This is a typical morning with my three kids, all under age 10. The youngest one wants help putting on her shoes. The oldest is whining about how she has "nothing" to wear. And the middle daughter is growing increasingly anxious that we are "GOING TO BE LATE!"
My initial reaction in this scenario — before they start smacking each other — is to sanction my kids. I might threaten to take away their screen time or make them sit alone in their rooms.
But clinical psychologist Becky Kennedy, author of the new book Good Inside: A Guide to Becoming the Parent You Want to Be, says parents should try another approach. Rather than using timeouts and consequences to change a child's behavior, parents should make an effort to understand why their kid is acting out in the first place.
To do that, says Kennedy, parents have to assume their child is inherently "good inside" – that they have good intentions and want to do the right thing. This mindset can help parents avoid making assumptions about their child's character — and focus their attention instead on unpacking the root reasons of the behavior. Doing so, she says, creates an opportunity for parents to show validation and empathy to their child and encourage their personal growth.
Kennedy, a mother of three based in New York City and host of the hit parenting podcast and online community Good Inside, talks to Life Kit about strategies for common behavioral issues in young children. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. Additional context has been added to the questions.
How does the "good inside" mentality help when a kid is, say, acting out?