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

Becoming a stress detective

How to become an expert at figuring out the real causes of your child's behavior.

Last night I was so frustrated with my kids.

We were eating dinner. I had worked hard to put food on the table. But it just seemed like my kids were not appreciating it.

"I don't like these beans," my son complained, pushing his plate away.

"But honey, you eat those beans every day," I told him, pushing his plate back.

"I also don't like beans," my daughter added, always willing to follow her older brother's example.

"Well, then just don't eat the beans," I said, smiling through clenched teeth.

"I don't want them in my plate," my son decided.

So I took them out of his plate. But then the pasta wasn't cheesy enough. And then the mince didn't have enough sauce. On and on.

When my kids behave like this, it is easy for me to get mad, to just think that they are ungrateful little...

But the fact is that their behavior always has an underlying reason. And trying to find that reason actually makes it much easier to stay calm and have empathy for them.

Dr. Jean Clinton, child psychiatry professor and author of Love Builds Brains, described this as "becoming a stress detective", and according to her it not only helps keep you calm, but also helps build your child's emotional competence.

Our job as parents is to be stress detectors.

As the little one is having a meltdown in the grocery store, the first thing we have to do is frame it and say, “This is stress. This is not misbehavior, this is stress. And I’m going to figure out what’s going on here. Are they hungry? Are they cold physically? Are they emotionally so tired and this is the wrong time to come grocery shopping?” Ding! Note to self, I’m not going to do it again.

Dr. Jean Clinton

Now, trying to figure out the underlying reason behind your child's behavior is not always easy. Sometimes it is very difficult to figure out what is going on.

In the interview with Dr. Jean, she shares what it really means when your child is not cooperating, and how to see their behavior as clues to their inner thoughts and feelings.

She also explains how to prevent your own frustrations from driving your behavior, especially when your kids are also upset.

You can find the full interview with Dr. Jean Clinton - What it really means when your child is not cooperating - in our ebook How To Get Kids To Listen, available for free download here.