has been in practice for about 35 years. She also has five children and seven grandchildren, so she has a lot of experience working with young people.

When we were speaking about how to deal with "bad" behavior from children, she said:

I love to help families look at misbehavior as really coming from a stressor inside the child. The family then becomes stress detectives to figure out. "Oh, it's 3:30. This is arsenic hours. This is when the kids really need a snack."

I always, always want kids to be felt emotionally and that their behavior is telling me something, and I want to be the co-regulator who figures out what that is.

Dr Jean Clinton

Instead of seeing yourself as someone only responsible for correcting your children when they misbehave, Dr. Jean recommends that you instead see yourself as a detective, trying to figure out what is causing the misbehavior.

This mindset shift has dramatically changed how I approach parenting. Instead of trying to think of ways to correct my kids' bad behavior, I now try to find the causes for their behavior.

When they have emotional outbursts or tantrums, I am almost (not quite) glad, because it gives me information into their inner world. It helps me understand them better.

In the interview, Dr Jean also shared how to understand what your child's "bad" behavior is telling you about them, and how to use this information to get them to cooperate.